by Mark Hunter
Politicians speak about it and preachers preach about it, but until the Christian church actually practices it, unity will only be a lofty goal.
That’s why the Rev. Dr. Rodney Wood spends much of his time praying for unity while ministering to disparate – but similar – groups of people in Baton Rouge.
Every Thursday at noon he leads the “Gathering of Men,” an interdenominational Bible study for businessmen in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church.
During the legislative session he leads a weekly “Legislators’ Bible Study Prayer Breakfast,” where differences of party affiliation, race and denomination are left at the door.
“They experience a wonderful unity in Christ,” he said. “They really care about one another.”
“That’s why unity in ‘the church’ is so important – because that is our testimony to the world,” Wood said.
Referring to what is known as Christ’s High Priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Wood quotes verses 21 and 22, “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 have sent me. And the glory that you gave me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Wood defines his ministry, The Mission Foundation, as a “relational ministry” that goes beyond the businessmen or legislators to include individuals around the Capitol building. After 23 years of walking the marble halls he knows nearly everyone and offers to pray with them and for them whenever there is a need.
There is a misconception, he said, that some voters may have about the public service of Louisiana’s legislators.
“As a body our legislators are a group of men and women who really are seeking, as best they understand it, to do what is right,” Wood said.
Last year Wood penned a chapter to a book, “Rulers: Gospel and Government,” a collection of 10 essays by eight authors, edited by Charles M. Garriott, executive director of Ministry to State, a Washington D.C. based ministry. (www.ministrytostate.org)
The book’s theme, according to Garriott, is “a paradigm shift in which Christians must not try to better our nation by merely advocating certain policies, but instead by supporting, praying for, ministering to, and encouraging our nation’s leaders.”
Wood’s chapter, “Pray and serve whomever God puts before you in the halls of government,” describes his journey from being a pastor of a Covington area church to the Capitol ministry now approaching its 23rd year.
Wood also devotes countless hours in prayer at the Capitol. When he climbs the wide front steps he prays for the state each step represents. During the legislative session he sits in the House or Senate chambers and prays for each person present in the cavernous room.
He often takes the elevator up to the observation deck and while overlooking Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River, he systematically prays for the state and local governments, the lawmakers, the bureaucrats, the business community, the educational systems including LSU, and the industry along the river.
He also prays for the federal government and encourages Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine readers to do the same.
“When you look at Washington – what do you see? Unity?” he asked. “Certainly not. We need to pray for Washington. We also need to pray for our Capitol in Baton Rouge that the unity that is there will grow and it will be protected.”
Wood also teaches in seminaries, Bible colleges, and attends preaching seminars several times a year in foreign countries such as Albania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Croatia. This past summer he taught courses in Tanzania and later this fall he will travel to Peru to teach a seminar there.
His favorite Bible verse is Matthew 9:2 where Jesus tells the paralytic man, “Take heart my son – your sins are forgiven,” Wood recalls. “If I could have only one verse in all of scripture it would be that one.”
A central theme of his ministry is a slightly different perspective on the theme of “unity” discussed in this story and can be summed up, he said, with two words: differences and distances.
“We can have differences in the way we see things but our differences should not lead to distances,” Wood said. “We need to draw even more closely to one another – that is how the world will know that we belong to Jesus.”