Do we have it upside down?

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Yesterday Rand linked to a blog post from Ed Stetzer where Ed noted what pastors believe to be the most important ministries of their churches. Ed’s findings weren’t groundbreaking — children’s ministry, evangelism, Sunday School are considered the most important. And there’s no doubt that those things are important to expanding God’s kingdom.

But as I read the findings, I felt years of teaching well up inside me. Is it possible that we have things upside down?

Years of Sunday School teachers and numerous sermons have taught me that prayer lays the groundwork for all ministry. If that’s true, then why do only 5 percent of the pastors surveyed list prayer groups and ministries as the most ministry in their churches? Through prayer, we learn the heart of God and how He wants us to follow Him in expanding His kingdom. Prayer provides the conduit of God’s strength that magnifies all ministry.

Now I’m not suggesting Baptists need to stop all these other things to do prayer. That would be ridiculous. For years, Baptists have had powerful outreach efforts, evangelism intiatives and children’s ministries. Many people have come to know the Lord through these ministries. Lives have been changed. I just wonder how much more effective these efforts would have been had they been thoroughly undergirded by prayer. Is it too much to think the results would have gone from wonderful to amazing?

Is it too much to think my personal efforts to minister to others would be more effective if I prayed more faithfully?

What do you think? Since Rand posted the link, this has gotten under my skin a bit. In the next few days, I want to dwell here for a while. Next, we’ll talk about what I think an effective prayer ministry might look like. I’m by no means an expert, but I am one who is willing to think out loud and listen to the perspectives of others.

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8 Responses to “Do we have it upside down?”

  1. Nelda Seal Says:

    John, I think your comments hit the mark. I am afraid that I am guilty sometimes of planning and then praying asking for God”s blessings on MY plans. It should be the opposite. Ask God for the plans and then undergird the plans with prayer. Perhaps this is why programs,etc. are not as effective as we had hoped and desired. Jesus set the example of praying. If Jesus felt the need of talking to the Father, surely we need to.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to the next comments.

  2. Clint Brown Says:

    As I was reading the article on Lifeway.com I was thinking through the findings and could see reasons for the trends. Then I noticed also that prayer ministry was so low on both lists of most mentioned and critical ministries. We organized a prayer ministry about a year and a half ago while we were without a pastor. The affects on the rest of our church ministries is undeniable.
    We have found that our prayer ministry is a behind the scenes thing. It is not very flashy: something that attracts outsiders. The ministry is a private ministry. Rarely do participants even gather in small groups. The prayer for our Sunday morning service is really the only time teams gather together for that ministry. A regular church-wide prayer emphasis is just a hard thing to maintain. Every month our emphasis rolls around, but besides sending out cards and reminding members their half-hour is important it is up to 48 individuals to privately fulfill their 1:30 AM (or whatever their time is) appointment.
    Why only 5 percent of pastors…? I don’t know for sure. Perhaps we are looking for people and what God is doing to grow our churches or His kingdom numerically. It just doesn’t seem very evangelical to emphasize efforts on spending time in your closet alone with God. But, like I said before, the affect of a prayer ministry on our church is undeniably positive.

  3. graceshaker Says:

    if we do not pray we will not matter.

  4. Jane Wilson Says:

    John: Isn’t it Oswald Chambers who says that prayer is the greater work? John 15 speaks of abiding in the Vine….asking what we will as we abide in Him….getting aligned with His purposes. All of this comes through prayer. For me, time in the Word is what directs my prayers, keeping them anchored to the Truth rather than just my emotions. Thanks for the post.

  5. Prayer can’t be contained in a closet « We Are Texas Baptists Says:

    […] can’t be contained in a closet By John In an earlier post, I briefly argued that prayer should be more of a priority for Baptist churches. In short, prayer […]

  6. Deann Powers Says:

    I need to know about a youth program that is similar to CIA’s – Can you help. I am looking for weekly plans.

  7. John Says:

    Deann, let me check with some folks and have someone get in touch with you.

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