We have another great week of reading for you in Church Leader Insights. Enjoy!
Real prayer is about relationship. And relationships are hard. Even (especially?) with God.
A healthy prayer life is hard work.
If you’re one of those Christians who finds your prayer life to be easy, joyous and endlessly fulfilling, we’re grateful for you and the role you play in the body of Christ. But that’s not the way it is for most of us.
Pastors are not immune to struggling with our prayer life. In my experience and conversations, plus almost every poll taken about the prayer lives of ministers, pastors who struggle with prayer are in the majority.
So if you’re a minister who is less than satisfied with your prayer life, I hope it helps to know you’re not alone.
Prayer is really hard for most of us. Including me. And I think I know why.
Prayer is hard because the results are long-term.
No Magic Words
If prayers were answered within 24 hours – or 365 days – we’d all be praying machines! But they aren’t. They’re not supposed to be.
Many prayers take a lifetime to be answered. Some take longer than that. And most aren’t even requests, they’re conversational.
Prayer is not a set of magic words that make our wishes appear or our problems disappear. Prayer is more about developing a long-term relationship with the God who made us than getting what we want. At least it should be. And relationships are never quick and easy. The greatest benefits are always long-term.
Is the term “Successful Small Church” an oxymoron?
You know, like
- Jumbo shrimp
- Deafening silence
- Awfully good
- Genuine imitation
- Icy hot
- Open secret
- Living dead
- Clean dirt
- Alone together
Or, more sarcastically,
- Microsoft Works
- Smart bombs
- Educational television
When I first considered that question as a basis for a blog post, I knew what my answer was going to be.
“No! Of course not!”
Then I looked up the definition and … uh oh … everything changed.
Oxymoron: a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to becontradictory. (emphasis mine)
So, “successful small church” is an oxymoron. Not because “successful” and “small church” are contradictory. But because of those pesky words “appear to be” in the definition.
Objects in Mirror Aren’t As Insignificant As They Appear
“Successful” and “small” are not actually contradictory words. But we’ve created a culture in which they “appear to be” contradictory to many people.
We’ve convinced ourselves that successful equals big. So small must equal failure. Therefore, anytime you have “small” and “successful” in the same phrase – voila! Instant oxymoron.
As I have mentioned on many posts, one of the favourite parts of my job is talking with people from churches about a new website.
I love hearing about the dreams and goals they have for their new website.
They usually have awesome ideas of how the website will become the church’s hub of communication.
It’s kind of like talking with a couple who are about to get married – everything is rainbows and daisies. 🙂
After listening to their ideas, I like to ask some questions to help them think about how the “post honeymoon” stage will be:
- “Having videos of your services on your website is great! Who is going to record, edit, and upload them to your website each week?”
- “Adding a blog to your site is a wonderful way to have engage with members. Who will write the blog and how often will the post to it?”
- “Sending out a weekly or monthly eNewsletter is a fantastic way to keep members informed. Who will be in charge of writing and sending out the eNewsletter?
For each of these examples (services/sermons, blogs, eNewsletters), there is an ongoing component to them.
So if you are going to have features that have to be updated regularly, you need to have a plan in place before you add them to your site.
People like things they can count on and once they have been conditioned to expect something on a certain day or a specific time, they may get frustrated when it doesn’t happen.
For example, if you watch news every evening at 6pm, then all of a sudden they broadcast the news at 6:30 one night, 5:45 the next night, and the following night there is no news at all… you would probably get a little miffed by that.
Be careful what you ask for.
We all know the punch line, right? “Because you might get it.”
But what if that’s not the real punch line?
What if the real answer is “Because you might not know what you are asking for?”
We know God wants success for us. The tension resides in the fact that we don’t always define success the same way God does.
We might think success is a big church in the burbs. God might think success is a small church in the country. Or what if God doesn’t connect success to numbers at all? What if God’s definition is more about character, trust, obedience, loving people, lifting His name and teaching the gospel?
God did promise new territory to Joshua. (Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.) That does sound like “numbers.”
But God also focused on the relationship Joshua had with Him.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:7-8
How you define success matters.