By Carl Stagner
Two-and-a-half years had built up to this single moment. Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi, would be the location of a church unity event bigger than any in recent history, and representing the widest spectrum of church and cultural backgrounds. Trey Hammond, who pastors Crossroads of Life Church of God in Byram, Mississippi, has held a special place in his heart for unity in the body of Christ. With this in mind, it was a no-brainer for he and his church to support and participate in the April 27 event, and the preparation leading up to the big day, which made Jesus the subject every step of the way.
When Pastor Trey was in seventh grade, he and his brother were playing basketball on an outdoor basketball court on the property of a local church. About ten minutes in, they were asked to leave because they weren’t members of that church. That experience placed a burden in his soul for the unity of the body of Christ that would transcend membership lines, denominational loyalties, and any other walls that could be built. Fast-forward several years, and Trey was joining some local pastors who began meeting to pray about a possible statewide display of unity in Christ. To pull off something of this magnitude required many prayer and planning meetings, and even overcoming some logistical challenges, but April 27 came, and those prayers, plans, and struggles proved more than worth the effort.
“What made the most impression on my heart was the encouragement and challenge that was given for Mississippi Christian black, white, brown, Latino, and Asian men, women, and children to come together as the body of Christ,” Trey reflects. “Unite Mississippi was a catalyst to that challenge being met. We see it as a platform—a clarion call—to bring a movement of repentance, revival, and awakening in the church in Mississippi. When Jesus prayed that they may be one as he and the Father were one, and that the world might know that the Father sent the Son, we know that Unite Mississippi is a part of the answer to that prayer. There is still much to learn and grow in as we move forward.”
Before the big day arrived, Trey invested his own time and resources into the event. With a special focus on promotion, he also helped lead a night of unity and prayer for one of the regions on November 29 of last year. The specific emphasis for that “preview” gathering was to pray against the “silo mentality” and competition too often rearing its ugly head among the body of Christ.
“Another huge impression was the need for pastors to bring local congregations in communities together for sacred times of worship and prayer, to be in weekly prayer together as ministers for their community and to host service projects in the community together to help strengthen the church and the community. So, at Crossroads of Life, and in the city of Byram, we are doing just that. I have personally been praying with a local minister, and just two Sundays ago, we had our first ‘pastor swap’ in which he preached in our service while our worship team and I led his service…. We will be doing it again but adding more pastors in the mix. We hope to one day have an all-out community-wide ‘pastor swap’ day in which every participating church would have another ministry speaking in a different pulpit.”
Tony Evans, Israel Houghton, the Mississippi Mass Choir, and many other Christian leaders joined pastors and laypeople across the state for an event worthy of a stadium. Late in the evening people worshiped together, prayed together, and prayed for one another. The Word of God was preached with boldness, and giant steps toward unification were made. Friendships were forged that will last a lifetime, and opportunities to continue to work together with Jesus as the subject were explored.
“We are going to continue meeting in prayer for continued vision from the Lord about what he wants to do for 2020,” Trey explains. “Discipleship is very important for after the event, so we will be connecting those who came to Christ with a local church that is ready to walk with them in a discipling relationship. At the local level, I am in the process of preparing weekly prayer with other pastors who have joined with me at Unite Mississippi foundation who are from our community…. We are also developing strategies to have more training events, conferences and revivals services together.”
The churches in Byram, Mississippi, are also looking ahead to the possibility of a community-wide day of service projects in the fall. “Unite Mississippi has helped propel this vision forward of really being the church at Byram and the church in Mississippi,” Pastor Trey concludes.
Like the countless hours of preparation and expectation leading up to the Church of God Convention in Orlando, Unite Mississippi was an event that could have been the pinnacle of what God was doing. But, like Convention 2017 and General Assembly, this was only the beginning. Please continue pray for Pastor Trey, Crossroads of Life Church, and the churches of Mississippi. Thank you!
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.