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PRAYER AND WORSHIP

Worship exists for God. He is the only one worthy of our praise and adoration. We want His fame to spread throughout the world and for Him to be honored, adored, and glorified in our midst. Prayer is an essential part of our worship and should reflect this adoration and praise. Our prayers during worship should lift the weary soul up before God just as much as our music or any other offering we bring. That does not mean praying in our “God voices” but making sure that our hearts and minds are pure and focused entirely on Him.

In Matthew 21:13 Jesus said, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves!” Someone has said, “If you really want to know where a person’s heart is – listen to his or her prayers!” Gary Rohrmayer says, “Our prayers can be a window to our souls that reveal our deepest motives, desires, and passions.” Here are some prayers we should all be praying from our hearts faithfully every day:

“Father, break my heart for the world you are seeking to save!”

Remember our prayer challenge from the beginning of this year, “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me Your heart for lost people.” Since God loves all people, desires the salvation of all people, and died for all people we should be praying fervently that He gives us His heart for the lost.

Missionary David Brainerd wrote the following words over three hundred years ago.   “I care not where I go, or how I live, or what I have to endure so that I may save souls. When I sleep I dream of them; when I awake they are first in my thoughts…no amount of scholastic attainment, of able and profound exposition of brilliant and stirring eloquence can atone for the absence of a deep impassioned sympathetic love for human souls.”

“Father, give me a bigger picture of You and Your work in my life!”

Ephesians 1:18-19 says, “I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.”

We should pray that we keep our eyes on Him and see the “weightiness” of whom He is. When we do that, the “weight” of other things will no longer pull us down nor be able to control us! J. D. Greear says, “When we see the size and beauty of God who speaks to us, the power of sin and idolatry over our hearts is broken!”

“Father, pour out a spirit of generosity in my life!”

One of the qualities and marks of spiritual maturity is that of a generous spirit. Acts 20:35 says, “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Pray that your church will be a church that is dedicated to helping others and being a blessing to your community. God blesses us not so that we can have and accumulate but so that we can bless others. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, I assure you: whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Father, help me to empower and release others into your harvest field.”

Our vision is to have a discipleship based multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. It begins with a discipleship process and developing a leadership pipeline out of that. If we are going to release people into the harvest we must first be reaching and winning them out of the harvest.

How much time are you spending developing leaders? If you say you value leadership development then there should be evidence of that on your calendar. Are you pouring more into your leaders weekly so that they can be leaders of other leaders? The natural flow comes out of our discipleship as we observe those who desire more and we focus on the three out of the 12 as Jesus did.

“Father, help my prayers during the worship service to be of the best kind.”

In Next Steps, Gary Rohrmayer writes, “Pastors and worship leaders must read and study Solomon’s blessing and prayer in II Chronicles 6:3-42. One of my concerns is that all too often public prayer in our contemporary service is added on at the end of a worship set or simply used as a transition between the different elements of the service.”

In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Let me therefore, very earnestly caution you, beloved brethren, against spoiling your services with your prayers: make it your solemn resolve that all engagements of the sanctuary shall be of the best kind.” We simply should come with clean hands and a pure heart crying out to God to do whatever is necessary for His presence to be known in our worship.

Matthew 6:5-6 says, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.

Pray For Those Who Oppose You

Do you pray for those who oppose you? Prayer is probably the most neglected spiritual discipline in a leader’s life. Especially when a leader is a “doer” it can feel like they are not really doing anything at all when praying. It can be very hard to slow down and stay focused on God long enough to spend ample time in prayer. The commands and admonitions are clear: “Men ought always to pray!” “Pray without ceasing!” and “Always remembering you in our prayers!” Prayer is actually the first thing we should do and all too often it is the last.

In Spiritual Leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby say this, “For leaders to have this kind of relationship available to them and then choose to not communicate with the One who wants to guide them is a gross dereliction of duty.” If you are complaining or griping about someone’s lack of cooperation or opposition in your church the first thing to do is to pray for them! Luke 6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Are you listening to what God’s word says? We have all been mistreated, treated unfairly, and experienced opposition in our ministries. What does Jesus tell us to do for those who mistreat us? Pray for them! We pray for many different things in our churches but what might happen if we prayed fervently for those who constantly seem to be against the direction you are trying to lead them? What might happen if we prayed for those who oppose us the way we would want them to pray for us? Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Easy, no – difficult, yes, but it is so necessary. John Piper challenges us that the best place to start in praying for those who oppose us is with the model prayer. He gives the following example; “Father, grant that my enemies — my colleague who snubs me, my wife who belittles me, my child who disrespects me, the ISIS member who wants to kill me — grant that they would come to hallow your name. Grant that they would treasure you above all, and reverence you, and admire you more than anything.”

“Father, grant that my enemies would come under the saving, purifying sway of your kingly rule and that you would exert your kingly power to make my enemies your own loyal subjects. Grant, Father, that my enemies would love to do your will the way the angels do it in heaven with all their might, and without reservation, and with the purest motives, and with great joy.”

“Grant, Father, that my enemies would have all the physical resources of food and clothing and shelter and education and healthcare and transportation that they need to fulfill your calling on their lives. And forgive my enemies their sins, as you bring them to repentance, and make them forgiving people, and protect them from overpowering temptations and from the destructive power of the devil.”

Henry and Richard Blackaby offer this wisdom, “Leaders who neglect a close relationship with Christ will be unable to accomplish God’s will through their organizations.” They give these reasons for why leaders need to pray:

  • Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God. It is easy for a leader’s schedule to be all consuming but the reality is that nothing of eternal significance will happen without prayer!
  • Prayer is essential because one must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Are you under His control and direction? Are you constantly and consistently listening to His still small voice?
  • Prayer brings God’s wisdom. The reality is that God knows more than the best informed, most educated, best trained, and most read leader.
  • Prayer accesses God’s power. He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we ask or think. Why do we not ask more often and especially for those people who are prone to be difficult.
  • Prayer relieves stress. Everybody needs someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, and someone they know they can trust with confidentialities. There is no one better than God.
  • Prayer reveals God’s agenda. The Blackabys’ definition of leadership is “Moving people onto God’s agenda!” This will not happen apart from prayer especially in perspective of the first five reasons we should pray more. Jesus modeled this truth every day here on earth as He pursued His Father’s agenda and not His own!

Here are some applications to ponder as you consider praying for your opposition.

First, it’s hard to be mad at someone you are praying for! When we pray the model prayer for those we are angry with or hurt by it first changes our heart. We then are not driven by anger or overcome by bitterness.

Second, we stop trusting in our abilities more than we trust in His. We realize we cannot always fix it…but God can. He will work it out one way or the other but we trust Him enough to leave the solution in His hands.

Third, we realize that He knows what our opposition is thinking more than we do. He is the one who sees their hearts, but remember He sees our heart also. In Uncommon Life, Tony Dungy put it this way, “Even though we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can choose our attitude in the circumstances.” That will be determined by how closely we are walking with the Lord.

Fourth, prayer can change hard hearts and bad attitudes. Many times reconciliation can look impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Prayer of course is important but whom we pray for is also important. Pray that God will restore relationships with those who oppose you and mistreat you!

40 Day Prayer Challenge

God has changed lives in 40 days before and He can do it again! We see that Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan for 40 days. We also know that there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension in Acts 1. In the Old Testament we see Moses on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and nights when he received the 10 Commandments. There is nothing magical or mystical about the number but it is significant in what can happen during a time of spiritual renewal and emphasis.

When a church seeks a time of renewal and revival the goal is to hear from the Lord and find God’s will and His agenda for our ministry. There is a unique connection for a body of believers when they agree to seek the Lord together and hear from Him together. When we press into His presence we are showing the Lord that we are taking our responsibility of listening to Him seriously. Mark Batterson says, “Our job is to hear His voice. His job is to establish our steps. And if we do our job, God will do His!”

Are you seeking a break through in your personal walk or as a church? The reality is that God’s plans are discovered, discerned, and defined in God’s presence. Perhaps you should consider a 40-day prayer challenge where the entire body focuses on the same Bible passages, repentance, and asking God for the same things. There are many resources available that include books, booklets, or you could even put your own together. Mark Batterson also says, “They gathered in a room and prayed for 10 days. Those 10 days have been paying dividends for 2,000 years.”

A prayer challenge reminds us of the importance of repentance and helps us to focus on the following process.

First, it begins by praying for personal repentance.   I John 1:9 makes this clear, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousenss.”

Second, we pray for our church to be burdened about holiness. Jesus makes it very clear in Revelation 2 and 3 that the path to being His church is for us to listen to Him and repent.

On day three pray for other churches in your community. Ask God to give other churches around you a burden for the lost and to raise up spiritual leaders in their midst to call them back to God’s word and His gospel.

Then on day four pray for Bible-believing churches in your state. One author has said, “Spirit-empowered churches across a state can change the state and influence the nation.” Ask God to burden all of His people across the state to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

The fifth day can focus your prayers on churches across your nation or country. We are called to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. A national revival could touch the world.

Day six could focus on praying for missionaries and churches around the world. Ask God to raise up national spiritual leaders who will call their churches to repentance and obedience to the Great Commission.

The seventh day we could pray fervently for the persecuted church around the world.

Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” We must pray for revival that is grounded in His people turning back to Him. E.M. Bounds said, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.” We are called to be a people of prayer who know that time spent in prayer is never wasted!

Next you should consider praying specifically for your church and its leadership.

First, pray for pastors. Paul asks for the prayers of fellow Christians in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” The best thing you can do for your pastor is to surround him and his family with your prayers.

Second, pray for your church staff. Pray that each staff member will protect their walk with Christ and continually abide in Him.

Third, pray for your elders, deacons, and other church leaders. Pray that these leaders will be filled with the Spirit and they will lead unified. Romans 15:5-6 says it well, “Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.”

Fourth, pray for ministry leaders. Ask God to help them realize how much they are appreciated and loved. Their role is important!

Fifth, pray for ministry teams. God can use these teams, when they are spirit-empowered, to shake their churches and communities for the cause of Christ. Ask God to raise up leaders and provide workers for the harvest.

Then, pray for the lost! Here is a simple daily prayer challenge that all of us should pray. “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.” You will discover that prayer is more about changing our hearts then it is changing others.

We should pray for one another every day! A.W. Tozer said, “To desire revival…and at the same time to neglect (personal) prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk together.”

Extraordinary Prayer

PRAY

Pastors Oasis this year was excellent and we were challenged to seek through prayer an extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God that produces extraordinary results.  Bill Eliff and Todd West did a wonderful job of reminding us of the need to cry out to God in desperation.  Without God and His power in our ministries everything can and will come crashing down like a house of cards.  Bill Eliff asked, “How in the world do we think we can build the church if we are not interceding with the head of the church?”

Is your prayer life ordinary or is it extraordinary!  The one thing Nehemiah did night and day for over four months was the only thing that could save his nation; he prayed!  We talk about prayer often but how often do we pray?  We talk about fervent prayer but how often do we pray fervently?  We talk about praying without ceasing but how often do we pray unceasing, unrelenting, and unending prayers?  We often say we have not because we ask not but how often have we asked with desperation?

Todd West chllenged us with the need for a time of retreat in our lives.  We need to to place a self-imposed time into the regular rhythm of our lives to break away every so often for a focused time of prayer.  We should divert daily, withdraw weekly, measure monthly, and quartine ourselves quarterly.  Mac Lake says, “Too often I wake hurried to do things for God when what I really need is to slow down and hear from God!”  Psalm 27:14 says,  “Wait for the Lord; be strong  and courageous. Wait for the Lord.”

What is a prayer retreat?  In our Dynamic Church Planting International training a prayer retreat is defined as, “A time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.”  Let’s examine this definition, one phrase at a time.

  • First, “A time you set aside.”  A personal prayer retreat must be a time that you intentionally schedule and then not allow anything to keep you from having. We are all so incredibly busy, it is easy to be trapped into doing the urgent rather than the important.

Is there any time more important than the time you could spend alone with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? I consider the time that I schedule for my personal prayer retreats the most important time that I will invest in any given year.  If you don’t set it aside, you simply will not have a personal prayer retreat. Other responsibilities will suck up all your time. Satan wants to keep you from enjoying this sweet fellowship with God. He loves for you fill your schedule with everything but a block of time to experience the Lord.

  • Second, “to go away.”  You must determine a good location.  Make sure that you “go away” for your personal prayer retreat. Trying to “retreat” at home or at the office will be frustrating. There are too many distractions in these places. We need to go away in order to focus on being with the Lord.  We live down in the valley—the valley of our everyday lives, where it’s too noisy to hear God very well. In the valley we have too much to do, too many people to talk with, too many problems, too much time pressure.

We need to leave this valley of noise and pressure, and get away to the quiet of God’s presence.  Why?

  • Third; “to be alone with God.”  You must free yourself of all distractions.  This is the essence of a prayer retreat… to be alone with God. In the intimacy of fellowship, your relationship with the Lord will be renewed. You will experience Him. And then you’ll ask Him what He wants to do in your personal life, in your family, and in your ministry. Usually, I find that God wants to work in all three areas during most prayer retreats.

Get alone with God and let him reveal what he wants to share with you.  Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as “thinking in the presence of God.”  When you plan a retreat consider having at least four sessions focusing on this acronym for pray (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) out of the Model Prayer.

  • Praise Him!  “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  Use the Psalms, praise music, and count your blessings.  Write in your journal the multiple blessings of the Lord.
  • Repent of your sin!  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Spend time focusing on your sin and ask God to reveal any impure motives you may have in your heart.
  • Ask!  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Now that you have spent time in praise and repentance you begin to make your requests known unto Him.
  • Yield to Him!  “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  There must be total surrender to His leading and direction.

When entering a prayer retreat ask the Lord to guide you to a particular passage in the scriptures to focus on.  Remember, He speaks to us through His word and we must always be asking ourselves two questions.  What is He saying? And what does He want us to do about it?  As you read the scripture He has led you to being looking for a sin to confess, a command to obey, or a promise to claim!  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

When will you plan your prayer retreat?

Developing a Prayer Strategy

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How will your church respond to the challenges and opportunities in your community or city today? Excuses are plentiful but the scriptures are clear about every church being a healthy body of believers who are following their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in obedience.

Every church is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission and living by the Great Commandment. Every church, no matter what size, is to be making disciples. The path is the same for small and large churches that have a burden to reach their communities for Christ and make disciples.

Some churches will develop new strategies, add a new program, or reorganize their structure looking for the answers. Three areas that need our continual focus for our individual walks and for our churches to be spiritually healthy are:

  • First, you must have an upward or God-focus. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
  • Second, you must have an inward or personal-growth focus. 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”
  • Third, you must have an outward or others-focus. Matthew 22:39, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

A God-focus is a must! Who really transforms lives and develops people spiritually? The Holy Spirit of God! We can cooperate in that process but it is the supernatural work of God that is required in our lives and in our churches. Fanaticism has been defined as “Redoubling your efforts after your aim has been forgotten.”

Have we placed more trust in what we can do than in what He can do? Thom Rainer said this, “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves.” Remaining God-focused helps us to never forget that just like a farmer who plants, fertilizes, and waters the fields, only God can make it grow.

Growth and transformation are first and foremost the work of God! If we need workers, which we do, the instructions are clear in Matthew 9:38, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” We say we believe in prayer but do we practice what we preach? Are we praying for our leaders, our churches, and our neighbors?

Here a couple of things that E.M. Bounds said about prayer, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle…Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter of prayer; but a capacity for faith, the power of a thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one’s self in God’s glory and an ever present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God…Other duties become pressing and absorbing and crowd our prayer. ‘Choked to death’ would be the coroner’s verdict in many cases of dead praying if an inquest could be secured on this dire, spiritual calamity.”

JD Payne has said it well, “Strategic planning is both a science and an art that involves specific and abundant prayer. If God desires to pour out His Spirit on North America, what can we do to join Him in His work, rather than hinder the work?” Maybe the biggest part of strategy is not figuring out what to do but rather choosing what not to do!

Could it be that in our desire for results we have placed our confidence in how busy we are, how many programs we have, and how must stuff we have going on? Here are a couple of suggestions for implementing an intentional prayer strategy:

  • Protect your quiet time with God. Continue to develop a close intimate relationship with God through prayer. It does take discipline.
  • Make sure you are praying for the spiritual condition of people in your circle of influence even more than their physical needs.
  • Develop prayer teams that meet to pray for the lost, the spiritual condition of your church, and the leadership in your church.
  • When people ask you to pray with them about something stop right then and pray! Stop promising something you usually forget to follow through on.
  • Ask God to show you what you need to be doing and what you need to consider stopping. He is the best strategist.

All strategies need to be birthed out of the word of God and our prayer closets. They must be flexible and adaptable to the leading of the Spirit. There is no better strategist than God and He has called us as His workmen to plan wisely.

Maybe the first place to look is at what we need to stop doing instead of adding another activity. It doesn’t need to be stopped because it is wrong but because it is not the best and wisest way to invest our time and efforts. Psalms 37:23. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”

In A Work of Heart Reggie McNeal says, “God does not want His spokespeople relying on past techniques and methodology (previously, in Exodus 19, the rock issued water when Moses struck it.) He wishes the leader to rely on Him!”

WE NEED A PASTOR, NOW!

Pastor Now

    My heart’s desire in blogging and writing articles is to promote spiritual health on a personal basis and on a corporate level in churches.  One way of doing that is to make you aware of resources that could be a blessing to you and/or your church.   Honestly, there is more out there today than any of us have the time to read and process properly.  We have to be discerning about into what resources we will invest our time and money. 

     If we want to be physically and spiritually fit it will require making healthy choices.  Every day we are faced with decisions that either promote or damage health!  Many of the choices we make every single day, over 300, are not about right and wrong, but what is wise and what is unwise.  Becoming unhealthy occurs over a period of time where we settle for less than God’s best for our lives. 

     Several years ago, I watched a church I had resigned from begin the pastoral search process.  One leader said this to the entire congregation when he felt they were moving too slowly, “We better take what we can get while we can!”  They ended up calling a man who lasted six months and it was a disaster for the church and the pastor’s family.  Recently, I heard this quote, “It is better to want what you do not have than to have what you do not want!”

     After writing on this subject I noticed a blog by Thom Rainer and saw it as a confirmation to say more on this subject regarding the need for a pastor and to share some of his comments.  “William Vanderbloemen has been able to combine over 15 years of ministry experience as a Senior Pastor with the best practices of Executive Search to provide churches with a unique offering: a deep understanding of local church work with the very best knowledge and practices of professional executive search. William, his wife Adrienne, have seven children and live in the Houston area.”

Here are a few of the highlights that were given for churches to consider:  “Every pastor is an interim pastor.  Succession planning is not just a corporate principle. It is highly biblical as well.  A church is married to one man, and it’s not the pastor—it’s Jesus.  When churches are searching out pastors, the first rule is ‘slow down.’  Churches hire too fast and fire too slow.  The most expensive hire you ever make is hiring the wrong person.  Carrying the weight of the things of God becomes too much for a man at a certain age.”

     Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird have written a book on this subject entitled NEXT, Pastoral Succession That Works.  One of the goals of their book is stated as to “demystify successful pastoral succession and help readers prepare for an even brighter future for their ministries.”  It might be worth checking out!  In recommending, or even suggesting, any resource it is always opening yourself to criticism about something in the book someone disagrees with.  Some good advice I was given years ago was to “eat the meat and spit out the bones.”

     In assessment, there are five characteristics from Dr. Charles Ridley which have become known as “knockouts.”  If the individual does not have evidence of these traits in their life then it is best to not proceed.  It is not saying they are not called nor is it devaluing them but it is saying that maybe they are not ready for the position they are seeking to fill. These characteristics are:

  • Visioning Capacity
  • Intrinsically Motivated
  • Creates Ownership
  • Relates to the Unchurched
  • Spousal Cooperation

     We must be careful of looking for the Sauls who are good-looking and tall, demonstrate leadership capacity, and charisma.  We must dig deeper and look at character.  What does his relationship with his dad look like?  How would his wife rate their marriage on a scale of 1-10?  How is his personal walk with the Lord?  It is interesting that the five areas most often asked about in job interviews, (age, education, experience, race, and gender), have little value on predicting how they will perform.  Remember the process is not about personal approval but is the candidate the right man, for the right place, and at the right time!

     Healthy churches slow down and allow God to direct!

WE NEED A PASTOR

Pastor

     “We need a pastor!”  That is something I am hearing quite a bit these days.  Churches do need a pastor but often I hear desperation and someone will say, “The sooner the better!”  While, yes, a church does need a pastor they do not need to rush into this decision too quickly.  This is one of the most important, if not the most important, decision a church will ever make.  This cannot be rushed nor should a church approach it too slowly by dragging its feet.  You should approach this process prayerfully and with much wisdom as you seek out the man of God to lead your congregation.

     When it comes to making such a major decision there are three basic approaches that are often used.  First, some congregations are time-driven.  The need is now and we must get busy in making sure this happens as quickly as possible.  We live in such a fast paced society which seems to be getting quicker by the minute, or maybe by the second.  Slow down and find out who the candidate is, what his track record has been, and what the references of his references have to say about him.  Remember, the only way you can predict future performance is based upon past behavior.  Adrian Rodgers once said, “A change of scenery never guarantees a change of character.”

     Second, some congregations are goal-driven.  They have a picture of what kind of pastor they need and quite often it is unrealistic.  The “perfect” pastor does not exist and if you are not careful the new pastor will begin his ministry with unrealistic expectations that even Superman could not fulfill.  The pastor is not called to do all of the work but to equip the members to do the work of the ministry.  Make sure your “job description” fits the word of God and that the expectations will not put more pressure on the pastor than it should.  The goal should be the right man, in the place, at the right time!  Some congregations are only going to use a resume to trust their family to, someone they don’t really know and have never lived with!

     Thirdly, congregations should be Spirit-driven.  Most would say “amen” to this, but be careful to not over spiritualize it as a “mystical” decision.  It is difficult when a church member says to a preacher that “God told me you were to be our pastor!”  What if God has not told him that yet?  Being Spirit-driven does not cancel out being time conscious.  Doing your due diligence in the process is very important.  Being Spirit-driven also does not cancel out being goal-driven.  The goal should be to find God’s man.  The unique dynamic in looking for a pastor is that the congregation must hear from the Lord and the man God is calling to lead them must also hear His voice.

     The reality is that there will always be those who want to go too fast and those who will want to go too slow.  Both are dangerous and that is why we must listen closely and carefully to the Spirit’s direction.  Not only is this one of the biggest decisions a church will ever make, it is also one of the biggest decisions a man and his family will ever make.  They may have to pick up stakes and start from square one.  All the transitions a family will have to go through when moving to a new field of service can be quite overwhelming. 

     There is a key question your church must consider as it prays for a pastor to be your spiritual leader.  Are they willing to do the work of an evangelist?  Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save the lost!”  As you consider someone to be your pastor you must examine to see what their track record has been in this area.  Is there evidence of their pursuit of the lost and of sharing the gospel with others?  Have they trained those around them in how to effectively evangelize?  Have they intentionally built times into their schedules to be around those outside the church and not just hang out with the “in” crowd?  How have they related to the unchurched where they are presently ministering? How will they lead your church to obey the Great Commission locally?  What is their vision to equip your congregation to live as missionaries in your zip code?  All of the other characteristics you can look for in a pastor will have limited or meaningless impact if he does not have a burden for the lost!

     Healthy churches are Spirit-driven!

COMPETITION OR COOPERATION

Boxing 

 “It’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game!”  Really?  In the hyper-competitive culture we live in?  Those words are pretty shallow because they are not practiced in the “win at any cost” environment we live in.  Many will do whatever it takes to get the edge whether that is using steroids, cheating on a test, or even throwing basketballs at players who are not performing up to expectations.  The pressure is intense and the temptation is paramount to take any shortcut possible and to see everyone around you as the “competition!”

     Competition in sports is one thing, and not all competition is bad, but competition between churches grieves the heart of God.  In Luke 9:50 Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”  The real competition is against the enemy and the forces of darkness.  We have an adversary and the battle lines have been drawn.  Churches need to be penetrating the darkness and rescue those who are perishing instead of swapping sheep.  Almost all statistics back up the fact that over 90 percent of church growth is due to transfer growth.  Some reports say that only one percent of church growth is conversion growth.

    It is alarming when some churches begin to believe, promote, and teach that they are the only ones that have it right.  Years ago, when we were church planters in Northern Illinois a new church plant in our area was visiting door to door.  They happened to knock the door of one of our faithful members who asked them why they were planting in that area.  They said because there were no biblical Baptist churches in the area.  He began asking what was wrong with several churches and they verbalized a charge against every one of them.  When he asked them about Northside their response was, “They hold their microphones when they sing!”

     We should rejoice when a new church plant comes to an area because they can reach people that maybe we cannot reach.  Our motives must be to win the lost and depopulate hell, not attack others who have the same mandate we have been given by God.  In my S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) journaling God spoke to my heart about praying for other churches in Jer. 29:7, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

     As the children of Israel were headed into Babylonian captivity they were told to pray for their city.  They were slaves who were being taken to a foreign land to live in captivity but still God tells them to pray for their city!  God convicted me that I was not praying for my city, city officials, policemen, firemen, my neighbors, the lost, other Christians, pastors, and other churches who are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  You experience a heart and attitude adjustment toward those you are praying for. 

     When you begin interceding and praying for others you no longer see them as the enemy or the competition and you begin thinking of ways you can help and bless them.  Praying daily for those in your city and circle of influence does a couple of things:

  • It transforms your relationship with them.  You realize that they are not the enemy.
  • It changes your heart toward them.  Col. 4:12 says, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
  • It breaks the stronghold of bitterness and unforgiveness.
  • It reminds you to represent Christ no matter how others may treat you. 
  • It places the adversary as the enemy and you labor to diminish the darkness and advance God’s Kingdom.

     Prayer causes us to not only to do things right but to do the right things.  Here is a great quote from Ralph Neighbour Jr, “If you have a choice to make between praying and doing, choose to pray.  You will accomplish more by your doing, because you did.”  When church members pray daily for the members of their group they always multiply faster than those who only pray for one another occasionally.

     We need to pray for our city, one another, and others sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ!    

PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER

Pray for one Another

     God has been challenging me to spend more time alone with Him.  All too often prayer is overlooked by those who prefer to be busy.  If you are a highly driven person you probably find it difficult to pause long enough to hear His voice each morning.  Being a “doer,” it is hard for me, by nature, to slow down and spend quality time with God.  I am so thankful that He has been patient with me and even when I have been too busy for Him, He has never been too busy for me.

 

     Let me share a great verse with you that stresses the importance of praying for one another.  Col. 4:12 “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”

 

     On top of His word and the Holy Spirit I also ran across a couple of quotes that really spoke to me and convicted me.  “If you have a choice to make between praying and doing, choose to pray.  You will accomplish more by your doing, because you did!” – Ralph Neighbour Jr.  “The small groups who pray daily for their members are far more likely to multiply than those who pray for them once in a while.” – Joel Comiskey

 

     There are at least two things I hope will come out of you reading this.  First, that you will pray for those in your circle of influence every day by name.  Second, that you will spend more and more time with the Lord – not only making your requests known to the Lord but also listening to what He requests of you!  Wayne Cordeiro says, “Prayer is listening in God’s presence.”  If you have the choice to make between doing or praying, choose prayer.  You will accomplish more.

 

     Here are some thoughts I have developed out of my quiet time with the Lord on this subject that I hope will be a blessing to you and others.  God has called every believer to a life of Character and Obedience, First!  These are developed through our daily walk and personal relationship with Him. The quality of our quiet time will only increase when we have dedicated a quantity of time to be alone with Him.

 

     Secondly, God has called us to a life of intimacy with Him.  Prayer is not only our requests but also listening in His presence.  If Jesus needed time alone with the Father, so do you.  Make sure you select a specific time and place to meet with Him and when that time becomes routine or stale change it up.  It will not always be easy but do not quit when it becomes difficult.  I fear that many times I have left His presence right before He was about to speak to my heart.

 

     Pray every day for your circle of influence by name.  I know I already mentioned this but it is very hard to stay mad at anyone you are praying for by name every day.  It transforms the way you see them and it increases the burden you have for them.  When they are around you they can see you have changed and have more compassion for them in the way you treat them.  It changes your heart toward them and breaks any stronghold of bitterness or unforgiveness that you may have held onto.

 

     The fourth thing I have come to realize is that there will be obstacles.  Drowsiness has to be the number one thing you will have to battle.   Do whatever is necessary to help you be awake and alert whether that is coffee, exercise, a shower, or praying on your knees.  Make sure you are striving to give Him your best. You will also have to battle your thoughts.  How do you handle those ugly thoughts that worm their way in during your quiet time?    A good prayer at that time is “Your thoughts Lord, not mine!” 

 

     Many of us think we are just too busy to take the time to really pray but you need to know that you cannot go through the express lane with God!  Slow down and resist the temptation to be “doing” instead of abiding!  Don’t rob yourself of what God is about to say to you by leaving His presence too quickly.  Quality will come when quantity is given!

 

     Lastly, there will be times to fast and pray because there will be times you will need to exert even more effort to show God you are willing to do whatever it takes to know His mind in certain areas.  Fasting and praying can be a great way to get unstuck and know the mind of the Lord.  DCPI (Dynamic Church Planting International) has excellent training on how to take a prayer retreat.  I would love to share that with you if you contact me.

 

     Hopefully, this will be an encouragement to you and a reminder that if you are surrendered to Him and available then don’t panic, wait on the Lord!  He knows where you are and He has your address.  You will not have to kick the door in because He will open it for you!

 

Developing a Prayer Strategy

Prayer

     God’s word is very clear that we are to be a people of prayer and our churches should be a house of prayer.  The battle we are in is a spiritual battle and when Paul tells us to put on the armor of God he says in Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”  Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle!

 

     When we strive to advance the kingdom of God there will be resistance because the devil is not going to release the ground he controls without a fight.  However, the devil does have difficulty making progress when we speak in Jesus’ name, when we use the word of God, and when we are praying with a positive attitude and spirit.  There are a lot of things Christians are praying against but who are you praying for, who are you asking God to enable to win the spiritual conflict they are in right now?

 

     Do you have a prayer team?  Have you developed a strategy where people are praying regularly, faithfully, and fervently for one another?  Are you praying daily for the leadership of your church?  Are you using the P5 Prayer calendars to pray for a missionary family somewhere around the world, every single day?   We get together to sing, we love to fellowship, but how often do we get together to pray fervently for someone or some specific region of the world?

 

     Henry and Norman Blackaby’s book Called and Accountable has six chapters designed to help you discover your place in God’s eternal purpose.  The six chapters are: Why Does God Call Us?, What Is A Call?, Who Are the Called?, How Am I Called?, When Am I Called?, and How Do I Live Out The Call?  Chapter 1 ends with a wonderful story about how prayer can make a difference in carrying God’s call because of the power of prayer.  Here is that story:  

 

     “Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 in Dresden, Germany, into one of the noblest families of Europe.  As a young adult, Nicholas visited an art museum in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he saw the painting by Domenico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man).  The painting depicted Christ with a crown of thorns on His head and the legend, “All this have I done for you.  What are you doing for Me?”  The face of Christ in the painting never left Zinzendorf’s heart, and Christ’s love became the compelling force of his life.

 

     The love Zinzendorf felt for his Savior expressed itself in his love for other believers, especially through a small group of approximately 300 Moravians whom he allowed to establish a church on his estate at Herrnhut in 1722.  He helped the Moravians develop a deep passion for their Savior and helped them to live out Christ’s command to love one another.

 

     Zinzendorf’s love for Christ was also expressed through his life of prayer.  He spent countless hours in communion with his Savior and sought to lead others to commit to a life of prayer.  His example led the Moravian believers to begin a powerful prayer movement they called “hourly intercession.”  They prayed in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the work of Christ around the world.  This “hourly intercession” went on uninterrupted for more than 100 years!

 

     The desire Zinzendorf had to reach those who did not know his Savior was another manifestation of his passion for Jesus.  By 1752, The Moravian Church at Herrnhut had sent out more missionaries than the whole Protestant church had done in 200 years.  Before long, they had three members on the missions field for every one at their church in Herrnhut.  All of this was accomplished by men and women with little formal and theological education, but with a burning passion for the Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

     Zinzendorf’s life was a labor of love for his Savior, who had done so much for him and a lost and dying world.”