By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
JOHNSON CITY – When the Lord speaks to Thomas Cook’s heart, the conversation often involves a very big number.
First, it was a thousand dollars. Now, it’s a thousand churches.
Cook, a recent graduate of ETSU, is currently working on a project in which he is attempting to bring together representatives from 1,000 different churches for a night of worship and prayer. The event – called “Adoration 2017” – will be held at ETSU’s brand-new football stadium on Oct. 1.
“I knew it was the Holy Spirit leading me to do this, but I didn’t want to do it,” said Cook with a laugh during a recent interview at ETSU.
“When the Lord first began putting this on my heart, I was planning on graduating and going to play music with my band,” he said. “So, I tried to pretend like it never happened. But eventually I realized this is exactly what God wanted me to do. And since then, he has confirmed it to me again and again.”
Cook’s decision to accept the challenge of organizing the event came just a short time after he’d made another major choice in his life: After leading worship at a week-long conference, Cook felt called to give away his entire $1,000 paycheck to the youth ministry at his home church. Cook, who didn’t have a full-time job, said he initially wrestled with that decision, too.
“It was money that I really needed at the time,” he said, noting he had already allotted the money in his mind for things like rent and groceries. “For the first time, I was finding out what faith was all about.”
In due time, Cook came to understand why the Lord had called him to give away the money. God was laying the groundwork for Cook to be ready for his next challenge: Organizing the Adoration event.
“In July of last year, I felt God clearly say that I should get a 1,000 churches together,” said Cook. “And I realized at that moment that (giving away the $1,000) was God’s way of preparing me to say yes to the 1,000 churches.”
Cook said he currently spends about 40 hours each week working exclusively on the Adoration event. He has a team of roughly 35 college students working with him on the project, including a 13-member “core team” that is providing consistent legwork and support.
“They are busting it with everything they’ve got, investing their hearts and souls,” said Cook, noting that many of those involved are active in the BCM at ETSU, just as he was.
The event has received full support from several prominent members of the ETSU administration, most notably the school’s president, Brian Noland. Also giving strong support to the project is ETSU head football coach, Carl Torbush, an outspoken believer who will be speaking at the event.
Haley Wherry, the executive director of First Priority, and Jonathan Chapman, the BCM campus minister at ETSU, have helped guide the young team of volunteers. Wherry is serving as the event director for Adoration, and Chapman has taken on a variety of leadership roles with the project.
Essentially all of the campus ministries at ETSU, regardless of denomination, are supporting the project in some capacity.
“I think it’s awesome to see these college students, these young adults, doing such big things for the kingdom,” said Chapman. “To see their passion and their excitement is really great.”
Cook’s vision for the night of prayer and worship is being supported by the Holston Baptist Association, the Nolachucky Baptist Association, Antioch Baptist Church and several other organizations. Also, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has sent out more than 2,000 invitations.
Although there is still plenty of work to be done – there are about 150 churches signed up so far – Cook is not overwhelmed by the challenge.
“I tell my team all the time that we aren’t giving up until the last second ticks off the clock,” he said.
Cook said the event will have a three-pronged set of objectives.
“Our No. 1 goal is to publicly honor Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” he said. “And our No. 2 goal is to unify the churches. God is a promoter of unity throughout scripture.”
The concept behind the third objective has developed in the past few months: Rescuing and restoring the Appalachia region from prescription drug abuse.
“Johnson City is in the top three in the entire world (in prescription drug abuse),” Cook said. “The stats are getting worse, and we, here in the Bible Belt, are just sweeping it under the rug.”
One full segment of the Adoration service will be dedicated to raising awareness and empathy for those affected by the epidemic, and presenting a game plan of how to attack the issue.
“We’ve got to start doing something about this,” said Cook.
The event will begin with a two-hour prayer service at 3 p.m. (ET), followed by a time of fellowship (and check-in) at 5 p.m. The prayer and worship gathering begins at 6 p.m., and will include a series of 12-minute messages from several speakers.
Cook and his team have promoted the event through social media, radio and newspaper ads, posters, and essentially any means available.
“My goal is to have the churches hear about it over and over again,” said Cook.
Cook said there are plans for Adoration to become an annual event, and he is excited about the momentum being gained.
“It’s unreal how much I have learned,” said Cook.
For more on the event, including registration details, visit http://adorationlife.com.