My standard response when asked what it will take for a church to experience revitalization is this. “I don’t know, but Jesus knows. So we are going to ask him.” My first church consultation was with Providence Baptist Church in Dale County, Alabama. It was more than twenty years ago. I had no idea it was a consultation. I was just helping a church. The pastor asked me to come and help them jump-start their Sunday School and outreach ministry. Looking back, I realize it was a church consultation.
Back then I reached into my bag of tricks and pulled out an answer. I analyzed their facilities, reviewed their demographics and evaluated their Sunday School using Andy Anderson’s Sunday School Growth Spiral. I trained their leadership and lleft them with a plan. It was a good plan. By the way, the Growth Spiral is still a good approach to evaluating and improving a Sunday School or small group ministry.
Today, I avoid reaching into my bag of tricks. Instead, I call the church to pray. I don’t know the answers to an individual church’s problems, but Jesus does. I can help them discover what needs to be addressed. I can point them to best practices. But unless we are asking Jesus to show us, and unless we are asking Jesus to direct us, we may end up with the wrong plan.
Every book I have read on church revitalization points to the necessity of prayer. There is a direct connection between prayer, revival and church revitalization. They go together. One precedes the other. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). For years we have sought to do things our way in God’s church, and the result has been abysmal. God has not blessed our efforts. God has shut up the heavens, and many of our churches are spiritually parched and desperately in need of a mighty movement of God.
2 Chronicles 7:14 was God’s instruction for Israel when they experienced the need for revival and revitalization. He told them that the road to a renewed experience with his presence began with humility, prayer, seeking his face, and repenting of their evil ways. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that your church has been faithful. There really isn’t anything evil to repent of. But that’s where you are wrong. I could start a list, but I would rather have the Holy Spirit convict you himself. So I’m just going to direct you to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God.
Individual prayer is important. But in this article I am calling on the church to engage in corporate prayer. I’m suggesting that the first step to experiencing church revitalization is getting on your collective face before God and pouring out your heart to him. Here are six prayers you might want to pray:
- Pray for conviction. Only the Holy Spirit can show a church the full impact of its sin. In humility read Psalm 139 and pray for God to reveal your sin.
- Pray for repentance. Once a church comes under conviction, it has a choice to make. Will it repent and return to doing things God’s way, or will it continue with business as usual.
- Pray for revival. Read Acts 1 and 2 and ask God to pour out his power like he did at Pentecost when three thousand souls were added to the Kingdom of God.
- Pray for the preaching of the gospel. It truly is the power of God for salvation, and it must be the central focus of our churches.
- Pray for the people in your community. Read Luke 10:25-37. Get to know your neighbors. They may not look like you, act like you or be like you. Love them anyway. Get to know their needs. And pray for them by name.
- Pray for inactive church members. Read 1 Corinthians 12. God has placed everyone in the body according to his design. That means every church member is vital to the health of the body. Pray for them and be ready to love them back into the body (1 Corinthians 13).
Corporate prayer is the key to church revitalization.