Six Ways to Pray for Your Church

How do we pray substantive prayers for our church when we don’t know how to pray specifically for them? Paul’s prayers for the churches provide some of the best ways to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are six ways a Christian can pray for his/her church family from Colossians 1:3-14.

  1. We can pray that faith in Christ, love for one another, and hope for the life to come would be evident in our church (vv. 3-5a).
  2. We can pray that the word of God would have free course and would bear fruit in our church (vv. 5b-6).
  3. We can pray that those who teach and preach would have an effective ministry of the word (v. 7).
  4. We can pray for the knowledge of God’s will by knowing His word (v. 9).
  5. We can pray for a fruitful Christian life that “walks” in the knowledge of God (v. 10).
  6. We can pray for the divine strength for perseverance characterized by patience and joy (v. 11).

Reclaiming Committed Local Church Membership

Here is a good word from Thom Rainer out of his recent book, I Am a Church Member. He admonishes those who view church membership from a consumerist standpoint while exhorting a return to a committed local church membership.

Based on our research of 557 churches from 2004 to 2010, nine out of ten churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities. Simply stated, churches are losing ground in their own backyards.
Another way of looking at it is generationally. About two-thirds of the Builder generation, those born before 1946, are Christians. But only 15 percent of the Millennials are Christians. The Millennials are the largest generation in America’s history with almost eighty million members. They were born between 1980 and 2000. And we have all but lost that generation.
We can blame it on the secular culture. And we often do.
We can blame it on the godless politics of our nation. We do that as well.
We can even blame it on the churches, the hypocritical members, and the uncaring pastors. Lots of Christians are doing that.
But I am proposing that we who are church members need to look in the mirror. I am suggesting that congregations across America are weak because many of us church members have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.
We join churches expecting others to serve us, to feed us, and to care for us.
We don’t like the hypocrites in the church, but we fail to see our own hypocrisies.
God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks.
He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.
Many churches are weak because we have members who have turned the meaning of membership upside down. It’s time to get it right. It’s time to become a church member as God intended. It’s time to give instead of being entitled.
(Thom S. Rainer, I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference [Nashville, Tenn.: B&H Publishing Group, 2013], 5-6)

Anti-Consumerism and Pro-Body of Christ

People should know what we’re against.  But people should also know what we are for.  This is true in any sphere.  It is certainly true in the body of Christ.  We are immersed in a consumerist culture.  This means that we have absorbed consumerism into our being, just like a sponge absorbs water.  Make no mistake, we are children of our consumeristic times.

As a pastor, I see just how much a consumer mindset has infiltrated believers when they are 1) looking for a church and 2) serving in a church.  When people are looking for a church, they “shop” around to see which church will serve them best  When these same people join a church it impacts their service because they remain committed to getting rather than giving–or giving nominally rather than sacrificially.  I liken church membership to a bank account.  A person typically makes deposits and withdrawals.  A balanced church member does both.  A church member who only withdraws (benefits from ministry) just drains resources–it’s an unsustainable pattern.  A church member who only deposits (participates in ministry) burns himself out.  As church members, we need to do both.  I appreciate the congregation of Bible Baptist Church (BBC), the church at which I serve.  There are a good number of people involved in the work of the ministry.  This post is not a backdoor critique of the congregation I shepherd.  On the contrary, it’s a joy to do the work of the ministry with many of the saints at BBC.  At the same time, every American Christian has marinated long enough in a consumer oriented culture that we cannot escape its influence.

This brings me back to where I began.  The Apostle Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ reveals that a consumer mentality (a focus on me and what I can get)  is the polar opposite of a ministry mindset (a focus on others and what I can give).  The two cannot peacefully coexist.  So believer, do you want to be counter-cultural?  According to the Apostle Paul, if we are going to be anti-consumerism as believers we must be pro-body of Christ.

I’ll close with a citation that prompted this post.  Paul Tripp communicated the importance of the body of Christ when he wrote,

Many of us would be relieved if God had placed our sanctification in the hands of trained and paid professionals, but that simply is not the biblical model.  God’s plan is that through the faithful ministry of every part, the whole body will grow to full maturity in Christ.  The leaders of his church have been gifted, positioned, and appointed to train and mobilize the people of God for this ‘every person, everyday’ ministry lifestyle.

The paradigm is simple: when God calls you to himself, he also calls you to be a servant, and instrument in his redeeming hands.  All of his children are called into ministry, and each of them needs the daily intervention this ministry provides.  If you followed the Lord for a thousand years, you would still need the ministry of the body of Christ as much as the day you first believed.  This need will remain until our sanctification is complete in Glory (Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, ix).

Young Adult Church Dropouts

This is an alarming statement from a Barna Update released today (November 16, 2011), “Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts“:

Overall, about three out of ten young people who grow up with a Christian background stay faithful to church and to faith throughout their transitions from the teen years through their twenties.

The Barna findings raise a number of questions to understand why this phenomenon is so common today.  At the same time, this is not par for the course for every young person.  The article continues,

Myth 2: Dropping out of church is just a natural part of young adults’ maturation
Reality: First, this line of reasoning ignores that tens of millions of young Christians never lose their faith or drop out of church. Thus, leaving church or losing faith should not be a foregone conclusion.

What makes the difference?  It seems to me that there are two major influences on the next generation: parents and congregations.  First, parents should take their faith seriously.  This is the bare minimum.  If Christ is merely an accessory to mom and dad, He will be merely an accessory to their offspring.  Second, the Church generally and local churches particularly should cherish Christ and live the gospel sincerely.  A congregation of believers who evidence, albeit imperfectly, a warm, personal faith and love for one another passes the sniff test, so to speak.

This post is admittedly brief (it was intended to be a tweet!).  Barna’s findings warrant further interaction.  The bottom line is that we don’t want to lose a generation (cf. Judges 2:10).  We want to help the next generation be committed followers of Christ.  Let’s begin by cherishing Christ ourselves in our homes and in our assemblies.