5 opportunities to shift your current church culture into a culture of prayer:
1) The Identity of the Sr. Leader and the Leadership Team
2) The Message of Prayer
3) Creating Space to encounter God
4) Equipping the church with Tools to encounter God
5) Build Community around experiencing Jesus together
The Identity of the Sr. Leader and the Leadership Team
Identity drives many aspects of life, and identity drives many of the decisions that we make everyday. As church leaders, our identity will determine many aspects of church culture and many aspects of how we teach/preach the Bible and disciple others. When I read Jesus and the Apostles teaching and discussing things related to identity, they always approached the conversation from an eternal perspective. Much of what’s taught on identity today is “how to have the most successful life possible in the 80+ years that you have”…it’s temporal and short term in its perspective. While Scripture makes it clear that there are plans and purposes that God has for us during our “80 year run”, our identity as believers and as leaders needs to be rooted in who we are forever, our eternal identity.
Forever I am a priest before God. Forever I am son of the Most High. Forever I am growing in intimacy with Jesus as His Bride. My season as a pastor is an assignment that I won’t have forever (and most pastors are saying “thank God”!). When the paradigm surrounding our identity begins with our eternal identity, it helps us to navigate the season and assignment changes of life with a greater degree of confidence in who God is, and who we are with Him. One thing to note about what the Bible’s message of eternal identity…prayer is found as the heart-beat of our identity with God. Forever I am a priest before God, ministering to Him and declaring His worth and His value…it has nothing to do with current assignment or my skill set, this is who I am. Forever I am growing in intimacy with Jesus, learning how He thinks and what His thoughts are towards me…it has nothing to do with my personality profile or my gift mix, this is who I am.
As leadership teams begin to press into these realities they start to pastor differently, they start to pastor people for their eternal lives with Jesus instead of just focusing on the “80 year run”. Jesus, the ultimate Pastor/Shepherd of our souls, is pastoring His people and leading His Church with this perspective…shouldn’t we?
The Message of Prayer
Without a doubt every paradigm and perspective has a message that fuels that lens we are viewing life through. These lenses we have are shaped by our current view of who God is, our life experiences, and the perspectives/opinions of those who are around us. When it comes to raising up a culture of prayer, we must understand that every person in our church community has an existing perspective of prayer that they are currently operating from. Even the unbeliever in our church has a perspective/paradigm of what prayer is and isn’t. The challenge for the church leader is to shift the lens of prayer into a framework and a worldview that is Biblical, corporate, and life-giving.
Here’s the truth of the matter, there are messages that fuel a culture of prayer and there are messages that don’t. There are paradigms that breath life into the prayer culture of a church and there are paradigms that suck the life out of the prayer culture in a church. Some of the messages that have fueled the prayer culture at our church are the messages of Intimacy With God, the Priesthood Of The Believer, a Biblical View of Justice, and the Age To Come. Intimacy with God opens my heart to how Jesus feels about me and gives me confidence in expressing my love to Him. Understanding how I am a priest before God, and how Jesus is my Great High Priest gives me the boldness to enter into God’s presence and equips me on what to do once I get there. The message of Justice gives my heart a Biblical framework for how God makes wrong things right. James talked about how many believers “ask amiss”, and many times ask wrongly because of an un-Biblical view of how God accomplishes His work in the earth, and how partnership with Him in prayer is connected to that work. The Age to Come answers the question of “what happens after Jesus returns?” and gives my heart hope and confidence of God’s beautiful master plan. God’s plan for the ages teaches me about how my life with Jesus today is connected to the restoration of all things in the days ahead.
Whatever is being taught in the local church won’t shift the mechanics of the church’s programs and structure, but it will stir things in the hearts of the church. Over time the message of prayer will shift the “lens” of the church body to embrace the dynamics of a vibrant prayer culture in their midst.
Creating Space to encounter God
Practically speaking, I’m a firm believer that we will experiencing much more traction in a culture of prayer by building prayer into existing environments instead of calling people to come and pray in another environment. Something most every pastor can relate to is the experience of calling people to the prayer meeting and almost nobody comes except the people who would come even if you didn’t call them! Some of this is because of the identity that believers currently have…”I’m not an intercessor”, “They are the intercessors”. As the church begins to learn that “intercessor” is not a spiritual gift, it’s an identity that we have before Jesus and with Jesus, the church body will desire to gather around the capital “I” Intercessor more often.
Until there is the momentum of the church’s identity shifting, we can make space in our existing environments for people to encounter God and experience prayer. If your church does small groups, build in a small group prayer encounter that will build people’s confidence before God, and equip people strategically with tools that will help them to encounter God more in every area of their life. Take the next generation ministries and find ways to build in times of prayer, take strategic moments during the weekend and lead people into a prayer encounter. A praying community values creating space to corporately go “vertical” and lead God’s people to reach out for God’s hand in partnership and agreement through prayer.
I believe that until every ministry/department in the local church sees themselves as building praying ministries there will never be a culture of prayer, there will only be a prayer department. Shift the church’s identity with the message of prayer, strategically build times of encounter into what’s already going on, let the church experience who they are before and with God.