leadership (11)

Be A Spiritual Lifeguard!


Leaders in the Body of Christ are called, among other things, to be lifeguards. Watching is the key function of a prophet or intercessor. Rescuing is a priority for the evangelist. Guarding is elementary for the pastor.Warning is a main component of teaching. Vision is essential for the apostle. Believers in the Kingdom of God are expected to be on guard, or more specifically: to keep watch.

My pastor runs a waterskiing ministry at the lake near his church in the summertime. On days when he is alone, the kids know that if he is out on the water training someone, no one swims until he gets back to the dock. 

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12 Tips for Powerful Prayer Meetings

  1. “We” trumps “I.” Jesus instructed us to pray “OUR Father…” (Matthew 6:9). Ordinarily, things are getting off-track if there is too much use of the word “I” in corporate prayer.
  2. God-centered rather than problem-centered. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayers in Acts and Paul’s epistles, and the other prayers in the Bible sometimes addressed current problems (e.g., prayer in Acts 4:23-31 regarding persecution). However, the overwhelming them is always God’s power, glory, and sovereignty (e.g., “Hallowed be Your name” and Ephesians 1, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”).
  3. Brief trumps long. The Pharisees were known for their lengthy prayers, but Jesus encouraged His disciples to not put their trust in long prayers or “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7, Matthew 23:14).
  4. Focused prayers trump shatter-shot prayers. Too often, people’s prayers are unfocused, covering too many topics and petitions all at once. If we want to have our prayers answered, it’s much better eliminate “fluff” and unnecessary rabbit trails. Specific prayers bring specific answers.
  5. Prayers filled with faith and victory will always trump prayers marked by doubt and defeat. Nothing will bring discouragement to a prayer meeting faster than people who are praying prayers of unbelief.
  6. United prayers trump individualism. Corporate prayer is only powerful when the prayers are offered in one accord (Matthew 18:19-20, Psalm 133). This is undercut when people’s prayers cannot receive an “Amen” from the rest of the participants.
  7. Spirit-led prayers trump human concerns. Understandably, prayer meetings often attract people who have “burdens” to pray about, whether the burdens are for themselves or for others. But unless these human concerns become motivated by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-30), they will end up just being filled with well-meaning “flesh.”
  8. It’s often helpful to mix elements such as worship and Scripture into prayer meetings. We see this approach in Colossians 3:16-17: Word, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” etc.
  9. Prayer meetings should be times of HEARING from God and not just SPEAKING to God. The principle in James 1:19 applies, being “quick to listen and slow to speak” (or pray). This means it’s OK to have times of silence and listening, not feeling it necessary to fill the entire time with speaking/praying.
  10. Prayer meetings usually work best when there is a balance between human leadership and free-flowing group involvement. If the hand of human leadership is too strong, people will be intimidated from listening to God or participating. But if there is no leadership at all, the prayers will often go off on tangents and become unfocused. This doesn’t mean the leadership has to be from just one person, but it’s helpful if people know who is “in charge” of sensing God’s direction in the meeting. People who are intercessors or prophetic sometimes distrust structure and time constraints, but the Bible provides numerous examples of God instituting structure before He performed miracles (e.g., breaking up the people into groups before feeding them loaves and fish). However, if there is going to be structure as to the format, time limitations, etc., they should be clearly communicated in advance (e.g., Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 about the use of spiritual gifts in public meetings).
  11. When revival is one of the objectives of a corporate prayer meeting, the elements of 2 Chronicles 7:14 should be kept in mind: E.g., humbling ourselves, seeking His face, repenting (turning from our wicked ways), listening, receiving His forgiveness and forgiving anyone who has wronged us.
  12. Just as in our individual prayer lives, it’s helpful to keep an informal record of some of the prayer requests offered, and then the answers received. Keeping track of some of the testimonies will build faith in God’s faithfulness and in the power of prayer.


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Grandma's Theory on Church Growth

Grandma Buchan was a very wise woman, and she had a fascinating theory on church growth. Well, actually, her theory had to do with restaurants, but many of the same principles apply to churches.


      “Jimmy, I never go to a restaurant if the parking lot isn’t full,” she told me firmly one day.


      I had never thought about restaurants that way. In fact, it seemed to me that there should be other considerations.


      “But, Grandma, I don’t always like busy restaurants, because you have to wait longer for your food.”


      Granny couldn’t be dissuaded, though. “No, Jimmy, if a restaurant has a lot of customers, I know the food must be good.”


      At the time of our conversation, it never occurred to me to ask Grandma about her thoughts on church growth. But as a pastor, I later adapted her theorem: Churches tend to grown when they serve good spiritual food.


      There’s a lot to be said for this axiom. I remember when our college fellowship group was attracting members away from the very boring and very liberal chapel program on campus. The college chaplain wasn’t very happy about this, of course, but I told him that people were simply gravitating to where their needs were being met.


      I’ve been on the other end of this principle, too. What if you’re a pastor whose members are leaving to attend a church down the street? It’s particularly painful when you’ve poured your heart and soul into someone who then departs for greener pastures or a better show.


      If Granny were still alive, I would love to bring up some questions about how her theory applies to churches. For example, the McDonald’s drive-thru is almost always busy. But I surely can’t say the food is good, at least not nutritionally. Aren’t there churches just like that—serving food that’s high in sugar and fat, making people obese and clogging their spiritual arteries as the years go by?


      Yes, people tend to gravitate to what meet their needs, but they also can gravitate to junk food.


      How does this apply to your church? Is it just a feel-good congregation, or is it truly offering good spiritual nutrition? Is it a place of genuine relationship and accountability, or is it more akin to a McDonald’s drive-thru?


      As we can see in John chapter six, Jesus’ earthly ministry demonstrated both sides of Granny’s principle. On the one hand, huge multitudes were following Him, because He was serving good food, healing people, and meeting their needs.


      But toward the end of the chapter, the crowd was reduced down to the original 12 disciples. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t going to let His ministry become like a McDonald’s drive-thru. Rather than being content to entertain people or feed them junk food, He gave them some “hard sayings” that day: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53).


      So we need to allow God to deal with us on both sides of this issue. If few people are being attracted by our ministry, we must ask ourselves whether we’re truly serving good food.


      However, if huge crowds are coming, we may need to preach some “hard sayings” and see who the real disciples are. Let’s make sure our congregations aren’t just filled with drive-by Christians, coming for the junk food. Instead of just providing a momentary spiritual high, may our “worship experiences” promote long-term spiritual growth.


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How to Respond to Mistreatment

"You are not your own… For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Whether we like it or not, there are times when we experience mistreatment by others. It can be a family member who says something against us, or a co-worker who tries to ruin our reputation in some way and blocks our goals to advancement in our workplace. Or it can be a multitude of other situations. In this imperfect world with broken people, we will all face mistreatment. And this often happens with those we are the closest to—husbands, wives, children, neighbors, and co-workers. We live in a world filled with misunderstanding and injustice. There are so many situations where our heart can cry out, “This is not fair!”  

As ones who want to grow in prayer, what do we do when we experience mistreatment? What does God want us to do when we feel injustice in a very personal way? How can we have a godly attitude when unfairly treated? How can we keep from bitterness and from hindering our prayer life because of an angry or bitter heart? Keep in mind that bitterness starts as a tiny root that grows up to cause trouble and defiles many (Hebrews 12:5). Let's look at the biblical example of David because he was able to keep his heart pure in the hardest of circumstances.


The Example of King David

"Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth. My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me" (Psalm 31:5, 15).

David, the man after God's heart, is one of the greatest examples of how to respond rightly to God when mistreated. David was one who trusted in God to intervene because when he was mistreated by Saul, He did not retaliate. Can you imagine the fear of being sought after and threatened by Saul and his 3000 soldiers? Running for his life as a hunted fugitive, David’s heart must have been pounding in his chest as Saul came into the very cave where he and his men were hiding. Yet David did not kill Saul at this opportune time, but instead he committed his cause totally into God’s hands. He passed one of his hardest tests when his very life was at stake in this dark, dungy cave. See 1 Samuel 24:2-15.

At, yet, another time David had the opportunity to kill his enemy. Saul and his men were sleeping within the camp with his spear stuck in the ground close to his head. Again David refused to harm him. See 1 Samuel 26:2-24 for the full story. He committed his cause into God’s hand. He let God be his deliverer. He said to Saul in verse 23-24:

“May the Lord repay every man… for the LORD delivered you into my hand today, but I would not stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed… let my life be valued much in the eyes of the LORD, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulations.”

Have you or I had to trust God with our enemies to the degree that David didwith our very life?

When you entrust yourself into God’s hands, you make a transaction with God of a very deep nature. You trust in His will for your life in His way and with His timing to intervene. You are transferring your personal rights into His hands and into His responsibility. You are letting God be God in your life to the very core of your being. You are acknowledging His ownership of you. God is always working deeply in our hearts and is developing our inner character. By refusing to retaliate like David did with Saul, you are letting God remove the "Saul" in your own heart. 

You are trusting in God's leadership in your life. You are refusing to retaliate and are bringing God and His activity into your situation. You are bringing God into the conflict and are engaging in spiritual warfare. You are making room for His righteous judgment. You are being tested in your faith deeply as you trust that He vindicates us in His time and ways.


Trusting in God's Leadership at Sea

"Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer" (1 Peter 3:10-12a).

I remember several years ago while living on a mission’s ship going in and out of nations with the gospel message, an international crew, and the largest floating book exhibition in the world. We had just left Romania and were sailing towards our next nation, Bulgaria. Right before entering that nation we were falsely accused of being a cult, and suddenly we were told that we couldn’t enter Bulgarian waters. The door was shut completely. With over 300 people on board from over 40 nations, and with numerous programs and plans for the next port, we were stopped in our tracks and had nowhere to go. We were stuck at sea and had to go somewhere, but where?

In that situation we had nowhere to turn but to God in prayer. As a ship’s crew and staff, we had to trust in His leadership. We had to bring Him and His activity into our situation in a deeper and more desperate way. It tested our faith. Our plans up to that point had to drop by the wayside. It would be useless to try to defend ourselves. God had to be our vindicator, our answer, and our solution to this problem.

In a remarkable and amazing way, God opened the door to a nearby Muslim nation. Our ship got unusual publicity. God opened the way into a central port in the city, and we had a wonderful program. We saw God’s fantastic leadership and plan. Our faith grew as a ship’s company and we saw the works of the Lord in a needy land. If we had retaliated and fought to get into Bulgaria, we would have missed the magnificent plan of God. We would have missed His best. His leadership is perfect and surpasses all of our plans. We were able to overcome evil with good when we did not avenge ourselves and pursued peace. God was attentive to our prayers, and we experienced the blessing of God in an unexpected land.

“Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to God’s wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord… if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

When you bless and pray for your enemies and the very ones who mistreat you, your attitude towards them changes. You heart becomes free. You begin to love your enemies and care about their welfare. Even if you don't see God's vindication immediately or even in this life, you will see it one day when God makes everything right. 

Is there some situation today where you have the opportunity to overcome evil with good? Is there one or two people who you feel have mistreated you? If you give yourself a few moments of silence, God will often bring someone to mind. We all have situations. Can you entrust yourself to God and bless your enemy? Can you entrust your reputation, future, plans and well-being to God and to His leadership? Let's learn to commit our spirit into God's hands. Let's overcome evil with good. Let's remember David's example.

Always remember that you were bought for an incredible price. You can trust in God's perfect and loving leadership over your life. 

“When David ‘committed his spirit’ into God’s hands, he was committing to God everything that deeply touched his spirit such as his reputation, money, possessions, positions, and impact. He was entrusting the outcome of the most important issues in his life to God’s leadership.” Mike Bickle

By Debbie Przybylski

Intercessors Arise News

I invite you to see my four new facebook pages for my books on prayer: Breakthrough PrayerAscending the Height in PrayerDeeper Still, and 24/7 Prayer Arise. Join and like the Intercessors Arise facebook page for daily encouragement in your prayer life. Have your friends sign up for Intercessors Arise here.

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Join us February 17-19 in the Tampa Bay area for a national gathering of pastors and leaders as we collectively seek God and His blessing on our lives and churches.

This corporate, multiple-day experience of unscripted prayer, worship and Scripture will be conducted in the Prayer Summit format. Our time will be led by Daniel Henderson (National Director ofThe 6:4 Fellowship) and Dennis Fuqua (Director of International Renewal Ministries). Daniel and Dennis have collectively led hundreds of Prayer Summit experiences for leadership teams, pastors' fellowships, and entire congregations.



- Encouragement and fellowship with like-minded pastors

- Refreshment in God's presence through prayer

- Equipping in prayer leadership that you can take back to your church

- Discounts for 6:4 Fellowship members and spouses!

Visit www.64fellowship.com/prayersummit for more details and schedule.

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10 Consequences of Failing to Pray in Ministry


Jesus is the greatest example of a leader and every godly leader should strive to emulate His example of consistent and committed prayer. Unfortunately, Christ-likeness, in this regard, eludes so many leaders today. In addition to missing out on being like Jesus, these leaders miss out on many of the other benefits of a fervent prayer life. Here are ten things leaders who fail to pray always miss out on.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on the joy of co-laboring with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). Instead of the exhilaration of answered prayer, they experience the monotony of ministry routine.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on what God could have done in and through them (James 4:2). God can sovereignly choose not to do what His followers selfishly choose not to pray for.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on God’s unparalleled power (Ephesians 3:20-21). Ministry quickly becomes an exercise of the flesh rather than a powerful work produced by faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3, James 5:16).

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on God’s peace (Philippians 4:6-7). Instead of casting their anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7), they struggle to fabricate ministry on their own, resulting in frustration, burnout and pride.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on victory in spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-20). Instead of wrestling in prayer (Colossians 4:12) they resort to passivity and lethargy.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on God’s blessing (2 Chronicles 7:14). Content with the status quo, they arrogantly get stuck with it.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on God’s heart. Praying in line with God’s will (Matthew 6:10, John 14:13-14), unites a believer with His heart for His world, His people and His ministry; leaders who fail to pray fail to acquire His heart for those they serve.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on God’s vision and direction. Instead of prayerfully acquiring God’s wisdom (James 1:5), they negligently rely on their own.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on partnership with other believers. Prayer is an instrumental component of authentic fellowship (Acts 2:42) and leaders who fail to pray for other believers alienate themselves from them.

Leaders who fail to pray miss out on intimacy with God. Instead of uninterrupted intimacy with their Savior (John 15:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:17) they experience only a fraction of the fellowship they could be having with Him. This is undoubtedly the worst consequence of failing to pray. 

Samuel understood that leaders who fail to pray for those they lead sin against God (1 Samuel 12:23). Unfortunately, I often do just that, following the example of Jesus’ disciples in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). If you feel the same way, I hope you’ll join me in confessing that failure as sin and recommitting to a vibrant prayer life. Andrew Murray encourages us writing, “Let us not make the feeble experiences of our unbelief the measure of what our faith may expect.” I hope and pray your greatest years of prayerful leadership are still ahead of you. 

Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press, 2012), 31.

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Reclaiming Radical Faith


Within hours of when the Boston bombing suspects were identified, terrorism experts were barraged with an intriguing but misguided question: How did these young men become “radicalized”? After spending several years in the United States, why would they hate us—to such a degree that they would carry out horrific acts against innocent bystanders?


Well, I’m sorry, but this question totally misunderstands what it means to be radicalized. There’s nothing “radical” about hatred or violence. Those are easy traits, certainly not radical ones.


Nor is there anything radical about envy—a prominent feature of humankind ever since the sad tale of Cain and Abel.


You see, radical means “going to the root or origin” of a problem. Hatred, violence, and class warfare certainly aren’t radical by this definition. Why? Because such things only deal with symptoms and external issues, not the root causes.


The Boston bombers weren’t true radicals. They were simply angry, envious, and perhaps demonic young men. Their radicalization was counterfeit, for it failed to address the heart of the matter—which is always a matter of the heart.


Jesus was a true radical, for He warned people they would never enter into His kingdom as long as they held on to hatred, jealously, or unforgiveness. He rejected the Zealots’ call for violence, but He said the answer wasn’t in being religious either—you must be spiritually reborn. Your proud, hard, self-centered heart must be replaced!


What does it look like to be a true radical? Jesus said you must love your enemies and those who persecute you. Instead of killing people who disagree with you, you must lay down your life in serving them and showing them the truth.


We need some true followers of Jesus today—people radicalized through and through by a gospel message that transforms lives and brings a touch of heaven to earth. We need genuine disciples of a Savior who offers the world healing balm instead of bombs of destruction.


We need leaders who understand what it means to go from comfortable Christianity to radicalization for Christ. May God raise up a new generation of radicals like William and Catherine Booth, who mobilized an army of love and salvation that brought transformation to hell-holes around the world.


May we have more leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., who preached that people should be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. That message was far more radical than those who prescribed violence as a solution to radical prejudice.


So, are you willing to be radicalized by the lordship of Jesus Christ? Or will you be swayed by counterfeits or an easy-believe-ism that requires nothing but verbal assent to the claims of the gospel?


Lukewarm Christians will neither change the world, nor persuade misguided souls like the Boston bombers to abandon their foolish thinking. The only way to defeat counterfeit radicals like the Boston bombers is to become true radicals for Jesus, the Lamb of God and friend of sinners.


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When Narcissism Comes to Church

Have you ever visited a narcissistic church? Even worse, do you attend—or perhaps lead—a congregation that is self-absorbed and in love with itself?

Not long ago, I had the unpleasant experience of visiting such a place. I had heard good things about this church, and I had high hopes for what I would find there. And lately I’ve been trying really hard to see the good and not be critical toward other believers.


Of course, you probably wonder how I knew the church was narcissistic. For one thing, the name of the church and the name of the pastor were mentioned about 10 or 15 times more than the name of Jesus. So even though there was considerable evidence that people were in love with their church, I had a much harder time finding evidence of their love for the Lord.


On one level, it’s certainly a good thing that people take pride in their church and their pastor. I’ve met some Christians who are ashamed to tell me where they go to church—a clear indicator that the church has low morale and a downward trajectory.


However, what about Paul’s statement to the Corinthians? “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). When the church itself becomes the message, or our focal point is the pastor instead Jesus, it’s a sure sign we’ve become narcissistic. 


And although I realize churches may want to market themselves and let the surrounding community know they are there, shouldn’t we beware not to follow the motivation of the men who built the Tower of Babel: trying to make a name for ourselves? (Genesis 11:1-9)


After my visit to the narcissistic church, I’ve had to search my own heart and ask God to give me a sincere desire to see HIM lifted up: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). As John the Baptist recognized, Jesus only will increase if we allow ourselves to decrease (John 3:30). Help us, Lord.


I was grieved by one additional observation about the narcissistic church: There was absolutely no evidence of God’s presence or anything supernatural. In other words, everything that took place in the worship service could easily have been attributed to human effort instead of any involvement of the Holy Spirit. The singers sang, the musicians played, the preacher preached—but where was God in any of it?


You see, the church is called to be much more than a social club or humanitarian organization. If we’re no different than the Moose Club or Kiwanis, we’re in big trouble. Shouldn’t we reflect our glorious design to be “built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”? (Ephesians 2:22)


Yes, I understand the need to be culturally relevant and able to reach “seekers” and unbelievers with the gospel. But shouldn’t the Holy Spirit be involved in the process? How will lost people be persuaded to become disciples of Jesus Christ if we’re content just to “play church”?


One of the signs of the End Times is that many people will be narcissistic, even in the church: “lovers of themselves…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-7). So what’s the antidote for this terrible malady? My prayer since visiting the narcissistic church is that I will die to myself and fall in love with Jesus more than ever before.


I’ve also been praying for renewed evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fruit and power in my life. Shouldn’t we expect that Paul’s example would also be true of us today? “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).


Are you content with your Christian life right now? I’m surely not. Rather than allowing me to remain judgmental toward others, God is challenging me to deal with my own narcissistic heart and lack of spiritual power. Are you willing to join me on this uncomfortable—but necessary—pathway to revival?


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Attributed to renowned investor Warren Buffet, “skin in the game” is a term describing the willingness of a company’s top executives to invest some of their own money in a project. It’s a sign of good faith and their confidence in the outcome.


The concept makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Why should you or I want to invest in a company or a project if the insiders don’t believe in it enough to risk their own money?


But the skin-in-the-game principle actually started long before the days of Warren Buffet.


Perhaps you’ve heard the story of three-year-old Jenny, who was terrified by a fierce thunderstorm one night. With each flash of lightning or clap of thunder, she screamed in fear, pulling the covers over her head for protection. And when the covers proved inadequate to comfort her, she ran downstairs, where her mom was still working in the kitchen.


“I’m scared, Mommy!” she said, firmly wrapping her little arms around her mother’s legs.


“Go back to your room, Jenny,” her mom told her. “God will take care of you.”


“OK, mommy,” she reluctantly agreed.


But no sooner was she back in bed than another roar of thunder shook her room, once again sending Jenny back to the kitchen, where she wept as she clung to mom.


“What did I tell you, Jenny? God will take care of you,” the mother said, getting somewhat irritated.


“But mommy, God doesn’t have any skin on Him!” the little girl protested.


Well, even though we surely can sympathize with Jenny’s point, the good news is that God did, in fact, come to us with skin on. We’re told in John 1:14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Not content to remain hidden away somewhere in the heavenlies, our Lord became Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).


Yes, God put skin in the game. Real skin. You see, He believed enough in His “redemption project” to become personally involved—fully invested, we might say.


Notice that He didn’t just send His Word through prophets, angels, stone tablets, or handwriting on the wall. He came Himself and lived among us.


However, this doesn’t totally negate Jenny’s point. People today still are looking for “God with skin on.” They need something more than a pat answer or an encouraging Bible tweet. They’re longing to see and interact with other human beings who are filled with the presence and power of Christ (Colossians 1:27).


So the next time you send a tweet, post a blog, or put something on your Facebook wall, remember this sobering statement by the apostle Paul: “We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also OUR OWN LIVES, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).


If Paul was still around today, I’m sure he would be using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and every other possible means of sending out the gospel. Yet, even more importantly, he would be modeling an “incarnational” faith and investing his life into people he loved.


For Paul, presenting our bodies as “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) wasn’t just theology or theory. It meant putting our skin in the game.


As you interact with people through social media on your computer or smart phone today, don’t forget to also put some of your “skin” in the game. Your friends and followers may need to see you in person from time to time. Like Jenny, they may even need a hug.





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Keeping Your Dreams Alive

Recently I’ve found myself humming “I Dreamed a Dream,” a song from the Les Miserables musical. If you haven’t watched the YouTube video of Susan Boyle singing this on Britain’s Got Talent, I encourage you do so. It’s inspiring!


But I’ve never given much thought to the lyrics of the song until today, when I did a Google search. It turns out that the chorus says this:


I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Yet, to my surprise, much of the song is actually a downer, recounting dreams that ended long ago: “Then I was young and unafraid, and dreams were made and used and wasted.” By the song’s end, the circumstances of life have torn the dreams apart, and the author comes to this gloomy conclusion: “Life has killed the dream I dreamed.”


What a bummer!


As Joseph was labeled by his brothers (Genesis 39:19), I’ve frequently been described as a “dreamer,” so this whole matter of “dreaming dreams” has always been important to me. However, dreaming is a hazardous activity, and I’ve often struggled to keep my dreams alive. (Someday I’ll tell you the story of when I dreamed of planning the “Perfect Church.” It didn’t take long for “reality” to erode my lofty dreams…)


What about you? Are you still dreaming dreams, or do you speak of your dreams only in the past tense?


A Lesson From Abbie


A personal story from two decades ago illustrates the challenge of keeping our dreams alive. It was bedtime at the Buchan household, and I asked my two young daughters, “What do you want to pray before you go to bed, girls?”


Molly, seven years old at the time, prayed for the Dubles, some good friends who were missionaries in Kenya.


Then Abbie, who was four, chimed in, “Lord, I pray I don’t have any bad dreams. No! I pray I don’t have any dreams at all!”


At first I thought it was humorous that someone would not only pray against bad dreams, but against having any dreams at all. But then God pointed out the surprising fact that I often had similar feelings toward my own dreams.


As you’ve probably already discovered, it’s painful when our fondest dreams turn into nightmares. Although we may not be as honest as Abbie was in her prayer, at times it would seem a great relief to eliminate our dreams altogether. Wouldn’t it be easier to just become a zombie or a mind-numbed robot…putting your life on autopilot and eliminating any new initiatives or risky adventures?


Becoming a Dreamer Again


If you’ve become a disillusioned dreamer, you’re not alone. Yet it’s important to see that not all “dis-illusionment” is bad, for we all have “illusions” in our lives that are not from God. (Remind me to tell you that story about the Perfect Church sometime…)


Jesus’ death on the cross was the most disillusioning event in history. His closest followers were devastated, going from their grandiose expectations at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (John 12:12-19) to hiding out in a locked room for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). Peter and some of the others even sought comfort in turning back to their old occupation of fishing (John 21).


And the pain of disillusionment can be felt in the words of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). How sad! These men “had hoped” they could count on Jesus to fulfill their dreams, but now their hopes were past tense.


However, at the very time these discouraged men were feeling this way, the resurrected Lord Jesus was walking right beside them! What a great lesson. When our dreams are dashed to the ground and all hope seems lost, the Source of ALL hope is right there with us, ready to open our eyes again to new possibilities.


You’re Never Too Old


Perhaps you think you’re simply too old to dream. My generation of fellow Baby Boomers was perhaps the greatest generation of dreamers to ever live. But now we’re getting OLD, as my kids can attest to.


So is it time to admit defeat and simply stop dreaming dreams? No way! In fact, God has a prophetic word just for us: “In the last days...your young men will see visions, your OLD men will DREAM DREAMS” (Acts 2:17). Let it be, Lord!


No matter how old or young you may be, I encourage you to keep on seeing visions and dreaming dreams. Yes, as Abbie recognized, dreams sometimes are scary or even painful. But we’re entering into days when we’ll need God to raise up a new army of dreamers—taking bold action to impact the world for His kingdom.

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Kick-Starting Pastoral Leadership in Prayer

By Daniel Henderson

One of the greatest challenges in creating a strong prayer culture in a church is getting the senior pastor and the leadership staff to make prayer a priority in the life of the congregation. One church that has succeeded in doing this is WoodsEdge Community Church in The Woodlands, Texas.

Six years ago, Senior Pastor Jeff Wells would have described his ministry as a typical church that made plans, then asked God to bless them. Today prayer is fuels every aspect of the church. This change in direction came about because Wells and his team took some very specific steps to make prayer a priority.

• Honest evaluation.

Pastor Wells and his leadership team spent time at a retreat in candid discussion and prayer as they considered what their prayer commitment should be versus what it was in reality. They compared their behavior as leaders and a congregation with the biblical standard set by the early church in the book of Acts, which saw prayer as the main work of ministry. After this time of assessment, the WoodsEdge leadership team called the entire church to three days of prayer and fasting as a first step toward charting a new direction with prayer at the center.

• Accountable redirection.

As a result of their time in retreat, the leadership team committed to emphasizing prayer. They began by setting clear expectations for what their own examples in prayer should be among the flock. They also redefined the role of elders to comply with the principle of Acts 6:4 to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Practically, this worked out in several ways. First, the pastors committed to spending an hour a day in personal prayer with the Lord. Then the weekly staff meeting changed from a business and communication meeting to a worship and intercession meeting. Now the pastors and staff take a full day of prayer offsite several times a year. The pastors also recruited personal intercessory teams to pray for them and their families.

• Shared experiences.

Wells and his team read and discussed key books on prayer; a couple of their favorites were Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. In each case they talked about how the points these books raised, both inspirational and instructional, could apply to their context. They even took a trip to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which Cymbala leads, for that church’s well known Tuesday night prayer meeting. Other prayer experiences they shared as a church included prayerwalks and concerts of prayer. The leadership declared a prayer emphasis for 2009, encouraging the congregation to raise the bar of their personal prayer lives.

• Communication.

Wells let the congregation know about this new commitment to prayer via the pulpit and emails. He also began multiple communications monthly teaching on prayer and clarifying the leadership’s vision.

• Consistent, visible practice.

The pastoral staff and elders began leading the Wednesday night prayer service, which had consisted of prayer after the worship team rehearsal. Over time the service grew. Today the prayer gathering begins with an optional hour of solitude during which people can come to the altar, pray at their seats, join a prayer group, or receive prayer from a prayer partner. The heart of the service begins with over 30 minutes of worship. Wells then leads 45-minutes of prayer that focuses on personal needs, ministry concerns, and other issues that the Holy Spirit puts on his heart. Other leaders are available to pray with people and often will lead in prayer as they focus on specific issues.

• Sustaining systems.

Approximately three years into the prayer emphasis, the church hired a full-time pastor to coordinate the prayer ministry. Doing so ensured proper training, communication, and organization for the prayer service, various prayer emphases throughout the year, and other weekly prayer events. Some of the changes Wells believes the church has experienced directly because of prayer include people sensing God’s presence more strongly, the church having more impact on the community and internationally, and some members experiencing physical healing.

Today the church’s website declares that the most important service of the week is the midweek, church-wide prayer experience, and a foundational statement in the church’s vision statement says, “We long to become a church that is a great house of prayer.”

DANIEL HENDERSON is an author, president of Strategic Renewal (www.strategicrenewal.com), a professor at Liberty University, Pastor of Prayer and Renewal at Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Virginia), and a facilitator who travels to more than 35 venues a year, equipping pastors and churches in prayer. His most recent book, Defying Gravity - How to Survive the Storms of Pastoral Ministry (Moody) was written to encourage pastors in their spiritual leadership journey, which includes a vital focus on prayer.

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