Saturday, July 26, 2008

Discernment = Praying for ... Indifference??

Can You Hear God Now?
Your most important leadership role: discerning and obeying God's voice. Together.
by Ruth Haley Barton

Can You Hear God Now?

. . . A true discernment process begins with a commitment to pray without ceasing. This requires more than a perfunctory prayer at the beginning of a meeting. It involves several kinds of praying throughout the entire process.

Begin with a prayer of quiet trust. A different kind of spirit descends upon us when we enter into decision-making from this stance.

When we sense that the process is straying, that human dynamics are distracting us, that we are stuck, that we are applying nothing more than human effort to the decision we face, it can be helpful for the leader to call the group back to this prayer of quiet trust, along with some time for silence. This gives us the opportunity to shift back into a position of trust rather than completely relying on our human effort alone.

Then we need to pray for indifference. This is not apathy. Rather, it is praying that we would be indifferent to everything but the will of God. This means I am indifferent to matters of ego, prestige, organizational politics, personal advantage, personal comfort or favor, or even my own pet agenda. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a model of this. Her prayer "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your will" (Luke 1:37) is a wonderful expression of the kind of indifference we seek as a group of leaders.

Praying for indifference is not easy for us, because most times we enter into decision-making with strong opinions and more than a little self-interest. It takes time, for often a death to self is required before we can see God's will taking shape in our lives. Here we ask: what needs to die in me in order for the will of God to come forth in me and among us? In the discernment process, each person needs to do his or her own spiritual work around this question, and the group needs to be honest about it. Depending on the level of trust in the group, it might even be a good idea to ask, "How many are indifferent?" and then let each person talk about where they are with that question.

As challenging as this may be, it is time and energy well spent. If we do not reach the point of indifference (or if we are not at least honest about the fact that we are not indifferent), the discernment process becomes little more than a rigged election! Even the process of sharing where we are on this question helps us loosen our grip on our own agenda and open ourselves to God's voice.

When we have reached a point of indifference, we are finally ready to pray for wisdom, which God promises to bestow generously when we ask (James 1:5). Indifference is an important prerequisite to the prayer for wisdom, because the wisdom of God is often the foolishness of this world.

Learn to listen, deeply
The discernment process requires a commitment to listen on many levels.===>Click headline to access complete article . . .

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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Road to Becoming A Church that Prays

Churches That Pray!

By Douglas Small

When Jim Cymbala became pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, the first Sunday there were 15 people in attendance and a grand total of $85.00 in the morning offering toward a mortgage payment of $232.00 plus utilities and other bills. The building was small. The walls needed painting. The windows were dingy and the floor was bare. It was both "pathetic and laughable." [1] The first two years were years of testing - meager salaries, funding challenges, constant struggles. All of that brought him to a place of humility. He learned a principle: "God is attracted to weakness. He can't resist those who honestly and desperately admit how bad they need him." [2] He recalled, "The embarrassing truth is that sometimes I did not want to show up for a service - that is how bad it was." In that season of holy desperation, God spoke to him, "If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that's needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response." [3]

The Tuesday evening prayer service at Brooklyn Tabernacle is riveting! The house is full. The people pray - really pray! And the little congregation in Brooklyn is little no more. It is known around the world.

Loran Livingston was raised in small Church of God congregation in Wadesboro, NC. His father was a praying man - a simple Pentecostal whose daily faith and walk with God impacted his children. Loran became pastor of the Central Church of God in Charlotte with a membership of a couple dozen. The Church is now known for its turn away crowds. Every Sunday, both services are flooded with six-thousand worshippers who crowd into the church founded on dependence upon God in prayer. The mantra is "Read the Word, and pray!" For decades a core of faithful men have met on Monday night for prayer. The elders are praying men, who meet for the purpose of prayer. On Wednesday evenings, when the service has been dedicated to prayer, a thousand people have collected in the sanctuary for prayer.

When I arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia a few years ago, I was told to prepare a brief challenge on prayer for the Wednesday evening service. The church building was packed! I shared. They prayed. And then I was informed that a business leaders prayer service would occur the next morning at 6:00 a.m. It would be my assignment to share briefly with those leaders. When I arrived, over 500 businessmen sat cross-legged on the floor, praying and crying out to God. Throughout the day, the sanctuary would empty and another group would gather for prayer. At that time, Pastor Alex Tanasuputra was ministering to 70,000 people. The driving force of his Church - is prayer.

Who has not heard of Dr. Paul Cho? A congregation with over 700,000 members! The very culture of the Church is bathed in prayer. Prayer-sensitive, mega-churches are popping up all over the earth. Prayer meetings in majority world nations are drawing tens-of-thousands. I was recently in a prayer meeting in Indonesia which drew 100,000 people.[4] Out of such gatherings, the nation is being changed.

Al Vander Griend tells about a pastor who "spent years training for ministry at a strong evangelical seminary -- he learned all he could learn about church renewal and church growth. And he applied all he was learning. Nothing work ed. His church was as dead as ever. One day he walked out of his study and into the sanctuary, and feeling led of the Lord, stood at the front of the church in the center aisle. He began to pray for his parishioners one by one. He moved down the aisle, praying for those who would typically occupy each pew. Day after day he continued this practice. Soon the renewal he wanted and prayed for began." [5]

What kind of church do you have? Do you have a church that prays? Or, do you have a praying church? Do you have a house of prayer for the nations? What are the differences?

[1] Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 11, 16.
[2] Cymbala, 19.
[3] Cymbala, 25.
[4] This occurred on May 5, 2005 at the conclusion of the Transform World Conference. At that time, one-million intercessors had been mobilized across the island nation in 450 prayer networks.
[5] Vander Griend, 15.

P. Douglas Small

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Children - A Wise Investment?

“God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are.

In the same way that a small child cannot draw a bad picture, so a child of
God cannot offer a bad prayer.”- Richard Foster

Dear Friends,

We have just concluded the Children in Prayer Global Consultation in Chennai, India. 150-160 from 35 nations took part in what was one of the richest and most impacting events I have ever taken part in. Though the transport strike affected other parts of the nation, it did not affect Chennai as we had feared. Praise the Lord who so wonderfully answered! Thanks so much for your prayers about this and for the consultation. I wish you all could have been there to experience this seminal event yourselves.

We heard many presentations from around the world on the rapidly developing CiP movement and celebrated the wonders of God in raising up children to pray for community transformation, children at risk, national and global issues. Some participants testified that the last global consultation in Malaysia had changed their lives and ministries deeply. One of the leaders of a local humanitarian organization who caught the vision last time told us that his organization is now moving to include CiP in all 260 of their projects in India. They have seen such amazing miracles happen through the prayers of the children in their programs that they hope to adopt it in all the other countries where they work as well.

One of the many highlights was praying with over 1000 children at the Royal Kids prayer center near Chennai. In total, there are over 8000 children in program. Many of these children were picked up from the garbage, unwanted babies from poor families. Some come from HIV or leprosy- affected families. Others were little girls used as temple prostitutes and terribly abused. It was a deeply moving experience for all of us to see how the Lord is bringing healing and restoration through education programs coupled with teaching the kids how to engage in intercessory prayer. The kids are on fire to know Jesus and in many cases are leading their parents to Him. They also run the prayer center with 24/7 teams that pray for the nations.

Through the IPC, we have made a video about the CiP movement which you can inquire about ordering from the International Prayer Council office if you like at:

With all my being, I believe this movement is a “God-thing” that comes from His heart. There were a number of prophetic messages to this effect, indicating that the Lord would take CiP to the ends of the earth. At the same time, there is a need for watchfulness since the evil one would like to discredit and snuff it out if he can. Please pray for protection over this movement and all of us who have the joy of being part of it. Pray for the effective
implementation of the visions and strategies that participants received during the consultation.

On a personal note, after 23 years with World Vision International, I will be leaving my position as Director of Global Prayer Partnerships at the end of this month. It has been a huge blessing to serve Christ through an
institution that is making such a difference in the lives of the poor and their children around the world. From now on, as the Lord enables and leads, I hope to devote myself more fully to the International Prayer Council, the Transformation Prayer Foundation, the Children in Prayer movement and other vital aspects of the global prayer movement. Thanks so much for your support of the many prayer initiatives I have been privileged
to share with you. I hope to continue doing so.

Warmest regards, John Robb

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Kids Love to Pray Too because God Speaks!


New Curriculum for Kids available!

Pebbles and Stones has three curriculum packages currently available for use with neighborhood groups, Para church organizations, families, and churches interested in the “intergenerational/journaling/listening/” approach that makes Pebbles and Stones uniquely beautiful in connecting people with our God. The packages include lessons based on the Pebbles and Stones model, an accompanying journal book. Each packet also contains a music CD with songs specific to the lessons and instrumental tracks for the group contemplative time. Please call or email us if you would like to talk to Kathleen about using one of these packages in your area of interest. Our new Introduction Packet has an overview of all three for you.

Kids Love to pray TOO! is based on Love to Pray by Dr. Alvin Vandergriend. The eight lessons are designed to encourage loving to pray. They lead to the conclusion that prayer is about the friendship between God and his children.

God Speaks: The Bible is full of stories about God’s friends who spent time with God, talking. God Speaks explores the various ways that God spoke through Adam and Eve, Abraham and others.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Measuring A Congregation's Prayer Commitment

20 Ways to Measure the Seriousness of the Church's Commitment to Prayer
by Doug Small

  1. Prayer is included in the institutional mission statement and core values.
  2. The consideration in engaging the pastor was not just on his preaching, but on his personal commitment to prayer. Prayer is a part of the pastor's job description.
  3. Leadership meetings are marked by extended seasons of prayer.
  4. There is a regular - not less than once a month - church-wide prayer service in which prayer is the main thing, if not the only thing on the agenda.
  5. Prayer, not merely prayer requests, is a part of every worship gathering.
  6. Members pray at home - daily.
  7. Families practice, or at least are attempting to establish, family altar experiences.
  8. A significant number of people in the congregation are committed to prayer and demonstrate that commitment by showing up for prayer meetings.
  9. Intercessors have been identified and are regularly engaged.
  10. There is a prayer leadership team.
  11. The church has a prayer room or prayer center open seven days a week, and people use it.
  12. There is regular teaching and training on prayer.
  13. A number of prayer groups meet during the week and are open to new members so that numerous opportunities for small group prayer take place in the course of any given week.
  14. Answers to prayer are celebrated.
  15. The church staff prays together - at least weekly.
  16. The elders or church council prays together.
  17. There is a definitive prayer evangelism focus, including prayer for those who do not yet know Christ in a saving and satisfying way.
  18. Money is appropriated in the church budget to support the prayer ministry of the church.
  19. Men are being encouraged to pray and regularly gathered for prayer. Intercession is not merely a women's phenomenon.
  20. Youth and children are being discipled in prayer

ALSO >>>
Phil Miglioratti has prepared "A Diagnostic Tool To Assess the Prayer Life of a Congregation," a guide that will assist you in the process of assessing how much progress you have made to becoming a truly prayer-saturated congregation. Download the guide, make copies for your leaders and members, and get ready for some surprises!

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Train those Who Pray for the Pastor

Pastors Prayer Shield
By Alice Smith
Prayer is the pastor's primary protection against spiritual attack. Fervent, effective, focused prayer is his greatest asset. Simply put, every pastor needs a shield of prayer surrounding his life, his family and ministry. The need to partner with intercessors and surrender the time and energy necessary to build an effective prayer shield are keys for successful ministry.

An Intercessor's Warning
"If in doubt—don't," wrote Robin White, one of our personal intercessors in an email message to my pastor husband.

"Incredible!" Eddie said aloud even though no one else was in the room. For about a week he had been encouraged by a friend to call a particular pastor and inquire about a church issue. Yet there was a reservation in his heart. If you know Eddie at all, you know he is rarely shy about anything!

Shrugging off what he thought was senseless unreasonable doubt, Eddie picked up the phone to call the pastor. But before placing the call, he decided to check his email. There it was--his answer! Robin's email said, "If in doubt--don’t."

So, he didn't. Later that day Eddie learned how tragic that call would have been had it been made.

My husband called Robin later to thank her for warning him. Of course, she never knew the specifics, but she was appreciative and encouraged that her intercession had made a difference.

For more than fifteen years Eddie and I have had over sixty personal intercessors that make up our prayer shield. What they hear God say becomes "fuel" for their intercession. Sometimes they report to us what they've heard.
Pastor, if you don't have a prayer shield we strongly urge you to ask God for one. The mistake that most leaders make when forming a prayer shield, is soliciting people to serve as their intercessors. There are at least three reasons we feel that is unwise.
  1. Few mature intercessors will take requests for long-term assignments, because they know their long-term assignments come from the Lord. They know the weight of such a responsibility and will hesitate to make such a commitment without a sure word from God and the promise of his grace to complete it.
  2. Some immature intercessors will be flattered that you've asked and will jump at a chance to have "inside access" to leadership. Most often they accept the invitation only to become weary after a season, or cause problems later on, and drop out from a sense of guilt.
  3. Finally, those who God often raises up are people you would never have selected. But if they are to be effective and remain, they need to be God-called, not man-chosen.
We suggest that you ask the Father for intercessors (see Matthew 9:37-38). God will hear and answer your prayer. Then begin to listen closely to what people say to you. You will begin to hear statements like, "Pastor, the Lord has really had me praying for you lately." Or, "Pastor, I've really had you on my heart this week."

When you hear those comments you should immediately ask, "Do you feel that God is calling you to intercede for me?" As they acknowledge and accept God's call, then begin communicating your needs to them. God called and commissioned them for you! You didn't recruit them in the usual sense of the word -- God recruited them. These are the best kind of prayer warriors to have. Now for you who love to pray for your pastor, or spiritual leaders, here is some good advice:

1. Your pastor needs his/her privacy.
Intercessor, prayer is your passion and pursuit. Your pastor, like most, may not be an intercessor. It is just one of many ministry items (missions, preaching, counseling, and administration) that he must address. Because of this, you should be sensitive to his personality, spiritual gifts, ministry focus and to the type of ministry partnership he offers you as an intercessor.

Sometimes intercessors find it hard to accept the fact that they may not be able to experience a close personal friendship with the senior pastor. A pastor and his wife should enjoy the freedom to select their own circle of friends. "Partnership" and "communication" don’t necessarily mean social closeness.

There may be rare instances when "all the best" of relationships come together. But because of the nature of friendships, that too may pass or change. Human relationships are ever changing and at best temporary. Try to avoid imposing eternal dynamics on relationships. Don't look to man for those things that only God can provide.

Because of time restraints or the sheer size of their congregation, some pastors assign pastoral staff to interface with their intercessors on a routine day-to-day basis. This staff member needs to be well acquainted with intercessors and intercession. They should be sensitive to the intercessors' unique needs. The recognized prayer leader should, as a rule, have access to the senior pastor.

2. Pastors need your understanding as well as your prayer. Having been in the ministry for over 39 years, I am convinced that the average church member has no idea the level of pressure that rests on the shoulders of pastors and evangelists.

• Pastors are on-call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Even policemen and firemen have their days off. Church member emergencies can always interrupt a pastor's day off, or even his family vacation.

• Most of us work for a boss. Of course it isn't true, but the average church member feels as though his pastor works for him. He thinks, "If he doesn't measure up, we'll fire him and hire us a pastor who does." Imagine yourself having 300-400 bosses!

• The visibility of leadership means that your pastor "lives in a glass house." In many ways, a pastor and his family are constantly "on trial." What they do, what they say, what they wear and where they go is always being scrutinized.

• Spiritual leaders are like commissioned officers in God's army. A pastor may as well have a target painted on his back on which Satan's guns are trained. We are constantly hearing of pastors who have lost their health to sickness and disease, lost their mental or emotional balance due to stress and overwork, lost their spiritual vitality (Titus 1:7-9) or have lost their faith and have fallen out of the ministry by falling into sin. Satan prefers to target your pastor and his family because he knows that one of the best ways to defeat the church is to shame its leaders.

• Your pastor's family is also in the cross hairs of the devil's sight. Satan loves to inflict pain on a pastor by causing his wife to suffer accident, illness or disease. He targets ministers' marriages and takes pot shots at their children. A pastor's child is a favorite "bull's-eye" for the devil. Believe us! We know! Our children have been through frontal attacks that the average church member rarely experiences. Our children, often young and easily deceived, are unfairly held to a higher standard than their peers simply because of who their father or mother are. And more so, with national or international visibility.

• True pastoral ministry is supernatural. No man can do it, regardless of how gifted or talented he is. Satan produces distractions, causes fruitlessness and stirs up divisions. He will do all he can to drum your pastor out of the ministry. Many pastors today are close to "drop out" or "burn out." And they know that they will be personally judged more strictly than others! (See James 3:1.) So the stakes are high!

• A pastor's faithfulness influences many others. When he falls, the cause of Christ is besmirched and many are wounded.

• The pastor carries great responsibility. He has been entrusted with God's work. Every time he makes a decision he can rest assured that part of the church will agree with it and another part will oppose it. He continually copes with the questions, "Did I handle that right?" Or, "Did I make the right decision?" Others are following his instruction and example. (See Matthew 15:14.) Pastor, we encourage you not to sweat the politics. God is quite able and willing to vindicate.

• Leadership carries enormous demands and extraordinary pressures. The pressures of ministry often require solutions that only intercession can provide. The Institute of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California conducted a survey of pastors in 1991. The findings showed:
  • 90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively.
  • 33 percent said that ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75 percent reported a significant personal stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 50 percent felt unable to meet the needs of their job.
  • 90 percent felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
  • 70 percent say they have lower self-esteem now than when they started out.
  • 40 percent reported a serious conflict with a church member at least once a month. 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
NOTE: This survey was taken in 1991, but I can guarantee you, that the percentages are even higher in 2008.

3. Your pastor needs your love.
Pastors often suffer the pain of shattered friendships. Many are sheep-bitten, lonely, wounded or depressed from a constant barrage of criticism. Some even lose their lives due to the crushing weight of ministry. We have learned over the years that few people can love a pastor like an intercessor. We think it’s because pastors and intercessors, in one sense, have so much in common.

• Like pastors, intercessors have a pastoral heart. Why else would they spend so much time "giving away their lives in the prayer closet" for others?

• Intercessors, like pastors, know they are called into the ministry they perform. Their prayer closet is as much a calling as his pulpit!

• Both pastors and intercessors are visionaries.

These and other similarities cause intercessors to be particularly capable of loving leadership. The true gift of heaven sent intercession is expressed by love so intercessors must always keep in mind an old Texas Indian saying, "Don't criticize your brother until you have walked a mile in his moccasins."

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