Dear Pastor. Pray for your people. In a previous article I asked church members to Pray for Your Pastor. Prayer and the ministry of the word are the two most important keys to church revitalization. I really believe this. So people, please pray for your pastor. And pastor, please pray for your people. Talk to them about God, and talk to God about them!
Through the years I have practiced praying for my people in a number of ways. While serving my first church, I also taught history for William Carey University as an adjunct faculty member on their New Orleans campus. Every Thursday I would drive two hours to teach two classes. Then I would drive two hours back home. Those long drives home became great times for me to talk to God about church members. I would mentally go from Sunday School class to Sunday School class picturing faces, calling names, bringing specific requests to the Father. Those were special times for me. My love for my people grew as I prayed for them.
In other churches I have continued this practice by prayer walking Sunday School classes or praying my way through the worship center early on a Sunday morning. At times I will sit in specific seats in the worship center or a Sunday School class as I pray for each member by name. In one church I prayed for church members during my early morning runs through town. As I ran by their homes I would pray for them and for others whom God brought to mind. Those were special times for me to shepherd the flock God entrusted to me.
It is always important for pastors to pray for their people. In a church revitalization situation the importance is magnified. If you are a revitalization pastor…
- Pray for your members who are grieving over the condition of the church. These are often the members whom God will use to change the trajectory of the church. Pray for them to have hope for the future.
- Pray for your members who do not recognize the current reality of the church. It is easy to overlook things when you are so close to them. I once pointed out to a group of leaders that their church was in the midst of a fifty-year decline. Many of them were shocked. Some thought I was exaggerating. For the most part, the change had been gradual. They did not notice. Before the church can experience revitalization, church members need to recognize the current reality. Pray for their eyes to be opened.
- Pray for your members who long to return to a glorified version of the past. It is not uncommon for church members to think that a return to the good old days will solve all of the church’s problems. These members need to learn how to see their past through the eyes of Jesus. Pray for them to release the past and fix their eyes on Jesus and his mission for the church.
- Pray for your members who worship sacred cows. Because we develop emotional attachments to objects, it is easy for them to become idols. Idols are dangerous because our affection for them becomes a cheap substitute for loving Jesus. Through the years I have heard church members say, “I can’t worship unless the choir is wearing robes.” Or, “I can’t worship unless the pastor and music minister sit in the pulpit chairs.” Or, “I can’t worship unless the preacher uses the King James Version.” Pray that these members would abandon their idols and fall in love with Jesus again.
- Pray for your members who criticize and resist change. Criticism and resistance are not necessarily bad. God sometimes uses them to keep us attuned to his will. On the other hand, some church members become critical and oppositional because they are scared. Listen to them. Love them. And pray that faith and love would overcome their fear.
- Pray for your members who attack you. This is not the critic. This is not the person who resists change. This is the person who determines to end your ministry. They set themselves up as your enemy. They spread gossip. They undermine your leadership. Jesus said we should love and pray for them.
- Pray for church members who are tired. Pastor, these are the men and women who are are your Aaron and Hur. They are in the trenches with you. Revitalization is hard work. It often results in conflict. Because there is much work to be done and few people to do it, church members often take on multiple roles. Many of these members are spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted. Pray for them to be strong and courageous.
In a recent Revitalize & Replant podcast, Thom Rainer reminded listeners to pray for their church members and for their communities on a daily basis. Revitalization requires more wisdom, more insight, more strength, more patience, more endurance than any of us can muster on our own. We need to rely on the power of God. We need to pray. Pastor, pray for your people!