Archives For time

Especially for leaders, new years require fresh vision. And for Christian leaders, fresh vision requires prayer. But quality prayer takes time and, for me at least, finding that time is one of the biggest challenges I face.

Time is so precious. I often feel I don’t have enough of it simply to do well with my family, my job, my church. So I end up giving almost all my time to those things, and telling myself that God will understand.

He understands, I’m sure. But he can’t be pleased.

shortage-of-prayerIt’s been well said that you spell love: T-I-M-E. And since prayer is an expression of my love for God, and I need quality time with God to gain fresh vision for the future and power for daily living, then I must spell prayer the same way. Prayer deserves my time.

I’m convinced I’m not alone in this struggle. Many of today’s well-intentioned pastors and Christian leaders are so pressed for time. And prayer can become one of the earliest casualties of a busy schedule. Yet the shortage of serious time for prayer becomes quickly evident in a leader’s life, and in the fruit of his or her ministry. I know they are in mine.

That’s why I struggled recently when I was asked to bring a devotional word to a national gathering of SBC prayer leaders in Chicago. With some difficulty, I decided to be vulnerable. I admitted to them that I am ashamed of how little I rely on prayer compared to my own efforts. I too rarely engage God in a way that invites him to override my desires or plans. Mostly, I quickly ask him to bless what I’m rushing off to do. I told them I see this happening with Christian leaders everywhere, and that we as leaders need their help reprioritizing prayer in our lives.

Then we looked at Gideon’s experience in Judges 6-7. Like this timid, reluctant, and frustrated leader, we often toil away in our own strength at things that don’t really help much, rather than inviting God into our challenges, and letting him empower our leadership.

But one life-changing day Gideon and God, as “the Angel of the Lord,” had a conversation that has deeply challenged me about my own prayer life. Here’s a summary of what I said about it in my devotion for those prayer leaders:

Gideon was weak when his extended conversation with God began, but God loves to use weak people. Though God initiated the conversation, Gideon did most of the talking, at first. Then, after questions and fleeces, there was a moment of surrender, when Gideon gave his fears, desires, and plans over to God. After that, God did most of the talking, and acting. Gideon never had to say, “God said obey me…” to the people he led. He simply acted with a new boldness that came out of his personal conversation with God. And the people gladly followed him in his obedience to God, with a powerful result that brought God glory and his people victory.

That’s the kind of prayer encounter I need. Gideon was a small man and a reluctant, fearful leader.But all that changed when he engaged God in extended, serious prayer.

In this coming new year, I have concluded that I must do whatever it takes to meet God like that. And I must encourage and facilitate that in the lives of those I lead and influence. I look around me, in Southern Baptist life and elsewhere, and I see that there are others sensing the same need. By God’s grace, a new year gives us more time. Let’s be leaders who give a great deal of that time to God in prayer.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Thom_Rainer_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Thom Rainer

Editor’s note: Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article was originally published Feb. 12 at ThomRainer.com.

Many churches are busy, probably too busy. Church calendars fill quickly with a myriad of programs and activities. While no individual activity may be problematic, the presence of so many options can be.

An activity-driven church is a congregation whose corporate view is that busier equals better. More activities, from this perspective, mean a healthier church. The reality is that churches who base their health on their busyness already have several problems. Allow
me to elaborate on seven of those challenges:

1. Activity is not biblical purpose. Certainly some activities can move a congregation toward fulfilling her biblical purposes. But busyness per se should not be a goal of a healthy congregation.

2. Busyness can take us away from connecting with other believers and non-believers. It is sadly ironic that local churches are often a primary reason we do not connect on a regular basis with people in our community and in the world. We are too busy “doing church.”

3. An activity-driven church often is not strategic in its ministries. Leaders do not think about what is best; they often just think about what is next on the activity list.

4. A congregation that is too busy can hurt families. Sadly, some church members are so busy with their churches that they neglect their families. Our churches should be about strengthening families, not pulling them apart.

5. An activity-driven church often has no presence in the community. Christians should be Christ’s presence in the communities their churches serve. Some Christians are just too busy doing church activities to have an incarnational presence in the community.

6. Activity-driven churches tend to have “siloed” ministries. So the student ministry plans activities that conflict with the children’s ministries that conflict with the senior adult ministries, and so on. Instead of all the ministries and activities working together for a strategic purpose, they tend to work only for their particular areas.

7. Churches that focus on activities tend to practice poor stewardship. Many of the activities are not necessary. Some are redundant. Others are sacred cows. Ministry effectiveness can often be enhanced with less instead of more.

Many of our churches have traded effectiveness for busyness. Good use of the resources God has given us demands that we rethink all we are asking our members to do in our churches. We really need more simple churches. Now that’s a novel concept.