Church leaders everywhere are called by God through the Scriptures to build and expand the church, making disciples in every nation, people, tribe and tongue. It is a huge task that no single pastor or church leader can do alone, and certainly not without God’s guidance and constant prayer.
There is a wide variety of guiding principles that church leaders can adopt as they seek to grow their churches, both numerically, but also in depth of discipleship of their members. There are many ways to work alongside the Almighty God in seeing His Kingdom expanded at home and around the world.
The thing that should be the first step, the overarching guiding principle and the most important element in any church growth initiative is prayer. Vital to the success of any effort to grow a church is a wholehearted commitment to prayer by the church leadership and by members of the congregation.
Let’s explore the ways in which we can commit to pray for our churches.
1) Personal prayer
Church leaders seeking to grow their churches in both number and depth of discipleship should first and foremost make a commitment to personal prayer. There must be daily dedication to standing before God in prayer as a leader chosen to shepherd the flock. Building the church requires humble leaders who know that without prayer their ministries will be wholly ineffective. The busyness of the life and ministry of a pastor or other key church leader is no excuse for a lack of bringing petitions for church growth before the Lord. Prayer must come first every day, in all situations.
2) Leadership prayer
Church leaders should gather together to pray, perhaps fast, and seek God’s will as they make efforts at church growth. The church leaders share the vision for growth and ministry within their congregation and must stand before the Lord during dedicated times of group prayer. This can be done at staff meetings, special prayer meetings, or even during a multi-day prayer retreat. Gathering together can strengthen the prayer power, as well as bring enthusiasm and encouragement within the church leadership as they take steps forward in growing the church.
3) Congregational prayer
To create ownership and investment by members, church leaders should lead their congregation in corporate prayer for church growth. Members can participate in prayer meetings, in small group prayer efforts, as well as individual or family prayer specifically for the quantitative and qualitative growth of their home fellowship. This creates a sense of unity within the congregation as together the leaders and the church members move together with one vision and mission.
As churches dedicate themselves to a spirit of prayer and waiting upon the Lord for growth in their church, there are a few things to remember. While they have committed themselves, it can be a long journey of prayer and petition toward the realization of their vision.
1) Listen for God’s response
Sometimes churches can be so busy petitioning the Lord that they forget to wait quietly and listen for Him to speak. Church growth requires hearing from God and acting with intention in the ways in which He guides and directs. God speaks in a variety of ways, most of which are quiet, requiring his followers to be intentional about listening. Hearing from the Lord can be the catalyst which boosts church growth efforts into overdrive. Church leaders must pay careful attention to His still, small voice as they earnestly seek the Savior’s guidance. The vision can become a reality when church leaders listen to God and seek to walk in His ways.
2) Maintain a long-term prayer focus
Church growth, especially growth in discipleship, is often a slow process that requires effort, both spiritual and emotional. The amount of prayer required over many days, months, and even years may seem extreme. God may take time to answer. The time needed and amount of prayer required for this church-wide growth journey can be discouraging at times if leaders lose sight of the long-term nature of the process. Maintaining long-term focus and commitment to prayer will give leaders the needed perspective to persevere when the process seems unsuccessful. Remembering that God uses a full lifetime to bring transformation in the lives of his followers can boost the spirits of leaders and members as they growth and development of their church family. Keep on praying.
3) Record and communicate answers to prayer
There is good news on which church leaders can depend. God will answer their prayers! On that glorious day when God answers the prayers of His faithful servants, take note. Record His words. Mark a milestone. Erect a stone of remembrance. Then, with that joy and confidence, share God’s answers and guidance with the congregation. Shout it out loud! Everyone involved will be encouraged and will gain the endurance needed to continue growing the church. The steps may be slow, but celebrate every victory, no matter the size. God is good. He loves His people, and He wants to see more people embracing a personal relationship with His son. Pray and wait. Then, rejoice in all that the Lord has done.