Church Revitalization – Part 1, PRAYER

*With this post I will begin a 10 part series on Church Revitalization.  I have been blessed to have been a part of one for the last 14 years and now I believe God has given me an opportunity with TAP to revitalize a Missions organization as well.

I was called as the Pastor of Cedar Hill Baptist in Dillsburg, PA in February 2005.  I was not yet ordained and I still had about a year left of Bible College.  Cedar Hill at the time had 22 members and an average attendance of 35.  They had looked to merge with two other area churches in the years previous and when the church rejected these plans, the previous pastor got frustrated and left.  Following are the things we did – right and wrong – that led us to where we are today.  This past Sunday we had 217 and we have had two very successful building projects.  We did not grow quickly, but we have grown slow and steady.

The first and most important element of revitalizing a church is a focus on prayer.  This is not just cliche’ but the source of all power.  If God is not in it, then it is manufactured.  Manufacturing church growth is a real strategy that is often employed today.  There are certain steps that will work to grow your numbers – but you might as well run a country club.

  1. Prayer from the Pastor.  As the leader and spiritual director of the church the Pastor must be bathing the ministry in prayer.  We must be faithfully praying for the church, for our direction, for our impact, for our individual members and for our effectiveness.  This is elementary and understood, but cannot be overlooked.
  2. Congregational Prayer.  We must have a church committed to praying.  We are good at praying for all of our health needs – but in regards to church revitalization – we better be praying for visitors, for converts, for our leaders and teachers, for our impact in our community, etc.   We must stop praying for ourselves and start praying for souls.
  3. Finding Prayer Warriors.  This might just be the key to why Cedar Hill saw growth and unity.  Most churches understand the importance of the Pastor and Church members praying – but what about getting others to pray for us?  We began a newsletter – not a newsletter for our church family – but a newsletter for those who were genuinely interested in our church but could not attend our church.  We had other churches praying for Cedar Hill.  We had people who had moved away praying for Cedar Hill.  We had friends and family, many of which were out of state, praying for Cedar Hill.  Finally (and this might be unique) we had our missionaries and their churches praying for Cedar Hill.  Think about that:  We so often pray for our missionaries and their needs – but how often do we rely on them praying for us?  God does answer prayers that are offered up outside of the United States!
  4. Church Leaders Praying.  We had board members praying for the church at board meetings.  We had Sunday school teachers praying for their classes.  We had youth leaders praying for their youth group.  Everyone in a leadership position prayed for their ministry opportunities.
  5. Teach on Prayer.  We have and continue to emphasize prayer.  We have spent time on Sunday evenings putting together Prayer Journals.  We have mixed up our Prayer meetings.  We have had multiple avenues to get together in group prayer meetings (Men’s Breakfast, Ladies Breakfast, Cottage prayer meetings, etc).

Prayer.  Why did Cedar Hill grow when so many churches struggle?  The number one answer I always give is that People Prayed and God Answered!

Prayer – the power of one plus God!

I was thinking today of Daniel in the Lion’s Den and the many prayer warriors that prayed through the night for his well being.  Well, actually, we don’t know of anyone that prayed for Daniel that night aside from Daniel himself.  King Darius was concerned about him, but was not a believer.  Daniel survived perhaps the most well known of all harrowing incidents and did it without a prayer chain, without a prayer meeting prayer request made on his behalf, without a Facebook prayer request, without anyone or any petition made on his behalf.  It was just him and God – and that was more than enough.

The same goes for the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, for Elijah on Mount Carmel, for Jonah in the belly of the great fish, for Jeremiah in the miry pit, any many more.

It is great to have the power of those that are praying on our behalf, but we too often diminish the fact that God answers the prayer of just one.

– Pastor Wes