I need to make a confession here. During the sixty or so years I’ve served my church I’ve worn several hats including the privilege of serving for several years as a conference administrator. One of my duties there was meeting with church boards in times of pastoral transition. Leadership is key to the health and growth of a church, and the process of seeking the mind of God for the right fit between pastor and congregation is one we took very seriously.
After asking for God’s leading we would generally begin by addressing the topic of the evening like this: Given the strengths and the needs of this church and the needs of this community, what are the pastoral gifts you sense would be most essential in the person we invite to come here?
The list they compiled was generally pretty predictable: Good preacher, good organizer, works well with youth, strong family, wife plays the piano (really), good money manager, mixes well, hard worker. The list would be longer than that, but these traits were there almost without exception.
As I look back on those board sessions what has begun to trouble me is the things that were not on the list. For instance, not once in the fifty or sixty times I went through that process did a board ever include on their wish list that their new pastor must absolutely, unequivocally be a prayer warrior. That quality never came up. Not once. What pains me now is that I never pressed them to include it. Not once.
If His church is to be identified as a house of prayer, then it is obvious that the leader must have a conspicuous and marginally radical bias to move it in that direction that will not be hijacked.
I know, it can be argued that it is just assumed: Of course the pastor will give strong prayer leadership to the church – that’s what pastors do. But I’ve watched this kingdom business long enough to know that that which is assumed often falls into disrepair. Assumptions often create sloppy practices. If an assumption does not become a raging conviction, over time it can degenerate into a second tier tradition.
I have trouble describing a house of prayer, but I am confident it will include at least these practices among others: (1) There is an organized plan for members consistently to pray a shield of protection around the pastor/s. (2) Each person who holds any office in the church is assigned a member who regularly prays for them. (3) Each school-age youngster is assigned a prayer buddy who prays daily, not only that God will keep them safe, but that He will make them a danger to the devil’s kingdom.
A house of prayer is different than any other kind of church. How would you measure yours?