“Let us pray!”

David Brown, coordinator of the ELF Church Revitalisation network

What is the difference between the process of church revitalisation and secular change management models? In many ways there are great similarities because we are dealing with human beings in all their complexity, with their sin and with their varied abilities. We could in fact argue that churches going through a revitalisation process are not borrowing from secular practices. Secular practices are borrowing from Christianity !

And yet … there is one vast difference ! Because we know that there is also  a spiritual dimension, we must never forget our dependance on God, his guidance and his action. In a word, we must PRAY !

The book Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer, reports on a study of 324 churches in the USA which have gone through a process of revitalisation and reports on the factors leading to change. Here are some quotations from his book.

“In our study, prayer was rated 4.13 on a scale of 1 to 5. An increased emphasis on prayer was a major factor of importance to these comeback churches. Prayer became a higher priority among many comeback leaders who changed the way they spent their time. Comeback leaders led their churches to pray.

Praying for boldness and for a movement of God’s Spirit within the community and in the lives of those who are lost is part of an effective outreach strategy.”

The problem for many of us involved in church revitalization is that we are activists. And consequently prayer can so easily get pushed aside or squeezed out. My fellow-leader in the ELF Year-Round Mentoring programme, Daniel Fodorean has written the article below on this subject. He recently told me that in his church they have put a greater emphasis on prayer. Each Thursday is a day of prayer and fasting, and every day there are regular times when people can pray together via internet (between 6-9 in the morning and at lunchtime between 12 and 13), or together at the church building in the evening between 18 and 19:30.

Change prayer to change the church

Daniel Fodorean, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, Bucharest

How do you start the process of revitalising a church? Prayer is a first step in the launching phase of the process, but also all along the way. The initial phase includes prayer, assessment of where the church is, team building and planning. This is not routine prayer, but prayer focused on asking God to bring revitalisation. Traditionally, the answer to revitalisation is prayer, and yet we see that there are churches that pray and do not experience the work of God in their midst. If prayer does not result in change, then we maybe need to change how we pray. What kind of prayer brings change?

Prayer as a quest not as a duty.

The emphasis is not on having to pray, but on wanting to pray, knowing that God has the answers to every situation. Prayer is not an end in itself, but a meeting with God. It is a pleasure to meet with God and we should be ready to let him show us what is not good in our lives and in our church.

Prayer guided by the Word of God, not by personal impressions.

Stagnation and decline in the life of the local church bring frustration to the hearts of those who are aware of the state the church has reached, and this fact causes some of them to use every opportunity to cast the blame on others. The spirit that dominates these prayers is that of judgment, not that of repentance and regret. Prayer should not just be about accepting collective responsibility for failure, but asking forgiveness from God for personal failures that directly, or indirectly, have contributed to the overall spiritual condition of the church. The best example is Nehemiah's prayer in chapter 1. The spirit of judgment towards others, arrogantly placing ourselves above them, causes God not to hear our prayer (James 4:1-3). The way we relate to others blocks or facilitates the answer to prayer.

Prayer guided by the Word of God, not by personal impressions.

To be able to see what we look like we need a mirror. The Word of God is the mirror of personal and communal living with God. The content of our prayers will be inspired by the texts of Scripture. For example, our church took Psalm 119 and we prayed around the inspired verses based on “revive me”, a word that appears 9 times in this psalm. The Bible gives substance to our prayers.

If you want to make a change in your church, don't hesitate to carefully analyze the way you pray for this revitalisation!