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by GREG GILBERT
Every Sunday morning, I lead the congregation of Third Avenue Baptist Church in a “pastoral prayer.” I pray for many things during that time—congregational events, members who are suffering, evangelistic opportunities, various officials in government, missions opportunities, even events in the nation’s headlines. The part of the prayer that elicits the most comment, however—both positive and out of sheer confusion—is when I pray for another evangelical church or two meeting in the city of Louisville.
Each week, I choose one or two churches and pray for their services that day. I pray for the church to be attentive to the Word of God. I pray for the pastor to speak boldly and accurately from the Bible. I pray for people to be convicted of their sin, for Christians to be encouraged in the faith, and for non-Christians to be converted. I also thank the Lord that we live in a city where we are not the only church in which the gospel is proclaimed.
Believe it or not, the practice of praying for other churches is so rare in many Christians’ experience that many don’t know exactly how to process it. More than once during my pastorate, a visitor to Third Avenue has walked up to me with a concerned look to express surprise that such-and-such church is having troubles. After all, why would the pastor of one church pray for another church if there weren’t serious problems afoot there?!
Spirit of Competition
There are many benefits to doing this sort of thing week after week. For one thing, it helps me in the work of crucifying my own spirit of competition. It’s so easy for pastors to subtly (if not less than subtly) begin to think of other churches as “the competition” instead of as fellow proclaimers of the gospel in their city. I want to go on record, in the most public forum I have, as praying for the success and faithfulness of those churches. We are not in this to make a name for ourselves; we are all in it to make a name for our King.
Not only so, but I think those prayers do the same work of crucifying a spirit of competition in the members of Third Avenue. Pastors are not alone in struggling with feeling competitive with other churches. Members do too, and it’s good for them to see their leaders working publicly to counteract that tendency so that it doesn’t take root in the life of the church.
Praying for other churches also communicates an important truth about the various churches in a city: We are all on the same team. We all have the same mission, and it’s to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and make disciples of him. The last thing we should want as pastors is to communicate a provincial, myopic spirit among our members that recognizes good only in our church, and cannot see what God is doing more broadly. We serve a massive God, and an important way to show that truth to our people and teach them to rejoice in it is to teach them to care about God’s work in the lives of other churches.
I have found that praying for other churches also helps me to cultivate friendships with their pastors. It reminds me, week after week, that there are others engaged in this same work that so consumes me each day, and it challenges me to strain against any tendency I might have to isolate myself in the work.
Today, I took a vacation day and drove two and half hours from Omaha NE to Dannebrog NE (Where I was a pastor from 1985 to 1993) to fish with a dear friend, Dan. He was saved one Sunday when I gave an invitation during a Sunday morning sermon to repent and turn to Jesus for salvation. Dan has followed Jesus ever since!
The fishing was awesome! I am sunburn!
The fellowship was better!
Dan told me that recently he was praying and he ended up praying an hour on his knees!
That is how revival comes!
May we all spend much, much time on our knees in prayer!
To be prayerless is to be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope, and without heaven.
There has been a lot of talk in our country about the need for a national revival; the next great awakening. Some opinions are that we have fallen to the darkest valley of our country’s history. I agree that we are experiencing moral decay within the country and within the church, but I do not agree that we have reached the deepest pit. Further, as so many are calling for revival in the church, I disagree that we should be looking for that right now.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yes, the church ought to pray for our nation and lift up our leaders to the Lord. We should long for the Truth of Christ to become a revered and holy part of our lives once again. However, before God will heal the land through revival, we must show repentance first. This comes from our selfless humility. As one commentator states, in the sight of the Lord, humility is the willingness to take our appropriate place in the dust on account of our transgressions.
Read James 4:1-10 and respond to these verses. If we follow our own fleshly desires and cravings, we are friends with the world. As such, we are enemies of God (vs 4). We are arrogant and proud rejecting His ways. From the passage we read that God opposes the proud (vs 6). But to the humble, He gives grace. Verses 7-10 go on to explain how we are to return to God. We are to submit and draw near to Him. We are to lament, mourn, and purify our hearts. At the conclusion we read, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
The Greek word tapeinoó is a term for humility that means to be fully dependent on the Lord. A study of the Greek word hupsoó reveals the idea of being properly lifted up. Therefore we interpret this as a promise that God will exalt those who are penitent. A word of caution, though. Do not misinterpret this as prosperity to believing Christians. Those who ask with ill intent do not receive because they do so for selfish pleasures. As for our country, to be lift up by God, we must admit in humility that we need Him to do so.
Before our nation can experience revival, we must all humble ourselves and repent.
The Lord speaks to Solomon concerning His people in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that if they humble themselves, seek His face and repent, then He will hear, forgive and heal them. Do not be proud! For far too long the Western Church has pointed fingers at others in accusation and even judgment.
Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.
A Texas megachurch pastor, whose ‘Aviation Department’ advised him that upgrading the blades on his helicopter would save his church $50,000, recently caused an uproar for asking his congregation to help finance the upgrade with $52 ‘favor seeds.’
Bishop, I.V. Hilliard, of the New Light Christian Center in Houston Texas, reportedly sent out acontroversial newsletter to his “Friends in Jesus” list, telling them that if they sow a $52 transportation seed toward the upgrade they would receive “breakthrough favor” within 52 days or 52 weeks.
“Does your car need repair or total replacement? Do you have a dream vehicle or luxury automobile you long to purchase?” noted Hilliard in the opening paragraph of the letter.
(Photo: facebook/Bishop I.V. Hilliard)Bishop I.V. Hilliard of New Light Christian Center in Houston, Texas.
“Our Aviation Department has an opportunity that will save the ministry well over $50K if we will move on it right away. My Aviation Manager stated that while repairing our helicopter they discovered that if we upgrade our blades today, it will save thousands in the days to come,” he explained.
Then while pointing to various biblical scriptures, Hilliard noted: “We have an urgent transportation need that the Lord said can be an opportunity for you to see His favor and His wisdom released to help you.”
“Scripture teaches when you give to a Kingdom need, God will raise up someone to use their power, their ability and their influence to help you,” he added.
“As I pondered and looked at the situation, I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say ‘tell your special partners who have special transportation needs’ and their obedience will release favor for their needs and desires. I got excited and set down to write you!” noted Hilliard.
“You sir, are proof that SUCKERS/SHEEPLE are born every day! Give that charlatan money $$? LOL Why? So he can buy more gold rings, bigger mansion, bigger cars, hire another maid, a Helicopter??? ? All under the guise of Gawd..LOL This atheist is glad he’s an atheist!” wrote John R Costello on the Bishop’s facebook page.
Apparently upset that some people think Hilliard’s request is unreasonable, Pastor Eddie Daniels responded supportively to the controversy on the Bishop’s facebook page.