The more I read and learn about church health, church renewal and church revitalization, the more I become convinced that prayer is a major component of it all. And I know, I know – that seems like such an obvious pastor/ leader thing to say but hear me out.
If we are not careful, prayer becomes one of those things we talk about a lot because it’s an obvious/ right thing to talk about but that doesn’t necessarily make it a thing we do. So I am advocating praying. Not just thinking and talking about prayer. And with that in mind, here are 4 things we need to consider when praying about church health and church renewal.
1) Listen when we pray. It’s great that we want to ask God to bless what we are doing/ trying/ thinking about but remember, we are talking about God’s church here. We want His wisdom and guidance. We want His plan. And He does most of the work in building the church and breathing new life into it. So it would do us well to listen for His voice when we pray so we can follow Him instead of running off in another direction. This is difficult for most of us – this idea of being silent, this idea of finding time and space to be still. But we need it. Our church needs it.
2) Pray together. Not just on Sunday morning. And not just to start and end meetings. And not just at prayer meetings and small groups although all of these are very important. As the people of God (the church) we need to be praying together regularly about our lives and about our churches. One of the symptoms of unhealthy churches (Identified by Thom Rainer) is that people don’t pray together. About anything. This needs to change and become an important part of our life together as a church. It will seem unnatural at first perhaps but let us hope that getting together and praying together becomes as natural as breathing in our church communities.
3) Pray boldly. We need to ask God to do what only God can do. If we only ask Him to do what we can do or what He has already promised to do then we don’t really need to pray. But we do need to pray. So yes – ask Him to bless your meal and help you have a good day but go bigger than that. Which leads us to point #4.
4) Pray beyond ourselves and our families. Again, I am not saying this type of prayer is wrong or unimportant. I am just asking us to think beyond ourselves as well. So what should we pray for in the spirit of point #3? Our church – that God would lead and guide and change what needs to be changed and breathe life into us. Church leaders – that God would give wisdom and discernment and courage so they can follow where He leads. For people inside our church – that they would grow deeper in their relationship with God and that they become disciple makers, not just attenders. For people outside our church walls – that we would have opportunity to love and serve them and points them towards Jesus. For new ideas and ways to tell the old, old story. For God’s vision/ mission/ purpose for us – not just that we would write it down but that we would live it out. For new leaders to be raised up. For people to hear and respond to God’s call to ministry – even within your own church. For an “anywhere you lead I will follow God” spirit to grow in our leaders – those who are and those yet to come. For new churches to be planted – not just “out there” but out of our churches. For generosity in giving time, money, energy and that love will rule the day – starting with us.
I could go on. But you get the idea. In fact, please feel free to add to and improve upon this list. But don’t stop there. Pray. Actually pray. And then respond as God answers and leads. It’s what our church needs.
Director of Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada