While pastoring Mariners Church in Newport Beach, California, in the ’70s, Dr. Joe Aldrich often took the leaders of the church away for extended times to seek the Lord. They saw incredible growth in the church and considerable impact on the community.
Soon after Dr. Aldrich became president of Multnomah in 1978, he sponsoredthe first Pastors Enrichment Congress to offer encouragement, refreshment, and renewal for pastors and spouses. Soon to follow were the Rural Pastors Conference, the Women in Ministries Conference, the Elder/Deacon Seminar, the Church Secretaries Seminar, and numerous seminars and prayer times for pastors.
The conferences were effective, with hundreds of church leaders from throughout the nation going home excited. But Dr. Aldrich watched pastors lose that excitement when they returned to their communities because they lacked support.
Dr. Aldrich wondered, ‘What would it take to initiate and sustain a significant work of God in a specific geographical community? In other words, what would it take to see John 17 lived out in answer to the Son’s prayer?’ He believed the answer to his question would come about through a five-part process: holiness, humility, unity, community, and impact.
Dr. Aldrich invited Terry Dirks to join him in what was then referred to as Northwest Renewal Ministries. In February 1986, Dirks returned to Multnomah, where he had graduated twenty years earlier, to assist Dr. Aldrich in seeking the fulfillment of the vision.
The goal of bringing together the critical mass of pastors from a specific geographical community for several days of seeking the Lord was talked about for years before the vision resonated with the hearts of pastors in nearby Salem, Oregon. At the request of pastors in Salem, Dr. Aldrich and Dirks facilitated the first prayer summit in 1989.
Since then the movement, now referred to as International Renewal Ministries, has expanded to reach across the United States and into more than twenty other nations.
Thousands of pastors have become involved in the movement, and local churches have been significantly impacted. Communities are seeing the benefits of a unified church. We have witnessed confession, repentance, brokeness, reconciliation, and restoration-the amazing expressions of unity. Walls that typically divide and fragment are crumbling.
Women in Ministry conferences and summits for pastor’s wives have grown out of the movement at the request of many women. The scores of personal testimonies received confirm that the Lord is using the movement in a powerful way.
Pastors are leading their congregations in Prayer Summits. Cities are having Prayer Summits for marketplace leaders. Youth leaders and other segments of the church are benefiting from Prayer Summits, as well.
Such a relational movement is made possible through the commitment of hundreds of volunteers and covenanted alliances with ministries of similar vision and passion.
International evangelists Billy Graham and Luis Palau said they experience the most significant results where the prayer summit movement is strongest.
Dr. Aldrich retired as president of Multnomah in 1997 after developing Parkinson’s disease. He was replaced by Dr. Dan Lockwood.
Terry Dirks died suddenly in September of 1999 while sharing the vision of IRM in Japan.
In 2000, Dennis Fuqua, who pastored for twenty-five years in Washington, accepted Dr. Lockwood’s invitation to become the director of IRM. Fuqua first attended a summit in 1990 and began facilitating summits in 1993. He also served as a servant leader in Tacoma, Washington, from 1990 to 2000.
Early in 2004, the board of Multnomah Bible College and Seminary decided to have IRM become a separate and distinct entity from Multnomah while maintaining a healthy and close relationship. They also made gracious provision for this to happen.
We must press on to see cities and specific geographical areas reached for Christ. The vision of IRM culminates with our desire for a fresh touch of God in heaven-sent revival upon the church and its leadership, resulting in widespread evangelization of the lostand leading to a change in society. The Prayer Summit is a significant step, but only one step. We must persevere in prayer, dwell together in unity, and follow the Lord’s leading in obedience until the complete vision becomes reality.