The Obvious Key to Church Health

by Derek Dickinson 

In my opinion, planting a new congregation in Fairbanks, AK was a terrible idea.  The winters are brutal.  It occasionally hits -50 degrees!  In the winter, it’s literally a place of darkness, getting down to 4 hours of sunlight per day.  Thankfully this “terrible idea” wasn’t mine, but God’s.  I was so opposed to planting a congregation here that I fasted from all solid foods for 30 days on two different occasions and prayed that I could plant somewhere else.  But God’s answer was clear: I was to be the founding elder of a new congregation here, at “the end of the road.” 

Today, there are three of us who elder this thriving congregation.  Prayer isn’t the only key to the health of this work but we believe that it’s the engine that powers our progress.  One of our core values says it this way: “Prayer: Committed to consistently pray with shameless audacity expectantly looking forward to all God will do.”  Clearly, every church prays.  However, we have become a praying church; the difference is foundational.  Prayer is woven through Scripture, with the Bible containing about 650 prayers!  In addition, some of the most remarkable moments in history are literally answers to prayer.  In the early church, when the apostolic elders of the Jerusalem church were challenged about their failing compassion ministry for Greek widows, they took care of the problem, but defended the importance of their focus on prayer.  So how do we as elders continually create a praying church?  

One: we pray, preach, and believe the prayer promises in Scripture.  The words of Jesus are stunning: six times He tells us we can pray for anything.  Those prayer promises are as close to a blank check as God can give us.  Archbishop Richard Trench once said, “Praying is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it’s laying hold of His highest willingness.”  Two: we pray boldly.  One mistake we’ve made in the past was praying for things that, if we worked really hard, we could accomplish.  Not anymore; we pray for answers that make it clear that God acted!  Author Max Lucado once said, “Nothing pleases Jesus as much as being audaciously trusted.”  Third: we pray together consistently.  Prayer time in intentionally woven into our small group program, our leadership meetings and even daily prayer meetings.  Yes, a small number of us come and pray together every day at 7am.  At least one of our elders is always present.  Daily, our church is fighting for Biblical truth, surprising grace and compelling holiness in our community.  Like Moses, Aaron, and Hur at the battle with the Amalekites, we as elders stand together praying fervently because we realize life transformation is won in prayer, not programs.  As author Mark Batterson put it, “When we work, we work; when we pray, God works.”  

Our desire at Journey isn’t to see what we can accomplish but to clearly show all that God can accomplish.  I invite you to move your church from a congregation that prays to a praying church – it makes all the difference.

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