Many churches, like mine, find themselves in a state of plateau or decline. We want our churches to grow and believe that God desires that too, but we seem stuck and don’t know how to move forward. Our first instinct ought to be to pray, but pray for what? If you are leading a declining church, here are five prayers to be sure to include on your list:
1. Pray for wisdom. Here is a prayer that God promises to answer when we ask in faith (James 1:5). Leaders always need wisdom and we should seek the Lord for it. We need wisdom to understand why the church is not growing, the steps we need to take to reverse the trend, and to gain a clear direction from the Lord. We need the Lord’s wisdom to show us whether we have neglected important aspects of the Great Commission. We also need wisdom to discern whether or not there are any sin issues in the congregation or in our personal lives that may be hindering growth.
2. Pray for forgiveness. Often, our churches are in decline because of our own sinfulness. Sometimes we have allowed conflict to divide us or deter us from our mission. Other times we have simply neglected to prioritize evangelism and have failed to engage our community with the gospel in any significant way. Further, God may withhold blessing from a church if its leaders are harboring hidden sins. If there is a failure of leadership in any of these areas, we need to seek repentance. Sometimes, the first step to church growth is getting right with God.
3. Pray for revival. Declining churches have often lost their spiritual fervor. There is no excitement about the things of the Lord. Our hearts have grown dull. The people are blind to the things of God and do not see the lostness around them. There is no urgency for evangelism and missions. Leaders must pray for revival – for a fresh zeal in our own lives and in the lives of our people. When God sends revival, it will always lead to a renewal of evangelism and missions. Growth follows a church that is “on fire” for the Lord as the Spirit of God works in and through His people.
4. Pray for laborers. I’ve always been intrigued that in Jesus’ harvest teaching, he does not ask us to pray for more harvest, but more laborers in the harvest (Matt 9:38; Luke 10:2). Too often, churches complain of a field being hard when in reality the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. The Lord instructs us to pray for more laborers in His harvest. When we pray such prayers corporately, there is an implicit admonishment for each person praying – you too should be a laborer in the harvest. Church growth occurs when the number of gospel laborers increases.
5. Pray for boldness. One common prayer in the New Testament is the prayer for boldness (Acts 4:29; Eph 6:19). If fear is one of our biggest hindrances to evangelism, then boldness is one of our biggest prayer needs. Often, we see the opportunities around us, but we allow fear to keep us from sharing Christ with those who need Him. Churches identify needed changes, but fear keeps them from altering the status quo. The radical expansion of the church in the book of Acts came as the Spirit of God worked through the bold sharing of the gospel message. Pray that God would give you boldness as you make His Son known to those around you.
What prayers would you add to my list?
Read more articles like this one at behiswitnesses.org — Follow Todd on twitter @toddbenkert