What if the ministries we lead could be used by God to make a bigger spiritual difference? What if the thing holding us back is actually us?
Only God can bring revival and transformation. It requires the power of His Spirit at work in the hearts and lives of people. Sometimes, however, it is our failure to do what He has instructed that hinders our effectiveness.
Here are four things we can do that, if we are honest, our churches and ministries often don't do well.
- Pray Extraordinarily
In 1857, the United States was a country seriously divided, hurting and wandering from the Lord in many ways. In September 1857, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, started a businessmen's prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church Consistory Building in Manhattan. In response to his advertisement, only six people out of a population of a million showed up. But the following week there were fourteen, and then twenty-three when it was decided to meet every day for prayer. By late winter they were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church on John Stree, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street. In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in down town New York was filled with people praying.
Horace Greerley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy racing round the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying. In one hour he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6,100 men attending.
Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a wekk in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at 8am, 12pm and 6pm. The revival grew until, at times, there were so many people to baptize that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptized them in the cold water.
We are told in Scripture that "You have not because you ask not" (James 4:2). We are also told, however, that "if we ask anything according to His will, we know that he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, we know that we have what we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14).
What if we just got serious about asking God to transform out city for His glory and then believe that He will? If things are going to change, it will be because He changes them, so we outh to begin by asking and depending on Him. Let's be people who pray extraordinarily together with great expectation. Let's lead those we influece to join us.
- Love Selflessly
Scripture tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Listen to the weight of that statement. We all know the verse and can quote it but do any of us actually live it out?
Jesus left greater comfort than we have ever known to embrace a harder life than most of us have ever known, and He did it out of love and for the sake of others. That is our example. Imagine the impact it could have if a city saw the church loving oter people and sacrificing for them in that type of selfless way.
That is the type of love we must pursue and call our people to exhibit. That is the type of love that will care for refugees in crisis, be fathers to the fatherless, and care fo children in need of foster care and adoption.
Let's be people who love like Jesus...selflessly.
- Share the faith abudantly.
I can remember this time when I was young. My parents decided they wanted to grow some of our own food at home. They talked to some farmers, got some advice, and we went to work makinga little garden. One of the things we planted was okra. The farmers told us that if we wanted to grow okra, we needed to plant a lot more than we wanted because only a little bit of it would probably survive and grow. So my parents planted a LOT of okra. They put so much seed it could have fed half the town. When it came time to harvest, it was not just some of the okra that grew. All of it grew! We had so much we began to give it away.
The reason we had so much okra is because we put out so much seed. The same is true spiritually in many cases.
"He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly and he who sows generously will also reap generously" (2 Corinthians 9:6).
If you desire to see a great spiritual harvest, you need to sow a lot of spiritual seed. We must share the gospel anywhere and everywhere, in ever-widening circles. Until we sow a lot of seed, we will not know what could happen.
- Disciple effectively
Ultimately, this is the mission: "Go and make disciples...teaching them to obery everything [Jesus] has commanded" (Matthew 28:19-20).
We don't want to be like the dog that barks and chases the garbage truck down the street, only to one day catch up with the truck and go, "Uh...now what?"
Think about it. Why would God birth a bunch of new believers in our midst if we are not equipped or intentional about helping them grow in the faith? Take the time to develop a plan for discipleship that works for those you are reaching with the gospel. Ask other leaders for input. Train those you lead to disciple.
Let's be leaders who lead by example and equip others to pray extraordinarily, love selflessly, share the faith abundantly, and disciple effectively.