Thursday, April 26, 2012

THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN'S GUIDE TO CHURCH PLANTING - Step 4: Develop A Prayer Strategy

Now that you have formed a church planting team of at least two people to start this new church what do you do next?  Do you immediately go out to the mall with your huge family Bible in tow screaming to those passing by,  "Turn or burn"?  (Please know I mean that only tongue in cheek).  But really!  What do you do?  Where do you start?  How do you go from forming a leadership team to having a vibrant and growing church family?  The answer might surprise you, might even seem somewhat passive and to some unproductive.  But let me assure you this next step is definitely not passive nor unproductive and if left undone or poorly implemented will be a surefire way to failure.  I CANNOT OVER EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS NEXT STEP so please pay close attention and heed my words.  This next step is not just a good thing to do but when it comes to starting a new church it is an absolutely essential thing.  Success without fully implementing this next step is impossible.

So what is it?  When Jesus sent the twelve out two by two and then later when he sent out the 70 he taught them the importance of this next essential step.  Read what God's word has to say:

"Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest ... Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness ... These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: 'Do not go in the way of the Gentile, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand."  Matthew 9:36-10:1; 10:5-7 (NAS)

"Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He himself was going to come.  And He was saying to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Luke  10:1-2 (NAS)

In both of these scriptures we see Jesus getting ready to send out teams of people to spread the Kingdom of God to those towns and villages where he was about to go and in both instances Jesus emphasizes the importance of PRAYER.   In both verses Jesus first shares the observation that the spiritual harvest fields were ripe and ready to be picked but there was not enough workers to gather the harvest.  Then Jesus gives them the same solution.  The solution wasn't for the teams to just work harder or for the teams to just do their best.  No, the solution that Jesus gave them was to PRAY!  Pray to the Lord of the Harvest (God our Father) to send out more laborers into the field.  The fourth step in starting a healthy and reproducing church is for you and your team to:

DEVELOP A POWERFUL AND COMPREHENSIVE PRAYER STRATEGY

The importance of prayer in the church planter's personal life  and in the vitality and strength of the church itself cannot be over emphasized.  As a matter of fact I am not sure if we can emphasize it enough.  Prayer is the spiritual conduit from which the power and provision of God flows from His throne into our lives.  It is the means by which his children receive all they need! It is impossible to live the Christian life apart from the daily communion with God through prayer

WHAT DOES AN EFFECTIVE 
PRAYER STRATEGY CONSIST OF?

PERSONAL PRAYER LIFE. As a church planter your personal prayer life is of first importance.  It is naive to think that a person can start a healthy and reproducing church without their own personal prayer life being up to par.  Church planting is a highly volatile enterprise to undertake spiritually.  When a person decides that they are going to be obedient to Christ and start a church where people will come to faith in Christ, grow spiritually stronger and actively engage in the mission that Christ has set for us they have in essence put a bulls eye target on their chest offering a challenge to Satan to take his best shot.  And I guarantee you that Satan will take that challenge.  Just like he did with Peter and Job Satan will be demanding of God the opportunity to sift you like wheat and the interesting part is that there will be times that God will grant Satan permission.  There will be times that God will allow Satan the opportunity to attack you spiritually and press you to your limits.  As hard as that might be to understand it is absolutely true.   Thankfully, though, God also determines the limits of what Satan can and cannot do.  Do you really think that a person who is not daily close to God through prayer will be able to stand up under the pressure of the trials and tribulations that Satan will bring upon him?  It is for this very reason that Jesus, on the night he was arrested took Peter, James and John further into the Garden of Gethsemane and asked them to join him in prayer.  Jesus was about to go through the biggest spiritual battle of his mortal life and he knew he needed to be prayed up to go through it.  But not just Jesus!  Jesus knew that Peter was about ready to experience a huge spiritual battle as well.  That's the reason why Jesus came back and said to Peter who was sleeping,  "Keep watching and praying that you may not fall into temptation the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."  Here we have two perfect examples in contrast.  Jesus understanding the seriousness of the moment sought strength from God his Father while Peter who had failed to take Jesus' admonition seriously slept when he should have been praying and as a result was spiritually unable to meet Satan's challenge and failed miserably.  

Around the world where we find God's activity through church planting movements we see the "ordinary" Christian church planters getting up each day early in the morning to spend an hour or two in prayer.  This is their normal daily prayer routine.  Compare that to the North American Christian who spends less that 15 minutes a day in a time of consecrated prayer.  The "ordinary" Christian church planters around the world understand that prayer isn't something you can hurry through.  They understand their spiritual health, vitality and protection is directly dependent upon the amount of time and quality of time they spend with God through prayer.  When they pray they're praying for themselves, their family, their lost family, friends and co-workers and the salvation of people. When they pray they're asking for God's power, presence, protection and provision.  They are praising God for all the great things they have witnessed him doing.  They are confessing their sins and forgiving those who have sinned against them. They are praying on the spiritual armor of God so they will be fully prepared to face the enemy when, and not if, he attacks.  

So with this in mind you need to ask yourself how much time do you spend in consecrated prayer.  That means a specific time set aside for you to meet up with God. I'm not talking about offering up prayers throughout the day (which is needful) but I'm talking about a specific time set aside for you to meet with God daily.

How much time, like that, do you spend with God daily?  If it is anything under an hour you need to improve.  An hour should be the minimal amount of time you spend in prayer with God each day.  Why?  Because Jesus when talking with Peter in the garden asked him, "Couldn't you keep watch with me for one hour?" as if one hour was no big deal.  Jesus knew that Peter was about to have the biggest spiritual fight of his life and in essence was telling him that he was going to need an hour at least to get through it.  We should take heed of Jesus' advice as well.  

CHURCH PLANTING TEAM PRAYER MEETINGS.  In addition to having your own personal daily and powerful prayer life the church planting team needs to spend time together at least weekly praying for God's power and wisdom in developing this new church.  Remember we talked about having a church planting team of at least two people for the purpose of encouragement and greater effectiveness.  Prayer needs to be one of the regular activities that the team does together.  Praying together will bring the team under the Lordship of Christ; create unity of heart, mind and spirit; and enable them to experience the power of God in a unified way.  If it's not happening yet your church planting team should IMMEDIATELY start meeting weekly.  START PRAYING TOGETHER WEEKLY AS A TEAM!

PRAYER WARRIOR GROUP.  A prayer warrior group is a group of people committed to helping you start this new church through daily prayer.  These are people who love to pray and love you.  These are people who will pray for your needs, the needs of the new church, the needs of people who you are reaching, for your spiritual protection and for God's favor in this church planting venture.  

In the area of spiritual warfare the prayers of these warriors are like shooting off spiritual tactical missiles into the enemy's territory which create the SHOCK AND AWE EFFECT that will send Satan and his crew retreating.  Every church planter needs this kind of prayer support.  Even the Apostle Paul thanked and praised different churches who ministered to him not only physically while on his missionary journeys but also spiritually through prayer.  There is something very comforting and reassuring knowing that there are people who are lifting you and your new church up before the throne of God.

With the advent of social media like Facebook the creating of this kind of Prayer Warrior Group has become easy with the ability to gather several hundred people to pray very quickly.  A church planter that I am mentoring right now, Tracy Odom, has created a prayer group that has over 240 people in it in less than two weeks.  He is now able to at least weekly, if not daily, update his prayer warriors on new things to be praying about and how God has answered old prayer requests.  Quite literally you could have people all over North America, if not around the world, praying for you.  It is my suggestion that you should strive to form a group of 200 to 300 people who will truly pray for you.  You should update them at least weekly with both new requests and updates on old requests.  Send them pictures of the people you are witnessing to and the new converts you are praying for.  When you do events or activities take pictures and send them to your prayer warriors so they can rejoice with you and offer up heartfelt thanks to God.  Let this group pray about EVERYTHING concerning the new church.


CATEGORIES TO PRAY OVER

  • CHURCH PLANTERS NEEDS: Every church planter/team will have personal needs that they will need for God to provide.  God has promised that if we are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness that all the things that we need, not necessarily the things we want, will be provided for us.  In the book of James we are told that we do not have what we need from God because we don't ask God to meet that need.  It also tells us that the times we do ask but don't receive is because we are asking with the wrong motives of gratifying our sinful flesh or we ask with a lack of faith.  
  • WORKERS: In the verses we cited earlier from the books of Matthew and Luke we see that the solution to the lack of workers in the field is to pray for God to raise them up and send them out into the field.  Therefore, it is vital that prayers be lifted up to provide more workers for the church. 
  • SPIRITUAL SIGHT TO SEE WHERE GOD IS AT WORK: Jesus shared his strategy for knowing what to do.  He said that he did nothing on his own initiative but only what he saw the Father doing and whatever he saw the Father do he joined him in that work.  That should be our strategy as well but in order to do that we need to have spiritual eyes that God has opened to see where He is working.  This spiritual sight can only happen when God reveals to us what he is doing.  As a church planter our daily prayer should be for God to open our eyes to see where he is at work that day and to give us the faith to join him.
  • SPIRITUAL PROTECTION:  As I shared earlier there will be times when Satan is going to ask God's permission to sift you like wheat and God is going to grant him that permission.  We call this spiritual warfare.  Satan's intent is to destroy your faith but God's plan is to use it to strengthen your faith.  James 1:1 says, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing."  We need prayers lifted up on our behalf asking God to strengthen and encourage us during those times of testing.  AND ORDINARY CHRISTIAN YOU ARE GOING TO BE TESTED!
  • NAMES OF THE SPIRITUAL LOST:  Our mission is to Make Disciples of Christ. That means we are to seek out, in this dark world, people who don't know Jesus, befriend them and share the good news of Jesus with them.  Those people need to be prayed for by name.  Prayer is our way of preparing the spiritual ground of lost people's lives to be ready to receive the seed of the gospel.  Preparing the hearts of the lost is a work that only God can do.  God the Father is the gardener who prepares the ground.  The Bible says that no one comes to Jesus unless the Father first draws him.  Our prayers, therefore, are to intercede on behalf of the lost people we have met, pleading with God to work in their lives and draw them to Jesus.
  • NEW DISCIPLES SPIRITUAL GROWTH:  As people come to faith in Christ and experience the new birth they need to grow up and learn to obey all that Christ has commanded.  As we all know that growth is not always an easy road to travel.  These newborn children need the prayers of their spiritual family interceding before God on their behalf.  

HOMEWORK:
  1. Pick a time and place where you will meet God daily for at least one hour for a personal time of prayer.
  2. Start meeting weekly together with your church planting team for prayer and planning.  Pick a day and time for that weekly prayer/planning meeting.
  3. In some way form a Prayer Warriors Group using social media or some other way and start sending weekly prayer requests and updates.  Make it your goal to recruit 200 to 300 strong prayer warriors.
  4. Start a Prayer Journal listing the prayer needs from the four categories (Church Planter Needs, Workers, Spiritual Sight, Spiritual Protection, Names of Lost People, and Names of New Disciples).  Start praying over them personally, in your leadership team meeting and share them with your prayer warriors.  
  5. Keep a record of how God has answered your prayers.

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