At the end of December, many people focus on goals and resolutions for the next twelve months. For a moment, let’s move beyond personal ambitions.
What are your hopes for your church in the new year?
Instead of fixating on a single number (attendance, offering, VBS involvement), think of the health of your church. What areas of weakness or sickness could be prayed for and addressed in 2016?
I don’t intend this post to be prescriptive, so let me tell you one of the ways I’m praying for my church in 2016. (Other small, Reformed churches may find this diagnosis familiar.)
Washington Presbyterian Church is a small church in southwest Pennsylvania that has seen exciting growth over the last three years. Our Sunday morning congregation and church membership have both swelled a bit as committed Christians have joined us. Some of these believers are new to the area, some are just new to our body. These are awesome folks and God has blessed our church through them.
Though our numbers are up, we haven’t seen much growth in the realm of conversion—unbelievers confessing Jesus as Lord for the first time. So, while my church has lots of room for growth, I plan to pray repeatedly about this weakness through the next year.
Lord, Give Us Five!
I’m praying that—as a result of my church’s witness to and proclamation in our community—God would bring at least five people out of darkness into light. That he would transfer them from the kingdom of the devil into the kingdom of the son that he loves. That he would give spiritual sight to at least five people who are blind. That, where there is hopelessness, at least five people would find hope and eternal life. That at least five would know forgiveness where they currently know only guilt. That they would know God as a loving, merciful father and not as a scolding judge. That at least five people would speak the name of Jesus with reverence, joy, and gladness.
Why five? Attaching a number to this request makes my prayer more specific and tangible. The number itself is arbitrary—some may think this number is far too big or far too small. For my church, five conversions would be more than we’ve seen in a while. If it happens, it will be clear both that we needed God and that God moved. This didn’t just come about as a result of our normal ministries, interactions, or personalities.
How will I react to success or failure? I plan to pray regularly, earnestly, and publicly about this. If God grants this request, I plan to be quick to glorify him. If 2016 ends with fewer than five conversions, it won’t be a failure. Though God wouldn’t have granted this request, it won’t alter the substance of my prayers. Conversions, the spread of the gospel, the proclamation of Jesus as Lord—this is always a central mission of the church.
What do you dream for your church in the next year? How will you pray and act to bring it about?