A Vision of Birmingham
Written by Paul Hughes in 2007 when Kingdom Forerunners was birthed.
Three essential materials for the making of iron and steel lay beneath the ridges and valleys of what became Birmingham, Alabama. Iron Ore gave Red Mountain overlooking the city its name. White limestone was used to take impurities out of the iron ore. Black coal fueled molten furnaces night and day. No where else in the Western Hemisphere were these three raw materials found concentrated so highly together. A nation's hunger for steel fueled the dramatic post-Civil War birth and growth of Birmingham out of Jones Valley. Birmingham was forged in the place of fire.
Like the iron ore, limestone, and coal itself, Red Native American, White European, and Black African descendants lived in Birmingham's valleys and prayed from her mountain tops. The poor from around the world labored deep beneath the earth to dig out the elements that would help build a city and a nation.
But deeply rooted greed, injustice, racial and religious bigotry, violence, and political corruption also stained the land, the atmosphere, and the people as the city grew. Even before the birth of the city, the Creek Indian Nation's back had been broken in the bloodiest battle ever fought between Indians and the United States Army at Alabama's Horseshoe Bend in 1814. The land called Alabama today still grieves the broken covenants, violence, and horrible forced removals of Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations to Oklahoma in the 1830's. For those with ears to hear, the voices of injustice still cry out beneath our feet.
Jim Crow segregation laws, a.k.a. legal apartheid, divided whites and blacks for decades on end. A Methodist minister murdered a Catholic Priest in broad daylight on the rectory porch of St. Paul's Cathedral for marrying his daughter to a Puerto Rican man in 1921. He was easily acquitted in court. Rich "Big Mule" industrialists murdered those trying to organize mine workers crying out because of the oppressive conditions in 1935.
In 1963, the Civil Rights movement came to Birmingham and the world watched in horror as Birmingham firemen blasted Black youth demonstrators with high powered fire hoses. Policemen let German Shepherd dogs rip at the clothes of other marchers. But the national tide of racial hatred turned toward healing through those images from the streets of Birmingham.
It has been a long march toward justice and righteousness in our city. The inspiration for lasting change has always come through the prayers and courageous actions of God's people through prophetic messengers of His Kingdom.
Now in a new millennium, a new generation is on the march in Birmingham. We believe something about the destiny still before us as the people of God in this city. God is once again placing His burning heart in ours for radical personal and city-wide transformation under the leadership of Jesus. Birmingham still holds a key to a wellspring of justice and racial healing that will flow out of the Southside of America from the Beautiful Gate of Alabama into the nations.
The Birmingham Prayer Furnace is not a place. It is a revolution of revelation in the heart of the Bride of Jesus Christ through night and day city-wide prayer and worship. What we as a city need most is not another ministry or industry or institution. We need the very burning presence of God dwelling in our midst 24-7. He need Him. We need His vision of our true identity as His People in His City serving His Purpose.
Birmingham was forged in fire from the Earth, but her destiny is to be governed by a Man of Fire from Heaven. The largest cast iron statue in the world stands on the high ground of Red Mountain over Birmingham today. Vulcan, the Roman god of the forge, was crafted as a symbol of the city's steel making pride for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. As he points to the sky today, Vulcan is a constant reminder to Birmingham that the Bridegroom King of Heaven and Judge of all the Earth is coming soon.
The Sloss Furnaces stand in the valley below. This historical landmark is a relic of the economic engine of the past. Today it is the health care and research industry that pulls the city economy. But only a five iron golf shot away from the Sloss Furnace is another place called The Furnace. This is a gentlemen's club, a.k.a. a strip club. It is legal in our city for men to burn with lust as they gaze on naked dancing women.
The Birmingham Prayer Furnace is a place where Jesus can gaze on the burning heart of His Bride in our city. It is a place where people of every color can catch a glimpse of the Burning Man of Heaven as He gazes back at us. Jesus declared that His Father's House was to be a House of Prayer for all Nations. Let it be so in the Heart of Old Dixie. Let the south winds blow on the garden of America's heart awakening love for Jesus, the Fairest of All.
May the Holy Spirit forge a wedding band of pure gold refined in the fire of a never dying furnace of worship and prayer in Birmingham that leads to a city burning with bright righteousness. The Day of Jesus' return is near. May He put steel in our longing for Him such that His Bride in this city will "watch and pray, love justice, and preach His Kingdom" all the more as darkness increases. May we humble ourselves, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, that He might hear from heaven, forgive our sin, heal our land, and say "Well done Birmingham!" when He stands on Red Mountain as the King of all!