Previously we noted the essential nature of prayer to church growth. In general, we need to be people devoted to prayer (Acts 2:47; Col. 4:2), constantly and earnestly trusting and relying on God to work in and through us. But, specifically what should we be praying about in regard to Church Growth?
Praying for Church Growth Outcomes
We can take all the steps church growth consultants might suggest but still not be truly growing. Church growth is about more than getting a few extra warm bodies in attendance. It’s about seeing people come to salvation in Jesus and grow in that relationship. For both quantitative (conversions) and qualitative (spiritual health and maturation) growth to happen, we need God’s power, not just a strategic plan.
In regard to conversion growth:
We might witness and proclaim the Gospel but God is the One who saves. He’s the One who transforms lives. –– So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Cor. 3:7)
God’s Word says that, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14-15). Since, “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), God will respond to our prayers for this kind of church growth.
In regard to spiritual health and maturation:
We might disciple people to know how to follow the Lord (Matt. 28:19-20) but God is the One who sanctifies them, bringing them more and more into conformity to Jesus Christ. — May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. (1 Thess. 5:23a)
Jesus made it clear that apart from Him, we can do nothing (Jn. 15:1-5). Is it any wonder the New Testament epistles are filled with prayers for believers in those new churches to continue to grow? (Examples: Eph. 1:16-17; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-10; 1 Thess. 3:12-13; 5:23-24; 2 Thess. 1:11)
Prayer unleashes God’s power to bring about such growth. If we want these outcomes, we must constantly and earnestly pray, to be devoted to prayer. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read: Prayer Essential for Church Growth
Praying for the Needed Workers
As mentioned above, God does the saving and sanctifying work. But, He uses people to demonstrate His heart of compassion and speak His words of grace and truth. We don’t just sit back and watch God grow the church. Consequently, for church growth to occur, we need people involved in proclaiming the Gospel and nurturing people in their relationship with Him. Here’s how Jesus instructed the disciples to recruit the needed workers: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt. 9:35-38)
Pray for God to raise up workers but also encourage the church body to regularly spend time with God in personal prayer. Remember what happened when Isaiah of the Old Testament spent time in the presence of our Holy, Almighty God. Humbled by the Lord’s greatness, he couldn’t help but volunteer when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8). Because of that time in God’s presence, Isaiah was in a position to see the need, sense God’s heart, and want to get involved.
Praying for Strategic Opportunities
Met needs tend to attract and keep people in our churches more than the latest and greatest church fads. To effectively meet needs takes this: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5). Notice the role of prayer in the verses leading up to this instruction:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Col. 4:2-4)
We need to get on page with God in our church growth efforts so we “make the most of every opportunity” which requires His wisdom which He gives to those who ask (James 1:5). We need to pray for one another that we not only see the doors God opens before us but that we boldly walk through them which comes as a result of His power at work in and through us (Eph. 6:18-20).
For More on the Power in Praying: Resources for Prayer Ministry