The blips about the problems in the American church appear on my newsfeed nearly continuously. Makes sense, I am a pastor after all.
Today, I learned…
- 3,700 churches permanently close their doors annually. Coincidently, somewhere near 3,700 who sensed the call to ministry are questioning their call to the ministry of the Word.
- A megachurch that was the model for church growth in the 90s and 00s is spiraling out of control in the wake of a #metoo scandal involving internationally known church leadership
- Churches are to blame, according to a Clemson University study, because families with developmental disabilities across the spectrum do not feel welcome in a local church. And in a hopeless comment about what can be done in the church, the author opines, “There is no one way of preparing for children with chronic health conditions such as autism or learning disabilities that affect social interaction.”
- Baptisms resulting from conversions are embarrassingly low for an institution whose Founder commissioned it to make that activity its singular focus.
- Children raised in the church are abandoning the tradition of their parents at alarming rates, a decline that is not new and shows no signs of slowing down.
- A significant number of church members feel disconnected from the whole of the church.
We cannot program our way out of any the problems listed above, any of the unnamed problems in any of our churches, or any of the problems in our families or personal lives. We cannot organize, staff, and vision plan solutions effecting eternal change. We cannot strategize to address every unique felt need of each individual who passes through our doors.
Left to ourselves we - the church - are powerless, ineffective, foolish, and self-destructive.
I see one solution and one solution only, the effectual, fervent prayer of God’s people for the church.
This is the strong injunction of the New Testament and the example of all in the early church. Read the Gospels and you will see Jesus praying for the disciples and the coming church. Read the book of Acts and you will witness the church praying for the apostles and for each other. Read the Epistles of the New Testament where the apostles record their prayers on behalf of the churches, its leaders, and all its members.
Nothing in the New Testament occurs outside of the prayer of God’s people. Draw a line backward from the salvation of men and women, the restoration of broken families, the healing of damaged lives, the revitalization of weakened churches, and so much more, and the line begins with prayer.
If you long for solutions to problems you cannot solve, pray. When you want to run away and hide, when you wish this all would just go away, when you grow disillusioned with your church, when you contemplate thoughts and express words that shock you, pray. When your church doesn’t seem interested in the Great Commission, pray. When your efforts to change people and culture in your church fail, pray.
When you hear the elders / pastors in your church call the church together for prayer, change your plans and pray. Close the book, put down your phone, turn off the screen in front of you, bow your face before God and pray. Pull out your church directory and pray. Bring to mind the people in your small group and pray. Drive near the home of other church members and plead with God for the people in that house. Walk within one block of your residence and ask God to grant escape from hell for the people who live near to you.
Friends, there is no change apart from the working of God – no change in your own life, your family, or the church. If we do not pray, nothing changes.
Pray for the church.
Pray for your church.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.