VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – "This land is Yours!" declared thousands of Christians on Sunday as hundreds of crosses adorned the Virginia Beach shores in an historic act of rededicating the nation to God.
Some 4,000 evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, mainline groups and other believers joined in a day of prayer and revival to mark the 400th anniversary of the first landing of English settlers in America.
"We're praying that this will be a trigger," said Dr. Charles Crabtree, assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, on the final day of The Assembly 2007 gathering.
"There are turning points throughout all history. The upper room was a turning point for the early church and the reformation was a turning point. There have to be times in history when God's people call on His name and humble themselves and pray and turn and repent [before] God hears and answers that prayer," he added.
Sunday's five-hour service on the oceanfront was the culmination of The Assembly 2007, a four-day faith-based gathering centered around the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in North America. It is said to be the only faith-based event among all other Jamestown quadra-centennial events, and involved 65 local pastors along with some of the nation's leading conservative Christians.
"We, as Christians, are the leaven that leavens the whole lump, as Jesus taught - meaning that our influence as salt and light will either preserve the nation or allow the nation to decay," commented Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md.
But right now, the nation is "spoiling," said Jackson. And secular culture is not the only influence causing the decay.
Christian leaders echoed that the Church and its people have failed in many ways.
"I believe that the Church has been very weak in its power," Crabtree stressed. "And the Church has become a bit apathetic and weak."
Vonette Bright, who co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ International with her husband, the late Bill Bright, said Americans have forgotten where they have come from – a Christian heritage – and that Christians have departed from a dependent relationship with God.
"I pray that we will come back to God," she said.
It was a time of repentance for everyone.
Pastor Marty O'Rourke of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Chesapeake said a prayer of repentance on behalf of Episcopalians towards the Native Americans. Robert Hunt, an Anglican chaplain, was among the first English settlers to reach North America where he planted a cross on the beach.
Jane Hansen of Aglow International prayed for repentance for the oppression of women and the abortions that have killed millions of lives. Will Ford, co-founder of Hilkiah Ministries, prayed for repentance on behalf of African Americans for their religiosity and hip hop lyrics. And three Korean pastors – Pastor James Lee, Dr. Moses Lee and Dr. David Hwang - said a prayer of repentance on behalf of Koreans in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting.
Thousands of Christians stood under the hot beach sun for hours, led in communal prayers as they sang for the nation to "return to righteousness." Five hours of prayers were projected from a large stage and heard up in nearby hotels and across the shoreline where many knelt and joined hands to renew their commitment to God.
That commitment, however, has a high price.
"The cross represents the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us. And he asks for the same commitment from us," explained Ron Luce, founder of Teen Mania, "that when we commit to him, we would give our life, our all, our everything.
"And if we all live that way, then we'll bring this nation back to Christ," Luce added, reminding that believers and non-believers alike live in a nation that is blessed because it was built on the foundation of Scripture.
And renewal begins with the Church, Jackson highlighted.
Alluding to the Church in the book of Acts where the believers were "so much on fire that they were contagious in the culture," Jackson said, "That's really what rededication of the nation has to mean for us as a Church - a renewal of that kind of vibrancy."
The Assembly 2007 this past week was sponsored by One Nation Under God, a non-profit ministry dedicated to prayer mobilization and based out of Rock Church in Virginia Beach. One Nation Under God has been responsible for prayer events including Washington for Jesus and America for Jesus.