THE BATTLE FOR GAINESVILLE HAS NOT BEEN WON, BUT IN JESUS’ NAME IT HAS BEGUN
By: Frank G. Tunstall
The pastors of fourteen congregations of different faith groups in Cooke County in Northern Texas joined together in Gainesville, Texas on May 2 to participate for the first time ever in the National Day of Prayer.
Gainesville is the county seat and the home of Hope Connection IPHC, a Heartland Conference church. Phil Larson is pastor of Hope Connection. One of Pastor Phil’s first steps when he went to Gainesville was to become active in the civic life of the area. It gave him opportunity to begin to build relationships with the city and county leaders.
A few months ago, Pastor Phil was elected president of the Cooke County Ministerial Alliance.
The world’s largest casino sits a few miles north of Cooke County and just north of the Oklahoma state line on the I-35 corridor that runs north and south. Illegal drugs are readily available. So is alcohol, prostitution, sexual abuse, crime of all varieties, and porn, to name a few. Fractured homes litter the landscape and absentee dads are common. Demon possession is all-to-real in the area.
When Pastor Phil first went to Gainesville, the spiritual leaders of the area were overwhelmed, and the civil authorities were hard pressed as they tried to stay in control and protect their people. The moral and spiritual problems continue to be very real even today. For example, a grand jury issued 47 felony indictments in April, in a small county of 38,000 people. Almost half of the county’s population lives in Gainesville.
Pastor Phil’s vision for Gainesville as ministerial alliance president included believing God to encourage the pastors and civic leaders and bring them to a new unity and faith in God. “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord [the Holy Spirit] will lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19). Phil’s first effort as president of the ministerial alliance was to get them to begin praying for their fellow pastors – “More praying and less eating!” is how Pastor Phil described it. The brethren gave him their backing and began to pray. Another step was to join with the National Day of Prayer initiative, and challenge the pastors to pray for America, including Gainesville and Cooke County. The pastors agreed to this too. Pastor Phil took on the task of planning and organizing the meeting, choosing and inviting the speaker, and writing and coordinating the program.
The response has been overwhelming.
Some 170-people attended Cooke County’s first prayer breakfast; Pastor Phil was the emcee. The national theme for the day was “Loving One Another.” My wife and I were present. The day started at 7 A.M. with prayer on the courthouse steps. Twenty people attended in a beautiful expression of unity amid the churches. The prayer breakfast began at 8 A.M. Dignitaries present included Gainesville Mayor Jim Goldsworthy; State Representative, Drew Springer; the superintendent of the Gainesville Independent School District, DesMontes Stewart; the Honorable Jason Brinkley, the county judge; and the Lt. Commander of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, John Dobbs.
The prayer time continued for two-and-a-half hours as pastors led their people in intercession for their churches and the lost people of their city and county.
Steve Trice, the founder and chairman of Jasco Products, gave a moving personal testimony. He delivered a challenge to the men and women who attended to commit in faith to depend on Jesus Christ in all matters related to family, business, and community. The Holy Spirit was present in convicting grace as Mr. Trice spoke. Ten people became new believers and committed their lives to Christ. Some of the ten werecommunity leaders. They each agreed to join a Bible study.Fourteen others also asked to join Bible studies.
“What happened that day was not an accident,” said Pastor Phil. “It resulted from purposeful prayer over the decades. We stand on the shoulders of the those that have gone before us.”
The plan going forward is to launch chapters of Christian Business Men and Christian Business Women, to stimulate revival and redemption.
The struggle in Gainesville and Cooke County is against the raw evil that moved legally into their front yard in 2004. The casino has over 600,000 square feet of gambling floor space; the size of ten football fields, and is the largest employer in the area. The problems remind me of the challenges Paul faced when he confronted Artemis worship in Ephesus and Aphrodite worship in Corinth. In each ancient metropolis Paul fought the good fight by preaching Christ and Him crucified, doing it in the power of the Holy Spirit, and reinforced by a host of miracles.
The battle for the souls of so many lost people, including families, homes, and children, has not been won in Gainesville and Cooke County, but in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, it has begun!
If you would like to visit with Pastor Phil and learn more about his ministry, contact him at Hopecgt@gmail.com>