Awakening: Woodlands Music Goes on Tour
By: Sherri Gragg
Five years ago, The Woodlands Pastor of Contemporary Worship and Community Growth, Mark Swayze, joined the New Room conference as the worship leader. The first year, the conference hosted 400 pastors and lay leaders. Each year since, attendance has doubled.
Along the way, conference leaders noticed college students began attending. “We really just had a heart for them,” said Swayze. “and began to talk about having a conference just for them. Eventually, someone suggested we take the conference to colleges as a tour.”
The Awakening Tour
And so, Woodlands Music and New Room, set a lofty goal. They would make 15 stops in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee over the course of 15 days. “We took a big risk,” Swayze said, “The church sent us out to do 15 nights in a row through a part of the country we know little about, and we have seen God do miraculous things.”
Over the course of the Awakening tour, the team will stop at six local churches, and nine college campuses to minister to, and with, Wesley Foundations. They typically spend each day encouraging and ministering to Wesley Foundation Leadership before holding the service that night.
Each service begins with an extended period of worship followed by teaching on the Awakening movements by New Room Executive Director Dr. David Thomas. “He teaches about this idea of ‘travailing prayer,’ said Swayze. According to Thomas, prayer is the common thread in all Awakenings over the course of the past 300 years. Revival follows on the heels of God’s people fervently praying for him to come.
The Power of Travailing Prayer
After the time of teaching, Thomas invites attendees into a time of prayer. Swayze says he has been overwhelmed by the hunger of college students for God. “Seeing them pray for each other and for their campuses has been so powerful,” he said, “There is a strong desire in them for God to do something more on their campuses and in their college towns.”
The Awakening leadership has found that once they introduce the idea of this type of prayer, student leaders embrace it wholeheartedly, praying over friends and roommates. “They jump right into leadership and worship,” Swayze said, “It is so beautiful.”
Although the team plans for a 90-minute service each evening, passionate students sometimes stretch the service much longer. At the University of Georgia, Wesley Foundation students lingered praying and worshipping for more than three and a half hours.
Each night, after the last college student has returned to his or her dorm or apartment, the team packs up and then joins a host family for the night. The next morning, they hit the road again. At the eight-day mark of the tour, Swayze sounds a bit tired, but most of all he is excited to be a part of God’s work through the Awakening Tour. “So far, we have done 11 services in 8 days,” he said.
And God is just getting started.