A Culture of Prayer
Pastor David talks through how he feels Renovation Church is missing one of the key ingredients to helping us actually change the world.
THE JOURNEY I’VE BEEN ON
(Power Source Slide)
Let me ask you a question: What if God used us and other like-minded churches to truly start reaching this city over the next 10 years?
What if instead of only 15% of the city being in church on an average Sunday…
What if that number grew to even 50% (half the city?)
That would be an additional 22,000 people.
What if 22,000 people came to Christ in Blaine…in 10 years?
That would be, like, revival, right?
If God did that…
How would it happen?
Like if you had to script it out…what would it look like?
What would need to happen?
I want you to think about that question this morning.
You know, for me, I just came out of a season…from December into early February that was probably the most challenging season of my ministry.
I’ve been a pastor for 15 years now, and I haven’t had a season like this one.
It’s not that things aren’t looking up for our church.
We’re now, technically, less than a year away from breaking ground on our building…
We continue to grow quickly
We’re planting churches…with our 5th one on the way shortly.
People are getting saved.
And yet with spiritual progress often comes challenges.
And in that December to early February season, I had to walk with, beside, and through some pretty ugly stuff with some of our people.
And I’m not sure I’ve had another time in my life where I felt so unable to fix situations
I’m not sure I’ve had another time where I’ve realized how much I just need to be absolutely, fully dependent on God.
And for that…I’m grateful.
Sometimes…it takes great difficulty to show you that you can’t truly accomplish very much on your own.
And so I’ve spent more time on my knees…seeking God…than I have in a long time.
And I’m seeing Him move…greatly.
And during this period in my life, through what God is doing, through conversations with some of our leaders, through books that I’ve been reading…
Through a long set of circumstances…the Holy Spirit has begun to convict me that Renovation Church is really missing one of the key ingredients to our ministry:
A CULTURE of Prayer.
NOT PLUGGED IN
(Switch to “Culture of Prayer” Slide)
And it’s not just us…
My guess is about 95% of American churches are missing it too.
A few generations ago…our Bible believing churches were founded in prayer, rooted in prayer, they gathered for prayer, and made decisions in prayer.
Now, in America, we mostly give prayer lip-service.
Over the last 20 years, our American churches have traded a foundation of prayer for a foundation of organization.
In America, many of our churches are exceptionally organized.
And we have great strategies
And our books and conferences and podcasts are almost exclusively about how to improve our strategies and how to modernize our methods.
And at Renovation Church, we’re not much different.
This is an exceptionally organized, well-run church.
And sure, that’s great…
I love that people can come here…and it’s not a mess…there are plenty of systems that make it run
But where’s the power in that??
What…are we going to organize people into the kingdom?
We’re told over and over again in the Bible…that it’s GOD that raises the dead…
Not our strategies or our organization.
If the American church just keeps imitating itself, our copies are going to eventually look nothing like the original.
And what was the original?
How did Christianity truly spread?
We’re going to take 3 weeks to try and answer that question…
And today, we’re going to start with how churches had a CULTURE of PRAYER.
You can’t escape this in the Book of Acts…the story of how the Church began.
Acts Chapter 1…Jesus has ascended back to heaven…
But instead of just going out and telling people (which is what you and I would do)...they wait…they wait for His power.
And they pray together…collectively…a lot.
(Acts 1:14) – NIV - Keep up until next verse
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Every word of that first clause ought to mess with us.
They ALL joined TOGETHER…
They prayed, not just on their own, but corporately..
And how often?
They had a culture of prayer.
It’s not something just gave lip-service to.
Acts chapter 2…
The church starts to really take off, and we’re told the Christians were marked by the following things:
(Acts 2:42) – NIV
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
How many times have we read this verse, but missed the last word?
Is that us?
Are we devoted to prayer?
I don’t think we are.
Acts 3…they’re going to the temple…every day…for PRAYER…together
Acts 4…Peter & John are arrested for talking about Jesus…
And what do they do first?
Appeal to their local lawmaker?
Complain about it to everyone?
No, they go back, praising God, and they gather all their people together…and they pray!
They’re scared, they’re hopeful, God is moving, the devil is opposing…
SO THEY PRAY.
(Acts 4:31) – NIV
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
What is it that will encourage us, empower us, and embolden us to change this world?
It’s ENCOUNTERING GOD…
We have got to be in His presence more!
Acts 6…the disciples decided they need to focus on PRAYER and THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD…not just organization.
Which, was still important…they delegate it out.
But the power…is in prayer.
And this isn’t even so much about prayer
Prayer is just the action that allows you to encounter God…and become deeply reliant on Him.
Listen, I love this church.
God’s doing amazing things here.
We’re not talking about a culture shift as some sort of last-ditch effort to start growing again or something.
We’ve never STOPPED growing as a church
And a lot of what we do is incredibly unique and effective…from our House Groups to Church Planting.
I could never talk about this issue, and I think almost no one would even question me as a leader…because everything’s going so well!
But I don’t care.
I think it’s time to confess that we are not nearly as dependent on God as we should be…and as we see people are in the Scriptures
If you walked into any ministry here, or program, or staff meeting, or a house group meeting, could you say, “These people are totally relying on God’s help and His power?”
I’m not sure you could.
How much time do we put into praying for our services beforehand?
That God would just truly rock our souls when we come here and raise the dead to life?
Minutes? Seconds sometimes?
What are we really dependent on?
How many people go back for prayer each week…to our prayer team that never seems to have enough interested people?
1? Out of 500?
We can say all we want that we believe in prayer, but I think the facts would betray us.
We don’t have a CULTURE of prayer like the Bible prescribes.
Here’s the picture that keeps coming to my mind for our church:
I feel like we’ve spent 9 years building this really impressive and elaborate structure…but forgot to plug it in.
Well listen, WE’RE GOING TO PLUG IT IN.
So somebody better tell the devil to watch out.
I was talking with one of the spiritual leaders of our church a few weeks ago, one of our board members, Barbara Mahr…
And she reminded me that anything that’s ever happened of significance in this church…happened because we prayed.
We had an amazing launch to this church 9 years ago…want to know why?
There was a HUGE prayer team (of people outside of our church) that prayed for our launch every week for 6 months!
Or what about our land??
In the summer of 2016, we had already been looking for land for almost 2 years…unsuccessfully.
I was nervous.
We had already had pledges coming in for almost 24 months with nothing to show for it.
Listen, we should all pray early and often, but usually we don’t until we run out of other ideas.
And so, I sucked up my pride, and we called the church together for a PRAYER MEETING.
And we spent a night just praying for the land…that God would show us where to go.
Up until that point we had spent 104 weeks striving…on our own…with nothing to show for it.
We gathered together, corporately to pray, and in less than 10 weeks, we had an offer in on our land that we now own.
…and miraculously purchased for $600,000 less than it was selling for!
When we attempted to raise 1.1 million for our building, we fasted, we prayed, we went to the land and prayed…and…
And instead of 1.1 million being pledged…1.3 million was pledged.
And similar things have happened at Easter…with large amounts of people giving their lives to Christ.
Why…because we’re praying for 8,000 minutes.
So it’s not that we don’t know HOW to do it…
It’s not that we CAN’T do it.
It’s just that it hasn’t yet saturated in our culture.
It’s not a part of who we are.
It’s not in our everyday living.
And so if we’re going to establish a culture of prayer…our priorities are going to need to begin to change.
About 6 weeks ago, I was praying, and I was thinking about the “tools that build the kingdom of God”
And I thought…in Scripture…even in history…what are the tools that really advance the Gospel?
It’s prayer, prayer, and prayer…and evangelism and discipleship.
It’s nothing fancy.
Those are the, excavators, bulldozers, and cranes…the major tools that build the Kingdom of God.
And yet, so often, I feel like we, as the American church, put 90% of our effort into our marketing, our new systems, our programs, our social media strategies
But those are like bringing kiddie construction toys…like a plastic saw and toy hammer to build the kingdom of God.
Now, I don’t want you to mishear me today.
This is not a full pendulum swing.
It’s not leaving one thing for another.
It’s keeping that thing…but plugging it in
There’s nothing wrong with being organized.
We’re not becoming a hippie church here.
In fact, Paul says that God is not a God of disorder.
There’s nothing wrong with putting on an event on Easter where maybe 2,000 people are going to come hear about Jesus…many of them for the first time.
It would be downright WRONG of us to stop doing that.
If you’ve discovered a way to tell a lot of people about Jesus…don’t quit doing that!
But there is something wrong with marketing for it, organizing an event, and not spending just as much time on our knees.
God is going to build his kingdom through prayer…and his power…not just our organization and strategies.
If you haven’t picked up a prayer packet in the hallway yet for Easter
Where we’re asking each of you to pray for people you know to get saved…for the 14 days leading up to Easter.
For goodness sakes, pick one up.
What can we expect to happen if we don’t pray??
Spurgeon once said:
“A Church that does not pray is a weak church, but a church built on prayer is a powerful church.” – Charles Spurgeon
Could we say that of our church?
That we our built on prayer?
Not yet. Not YET.
One of the things that’s really interesting to me as a student of history is that every revival that has happened in the last few hundred years was first rooted in prayer.
The revival that started in New York City in the 1850’s …started when a man named Jeremiah Lanphier started a prayer meeting
The Great Awakening (in the 1700’s)…started in prayer
The revivals of DL Moody…started in prayer.
Billy Graham would often send people years (YEARS) in advance to mobilize thousands of people in prayer…before they would start a crusade in a particular city.
And if every revival in history started in prayer…
How is it possible that almost every church in America has a strategy for just about everything imaginable…except for prayer?
You wouldn’t believe the stuff churches have strategies for and spend their time on
I can remember, early on in my ministry, arguing with another pastor about the strategy at their church.
They were spending over 100-man hours working on this background set for their auditorium.
And I said, “Listen, it looks nice…but how is this going to change anyone??”
What if we had spent that in prayer…or in evangelism?
It’s time to plug the American Church in instead of trying to show the world how fancy our chandelier looks when it’s not plugged in.
And I feel like God has had these stirrings in my soul around prayer and the Power Source of the church for a long time…
…but I’m not sure I’ve had the guts of the spiritual fortitude to lead us to actually do this until now.
And so we need to become a praying church….we need a CULTURE of prayer.
It’s going to take some time, but we need this in our culture.
And we’re going to start this process…NEXT WEEK.
For the foreseeable future, I’m going to be in the cafeteria (right out here) at 9:10 and 10:40 each Sunday.
In the cafeteria
That’s 20 minutes before each service starts.
And I’ll be there for 15 minutes.
And I’m going to lead a prayer meeting for anyone who will come and pray with me.
For anyone who wants to help plug this church into the power source with me.
You can drop your kids off at Renovation Kids before the prayer meeting starts…if you need to.
We’ll be ready for them.
This is not a long meeting…it’s 15 minutes…tops.
And that’s okay. We need to BUILD our prayer muscle.
95% of us aren’t used to doing anything like this.
I’m expecting that this meeting will evolve over time…a lot.
But this is where we’re starting.
And we can’t just add A prayer meeting.
It’s not enough.
We can’t just add a prayer program…we need a culture of prayer.
And so we’re going to begin a process of restructuring even our leader’s meetings and other things as well
This is not going to happen quickly.
Change isn’t usually implemented quickly, nor does it come about quickly.
Give us time…give your leaders time.
I want you to know I know your reservations...particularly about starting a prayer meeting.
About 70% of you are thinking things like:
I don’t know…I’ve been to some lame prayer meetings…What’s this even going to be like?
The answer is: not like your lame prayer meetings.
We’re not going through a laundry list of prayer…but going to encounter God and beg him to move.
Or, I’m not really into prayer…
Most people aren’t.
Unlike the early church, we’re more used to coming to church and watching…and listening.
I know this isn’t going to be an easy transition for most of you.
But I’m asking you to come and ENCOUNTER God in a fresh way with us.
We have to do this together.
Listen, I know, sometimes you’re serving, or something else is going on…
But I want you to show up as often as humanly possible.
Because our call…is not to mimic what we see in the American Church…or in our culture
But we’re to mimic what the church is called to do in Scripture…and that is…to relentlessly rely on God.
And that’s How God has always moved.
If you’ve been coming here for a while, you might know that I obsessively read Biographies of great the Christian men and women of the past.
In the last few years, I’ve read the biographies of Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon, DL Moody, Billy Graham, Amy Carmichael, and countless others.
And they all have this ONE thing in common.
They are, without a doubt, people of prayer.
They didn’t JUST PRAY.
The encountered the living God and asked for HIS power…not their own.
Many know what Billy Graham accomplished…or DL Moody.
I think of George Mueller…who lived in the 1800’s in England…and fed thousands of orphans in his orphanages without ever asking for a single dollar…he just plugged in…to the POWER SOURCE…and prayed.
One of my favorite biographies was Roger Steer’s biography of Hudson Taylor.
Hudson Taylor once said:
"Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail. All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them." – Hudson Taylor
And Hudson Taylor was one of the first missionaries to go to China…and inspired hundreds more to join him there as missionaries.
The millions of new Christians in China today…can thank people like Hudson Taylor who was always on His knees…begging for God to do the impossible…reach CHINA
And guess what…God is doing it!
I asked you at the beginning…what if God began bringing revival to our city?
How would we see thousands and thousands of people come to Christ? How would it happen?
We’re not going to organize them in…or impress them in.
If it happened…
It would look…exactly like it’s always looked in history…
God is lifted high…when people get on their knees.
When churches stop pretending they can do it on their own…and instead they beg for His power.
And when they seek Him…He answers.
Do you want to see Him answer?
Do you want to see Him really move?
Do you want to see it??
They we have to plug in!
And so we’re going to take this church…this good church
This church God is already moving in…
And we’re going to supercharge it.
To hold on tight.
God is going to move.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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