Seeing More Salvations As A Local Church; Prayer Driven or Strategy Driven?
A thought struck me today as I meditated on what to write in this blog.
Have you noticed when Jesus went fishing with the boys that the fish never jumped miraculously into the boat. It may seem like a silly statement (or maybe not) but it
contains a powerful truth.
In Luke 5 : 1 - 11 we read about one of these 'fishing trips with the lads' which, like so many of the actions of Jesus, it turns out to be a timeless spiritual lesson also. All of the stories around Jesus and fishing have an underlying teaching about evangelism and reaching the lost. If we look carefully into these stories there are so many principles on 'how' to fish for souls.
This particular fishing expedition starts with Jesus finding the future disciples washing their nets after a night of nothing. Like zip. My guess is they were discouraged, tired, and ready to call it a day. Sound familiar. Anyone fed up not seeing salvations through their ministry?
Jesus asks to use their boats as a pulpit and begins to teach them and the crowds. This is important because in the future Jesus will tell them 'to go and teach the new disciples what I taught you'. Jesus always had it in his plan that these fishermen would one day reach the world, and to be ready, he was filling them with the word now. But we, like the disciples, are desperate to move beyond receiving the word for ourselves or teaching the long term disciples we already have - we want to go out into the lake and catch some fresh fish!
After he finished, and I suspect as way of a payment for the use of their boats, Jesus tells them to go out fishing 'one more time'.
That is my heart for you. I want to, through my ministry, encourage and urge you to have another go at this business of fishing for souls. I want to stir you to go out with your churches into the masses 'one more time'.
The necessity of intercessory prayer.
The difference for the disciples, when they went out this time, is that Jesus is with them. Before they were doing it in their own strength and wisdom but this time the creator of the heavens and earth was with them.
That makes a big difference when fishing.
Prayer is the grace given to us whereby we are able to invite Jesus into our boat, or church, or program. But it's more than that. The ultimate outcome of the process of 'praying through something' is actually a genuine surrendering of it over to Christ. Through prayer we hand over the wheel and let Jesus be the captain. We need to bath our outreach in prayer to ensure that Jesus is leading and in charge every step of the way!
A key reason so many 'evangelism programs or outreaches' see so little fruit is because they were not birthed and soaked in prayer.
I have been blessed to see souls being saved on the level of the Book of Acts, Once in Rwanda I was privileged to preach to a crowd of broken people. This was a church that was 3 months old and had grown from 30 to 3000 just like the first church. When I called for salvation hundreds came streaming forward down the isles. It was overwhelming and to this day it sticks in my mind.
The leaders of the church were broken. They were deep in prayer and intercession. They committed days to fasting and you could sense the presence of Christ in the house. This move was not a random event but the result of prayer and persecution.
One of the key roles of the 'point person' in a congregation determined to be a B1:10 church is to rally a team of intercessors specifically to pray over this area. They don't pray over Sister Mary's arthritis, or over the the building program, but specifically over the church being effective at outreach.
Most revivals in history started with a few committed individuals seeking God continuously (Azusa Street, Oxford Holy Club which was the launching pad for the Wesley brothers). It's not about numbers but about dedication and heart.
Ideally even the team members who run 'Why Jesus?' will naturally be part of this core intercessory team. If your leader, and team members, gain a passion through intercessory prayer for reaching souls and seeing Christ move then you have ignited a fire in the church that will burn.
Yet is is not only prayer that catches fish.
Churches tend to fall into one of two categories. On the one side most put little thought and effort into covering outreach in prayer. On the other side, there are those who hope that prayer alone will do the trick.
Remember the lack of jumping fish?
Jesus gave them instructions to put the nets down in the water. It was a teaching moment for a group of guys who thought they knew it all. He was showing them that even though his presence was with them they still needed to use their tools of the trade, their skills, and all their might to do the work. The disciples needed to roll up their sleeves because Jesus wanted to partner with them rather than have them as passive onlookers.
When we intercede for souls we must realize what we are actually praying for is for Jesus to train US and use US as his workers. Jesus literally said 'The harvest is ready...so...pray for skilled workers so that none of it is wasted'.
I found over the years the focus of our intercession, as we prayed to be a place that reached the lost in our church, moved from 'pouring out his spirit on the lost' to an interceding for the Lord to train us, teach us, equip us, and use us. We are not praying for God to do it alone but for God to work through us.
I trace the journey at CRCF of becoming a B1:10 church directly to a change in the way we prayed. Three years before we saw a move of God and monthly baptisms we refocused our prayer meetings. We choose to hold it at the most inconvenient time (9:30am on Tuesday) and so a consistent, though not large, group of intercessors came. We had a set list of areas for the church we prayed over each week, of which a huge amount was outreach, and did not deviate. We made sure the prayer meetings were anointed and refreshing so we were blessed and a blessing.
Four years later EVERY ONE of the eight areas we covered weekly saw a radical change. (if you are interested in the eight areas as a prayer sheet, which is a template any church can use, please email me). Intercession works cause' God's promises to respond to those who knock and keep on knocking!
The Journey towards B1:10
The journey towards becoming a church that grows by seeing the lost saved, who then become lifelong disciples, involves both a growth in the ministry of intercession AND a growth in our skills, techniques, and intentionality regarding sharing the gospel.
One without the other will find us experiencing poor results and again wanting to call it a day.