Film maker Tyler Perry produced a movie in 2008 called The Family That Preys. The movie tells the tale of two women who, though they differ in ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and background, are best friends. The adversities they each face draw them closer to one another. Their friendship stands the test of time, even when their families become entangled in adulterous, nefarious activities. In short, the film chronicles the story of family members preying on one another for personal gain.
Epiphany Fellowship of Camden has witnessed the real life version of The Family That Preys on a weekly basis. Camden is filled with families that prey upon one another for personal gain. The stories are endless: uncles prey on their young nieces’ bodies; fathers prey on their children’s food money to get high, and mothers prey on their daughters’ self-esteem in order to dull their own pain. We hear stories of friends killing one another after a drug deal goes wrong ad nauseam. The Devil’s presence is a reality in the city of Camden.
As a church, we’ve sought to reach out to our community. We have F.U.E.L (Filling Up Empty Lives) concerts where we invite our neighborhood, churches, parachurch organizations, and youth empowerment programs to hear some gospel-centered music and a gospel presentation by one of the pastors. And we have B.L.I.T.Z.es where we “Bring Light Into the Zone” through a large forum outreach: we throw a huge cookout, hand out Epiphany Camden paraphernalia, give free haircuts and medical screenings, and love on the community in a big way.
But we see this real life version of The Family That Preys in each of our missional expressions. We see it at every Sunday service, every community outreach, every F.U.E.L. concert, and small group. We witness it at each B.L.I.T.Z. and First Sunday Fellowship.
So we asked the question; how do we shift the paradigm from The Family That Preys? The answer became resoundingly evident to us; we must become The Family of God That Prays. The Scriptures tell us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
The Greek word used for watchful means “to give strict attention” to something. We must give strict attention to prayer if any of our missional engagements are to be successful. If we are not praying, our missional efforts will mean nothing, and our missional engagement will be ineffective, because the enemy is preying.
We want to give strict attention to shifting the paradigm from The Family That Preys to The Family of God That Prays. So as a community, we have begun to study Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. This book has taken us on a wild journey of identifying our aversions to prayer, repenting for not committing to prayer because we trust ourselves more than God, and learning to trust God with all of our stuff.
1 Peter 5:7 challenges us with casting all of our anxieties on the Lord because he cares for us. The families in the city of Camden have longed to see a God who cares for them. Most of their families have taught them not to trust God because he doesn’t care to protect you from molestation, incest, rape, sodomy, abandonment, and betrayal. Some of the churches in this city have taught families not to trust God because he is only out to punish them for their sins. These are the enemy’s tactics. However, God does care for his people. The more we begin to pray the more we realize the Lord’s care and provision for us.
He has worked through our prayers to bring thirty people to Christ. We must keep praying.
Please join Epiphany Fellowship of Camden on this journey of becoming The Family of God That Prays in the midst of The Family That Preys. The enemy is alive and well in the city of Camden and across the country. However, we see as we continue to celebrate Resurrection Sunday, that the Lord Jesus Christ is alive and greater than our enemy. We pray to the Lord of the harvest for more laborers, and we pray for his strength.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By R. Derrick Parks. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org