About halfway through my 19 years pastoring a small congregation, we had a fresh-wind experience of the Holy Spirit that changed everything.
We had spent years trying to replicate the success I had seen at a previous church. Attendance skyrocketed as people responded to what were then cutting-edge methods we borrowed from the innovative megachurches. But when nothing worked to the degree we hoped, our small church got on its knees.
We soon learned that, until our church developed leaders who championed prayer for each ministry’s strategies and activities, our results will be more about what we can do for God than what God can do through us.
As we had done repeatedly over the years, we changed many things. But only God could guide us into lasting change that would ultimately help the hurting, save the lost, and draw us all into deeper relationship with Himself and each other.
Our worship of God was the first to change, but soon our expectations of the leadership team changed too. Every person who took on a role of serving must exhibit a “first-of-all-pray” default mode when leading our ministries and activities (1 Timothy 2:1).
Until that time, our directors and workers had always prayed, but it changed from “Lord, bless what we have planned in the past hour,” to “Lord, bless us in this next hour that we may hear your voice and discern your direction for us.”
Our leaders soon had the expectation that God would guide our change, not the other way ‘round. Through prayer, we repented from thinking we had authority; we yielded to the work of the Holy Spirit, seeking the mind of Christ, then allowing Him to actually preside.
Letting the Lord lead required several shifts in our approach:
- Everyone needs to participate. Leaders must to find ways to invite and involve the entire group into the praying, even those who say their spiritual gift seems miles away from intercession.
- Praying means listening to the voice of the Spirit. Telling God what we desire is not adequate.
- Leaders become active listeners to what others are praying, because it may be in one of those prayers that the Lord is speaking.
We found that the Word of God became dear to us as we often prayed through Scripture. Participants read verses as they felt led, and we received encouragement or discerned direction. God often spoke, and we weren’t pursuing our change, but His.
The changes in our ministry did not result in meteoric growth, but through prayer we did receive clear and compelling assignments, and a strong sense we were fulfilling our mission in Christ.
Phil Miglioratti heads the National Pastors’ Prayer Network and serves as IBSA’s prayer ministries consultant. This column first appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Resource. Read it online at http://resource.ibsa.org.