We all know we should pray for direction from the Lord – but we don’t all know exactly how do we pray? So, allow me to give you five specific ways you should seek you should pray as your church makes an appeal to God to use you to plant a church. If you pray for these items regularly and publically you will enjoy the congregational benefits of witnessing the Lord’s answer to these prayers over the course of the church planting process. Of course, there are more things you should be praying for but these are a few you should not to neglect:
“Lord, show us a place or a people”
Ask the Lord to give you a burden for a place or a people that are lacking a gospel witness. Sometimes the place will be obvious, other times it will not. While you pray, encourage your congregation to keep their eyes open for places and people of need. I was once part of a church staff that begin praying for God to show us where we should begin working to plant a new church. As we were praying, one of the pastors from the staff told us he thought the Lord might be calling us to spread the Gospel in Reykjavik, Iceland. When he first brought it up I thought, “Is that a real place?” In my mind Iceland was in the same category as Candyland or the North Pole. We started praying for the people of Iceland and researching about the need for the gospel in the tiny Island nation. Eventually we boarded a plane and headed over to visit for a few days. God did in fact lead us to work in Iceland! Now, nearly a decade later, dozens of our members have visited Iceland, several families have moved there for short or long periods of time and a church is now growing right downtown in their capital city!
“Lord, raise up leaders from our midst” – Lead your congregation pray for God to provide leaders for this new work from within your church. Sometime churches assume they have no members that could or would be used by God to plant a church. Instead of praying they begin their search outside by looking for a recent seminary graduate or someone from another church that feels called to church planting. This approach should be a last resort. I didn’t sign up for pastoral ministry because I wanted to be able to identify qualified leaders that were developed by others, I wanted God to use me to raise up godly and qualified leaders. So, look first from within. Pray that God would call men out of your congregation to become pastors and others to join church planting teams.
“Lord, provide what we need” – In my observation, the greatest fear churches have when it comes to leading their congregation to multiply is the fear that they will suffer financially for doing so. As a church leader you will either perpetuate this fear or obliterate it by they way you talk and pray before your people. If you are fearful or apprehensive about God’s ability to provide for his people on mission, your people will be apprehensive. This is a time to pipe up about your confidence in the Lord’s promise at the end of the great commission to be “with us always”. My four kids never worry about money because Jennifer (my wife) and I are “with them always”. If they need or want something, they just ask for it. Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no – but the one thing they know is that we are with them and we will take care of them. In the same way, you should lead your congregation not to worry about the financial aspects of church planting. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask in prayer or God to provide for you but it does mean that it shouldn’t be a point of concern or worry for you.
“Lord, save the lost” – What responsible Christian would walk into an evangelistic encounter without asking for help from God?! Likewise, church planting is a corporate evangelistic endeavor and we should never walk into it without corporately asking for help from God. The Bible is clear, “Salvation belongs to the Lord”, (Psalm 3:8) and “No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit of God draws him” (John 6:44) so it’s unthinkable that we would ever approach sinners with the gospel apart from prayer. Lead the people to pray for the Lost to be found and celebrate those who repent and believe as answers to prayer.
“Lord, replace those who go for us” – The church is family and it is natural for the members of your church to be concerned about the shoes that are left to be filled by those leaving to start a new church. Right now, in my church, we are forming a team to plant a church in Washington DC that will depart in about 6 months. We’ve been asking the Lord to call members out to go with this new church plant. We’ve been praying that members would be willing to sell their possessions and organize their lives for the sake of the Gospel’s spread in DC. In the past few weeks God has called out, one of our elders, our church administrator and our worship leader to go with this new church (Yikes!). These are three of the hardest working, most trustworthy and longest standing members we have! It’s hard to imagine conducting our ministry without them. Nevertheless, We asked the Lord to call out members from our church to go he answered that prayer, who am i to question his call?! I can say as Spurgeon did to his members, “If you can do more good elsewhere than you can do here, for God’s sake, go, and happy shalt I be that you have gone.”
Happy!? Yes. Sad? Yes. The same happy a mother when she drops her kid off at college and drives away. The same sad that a mother feels when she drops her kid off at college and drives away. A happy that hurts. So, how do we pray? Jesus. Would you draw up other leaders in the place of those who go for us? That’s how you pray. That’s how you lead your people to pray.