The Vision of Dr. Joe Aldrich

There is no way that those of us who knew Dr. Joe Aldrich can express what he meant to our lives. To me, he was first and foremost one of the strongest visionaries I have every met. He was also President of Multnomah University, author of many books – I could mention many achievements. But first and foremost, to me he was a man of vision and faith.

“Faith requires a large Investment & ongoing commitment.”
Joe Aldrich

Dr. Joe had an amazing vision. He said he wondered what would it take to initiate and sustain a significant work of God in a specific geographical community. George Otis, Jr., has documented hundreds of places in the world today where this is happening and the Holy Spirit is breaking through in power. George Otis has spend much of his recent years documenting some conditions that lead to those. The key factors, he found,  involved prayer, belief, faith, and persistence.

Joe Aldrich and visioning

Dr. Joe Aldrich

Dr. Joe saw himself as a servant leader, servant to the Word and and servant in the world. He taught us to lead as servant leaders, always reminding us that his job was to serve the pastors and their churches, and he was a servant to them and to the Church, which is led by the Holy Spirit and is the very Body of Christ.

Here are some notes I took from a message he gave many¬† years ago. I’ve added a few personal notes.

The Necessity of the Church

Someone once told me that there is no such thing as the solitary Christian. The warfare is too heavy, the Enemy too strong. Unless individuals come together as the church and churches come together as Church, the cause is lost. God purposely humbles each of us by not giving us all the gifts we need to accomplish to mission to which Christ has called us. For this reason the Church, as the Body of Christ, is a necessity.

The Necessity for Unity

Dr. Joe said there were two words in the Greek language for unity. One, or heis, translates as an organic unity. One familiar use of this word is in the Lord’s Prayer of John 17.

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”
John 17:11 NKJV (emphasis added)

“…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in unity, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
John 17:21-23 NKJV (emphasis added)

The other Greek word used in the New Testament to refer to unity is homothumadomon, and translates to refers to a functional unity. It translates more accurately as “in one accord”. It refers to people united around a common cause, and is used ten times in the book of Acts (1:14, 2:46, 4:24, 5:12, 7:57. 8:6. 12:20, 15:25, 18:12, and 19:29). It is used again in Romans 15:6. Many of these references refer to the coming together of the early church as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out. Let’s take a quick overview of how this second Greek word for unity was used in the New Testament. See if you can find the key, or common, words in each example:

Jerusalem (in the upper room or temple) after the resurrection, ascension, and before Pentecost.

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
Acts 1:14 NKJV (emphasis added)

Jerusalem, after Peter’s sermon.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:46-47 NIV (emphasis added)

Jerusalem church in prayer and praise after the healing of the lame man and Peter’s sermon.

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, …”
Acts 4:24-25 NKJV (emphasis added)

You can follow looking at the other references given for this word in Acts. Not all of them refer to the Church.

The Building of Unity in Portland

Dr. Joe wanted to see what would it take to initiate and sustain a significant work of God in Portland. He began the prayer summit movement, International Renewal Ministry”, in 1986 in an effort to bring the pastors together to pray for this awakening. That same year he brought another leader, Terry Dirks, in to help him. These leaders worked to initiate the organic unity, or heis, in the city. With these prayer summits they would take hundreds of local pastors to the coast and pray for at least four days for the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Portland area.

This prayer movement in Portland led eventually to the Billy Graham Crusade in 1992, one of the best Crusades the Billy Graham leadership ever saw. Some 30,000 people made decisions for Christ in the event. This crusade is documented in a PBS special on the life of Billy Graham (Crusade: The Life of Billy Graham – available on VHS from PBS Home Video as B3346V).(1) Other video was also published on this event. Bob Waymire with Carl Townsend also published a book “Discovering Your City” giving details of the “How to” of the diagnostic research that went into the preparation of the event. The book is available from our office for $14.95 plus postage.

This success of the prayer summits soon spread to 40 states and 30 countries with more summits started internationally. This was started as the heis, or organic component of the Dr. Joe’s vision and under his leadership with the help of Terry Dirks. Although Dr. Joe died in 2009 after a 15 year battle with Parkinson’s, the prayer movement he started continues today. Terry Dirks died in his sleep in 2009 at in Japan as they planned another prayer summit there.

The prayer summits movement continues today, and you can read more at their website at http://prayersummits.net/.

After starting the prayer summits, Dr. Joe started Mission Portland as a network of networks to lead in building the homothumadomon, or functional unity, in the city. Mission Portland continues more as a linkage today, with its website at http:/www.missionportland.org. One of the key projects of Mission Portland was a directory of all the life-giving churches and parachurch agencies in the city involved in the Kingdom Enterprise, i.e., the Harvest Force. I was very much involved in that.

The Challenge Today

fireToday, several decades later, our culture has become increasingly diverse and the secular pressures have increased that are trying to destroy the freedoms our early fathers fought and gave their lives to give us. Yet the issue of unity and grace that Dr Joe and Terry Dirks lived is even more important. Dr. Joe gave us vision, and Terry Dirks showed us how to give Grace (and more).

The functional unity that both led in breathing in our city is again alive and you can experience it at the annual MissionconneXion conference in Portland.

NOTES
1. If you order the tape, be sure to catch the interview with Billy Graham at the end of the tape. The interviewer asks Graham why the Portland Crusade was so successful. I love Graham’s answer. If you can’t get the tape, I’ll be glad to share what Graham said.


Carl is a researcher, writer, speaker based in Portland, Oregon.

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