I want to encourage you to read last week's Blog ("Then the Target Moved") before you read this one; it will make more sense. Done? Thank you. Nine out of every ten churches in America are stagnant or are growing more slowly than the community they serve. You might want to put together a couple of growth charts (your church and your community) to see whether your church is part of what is being called the Great Evangelical Recession.
But God has a Movement poised to step into the gap, right? Well... Take out the growth in our minority churches and the new church plants and the result is enough to make us lie awake at night. But what is, is not what has to be.
I love the story of Nehemiah. God's chosen were in trouble. They were not fulfilling the celestial purpose to which He had called them. Even the protective wall of the city was in ruins and the gates were in ashes. But one of God's servants caught a vision. He rushed out and began to rebuild, right? No. He organized a bunch of committees, did some demographic studies, raised enough money to fund the project. Right? Listen: "When I heard these things, I sat down..." He got it right. "For some days," he continues, "I prayed..." He also mourned. And he fasted. But He began where every God-victory begins. And that's where ours will begin as well.
I see some early indicators. I see a medium-sized church in a large eastern city in the US. Scarcely any baptisms for the previous two years. In desperation, the pastor falls on his knees and acknowledges, "God, this is not why we're here. There are vast numbers of people who drive by our church every day who have no hope, and without a supernatural intervention in their lives will not spend eternity with Jesus. Help us know how to reach them; please God. They're lost and we're comfortable. God, you have to help us change that. Please."
And the change has begun. The pastor sat down...or more accurately, fell to his knees and sought repentance. And wisdom. And strength. Prayer has become the bedrock of every ministry, every planning session. Not just polite prayers, but bold, aggressive intercession.
It's hard to get folks together in a big city, so he meets every morning at 6:00 by phone with those members who want to plead for their church and their community. You sign on and an operator calls your number every morning at 5:55. It rings till you answer. Each Tuesday evening he meets with his leaders for 30 minutes - by phone - to pray. Not 25 minutes of discussion and 5 minutes of prayer, but 5 minutes of discussion and half an hour of prayer.
The pastor prays regularly through the Church Directory. He urges his people to pray for him; he feels he can do no less than to pray as faithfully for them. Pray-ers meet at 8:30 Sabbath morning to plead with God for the Sabbath School, the music, and especially the sermon. They prayer walk the departments, the greeters' stations, the choir area, the baptistry. This is not church-as-habit, this is church moving toward healthy. This is fervent worship, passionate prayer-soaked preaching, with the anticipation that in His presence there are going to be miracles and the population of eternity is going to change.
Baptisms in the past 24-months: 90. Not Pentecost, but it appears the drought is over I think that's rain I hear.
-By Don Jacobsen