Spiritual and numerical growth for churches has been under the magnifying glass for many years. There have been multiple strategies put forward to remedy the struggles and deficiencies associated with drawing people to Jesus and His Church…and then growing them into fully committed disciples of Jesus.
Consider the progression of the first numerical and spiritual growth of the early church in Jerusalem. What fueled the amazing addition of so many people in such a short time that they “filled the streets of Jerusalem with the teachings of Jesus.”? All one needs to do is study the book of Acts to see the answer: kingdom-focused corporate prayer. In the beginning, 120 believers obediently met in an upper room to pray as Jesus had instructed them to do. “They all met together continually for prayer…” (Acts 1:14). This group of believers took Jesus at His word and waited prayerfully for the Holy Spirit that had been promised to them. The result, it was said, “turned the world upside-down for Jesus Christ.”
1. Praying Continually: On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the 120 believers were still meeting together in one place…we must assume from Acts 1:14 that they were still in prayer. The promised Holy Spirit came – Jesus had told them: “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49).
2. Leaders who Understand that Prayer and the Ministry of the Word Is the First Priority:During a time when they could have been lured into other activity, the leaders of the Jerusalem Church said, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). This is a very simple and straightforward job description for church leadership, yet, over time, its simplicity has been perverted by worldly expectations and business models. Training in Bible colleges and seminaries has reduced prayer to a devotional silo expected of every believer and therefore not deemed worthy of academic study or as the foundational strategy for guiding a church or completing the Great Commission.
3. Prayer in Leadership Decision Making: During a season of prayer, Peter shared that the Scripture needed to be fulfilled and a new apostle was chosen to take the place of Joseph. After nominating two men, “Then they all prayed for the right man to be chosen. ‘O Lord,’ they said, ‘you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas…’” And in the midst of prayer: “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3).
4. Prayer-filled Preaching of the Word: When the prayed up and prayed for unlikely preacher, Peter, stood up and boldly proclaimed the Truth of Jesus Christ, those who received that word were baptized. God added three thousand souls to the Jerusalem church on Pentecost.
5. Prayerful Lives Devoted to the Way of Jesus: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42). As this lifestyle of Jesus was lived out “with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46), “…the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Praying communities of believers see God do amazing things for God.
The bottom line is that praying leaders will multiply praying churches filled with praying disciples! Prayer is everyday life for the Church of Jesus Christ.
Kim’s passion is to see God’s people recognize that prayer is a creative, continual moment by moment lifestyle as we align our hearts with the plans and purposes of God for His glory and the sake of His kingdom. Her ministry involves writing, teaching and consulting. She also compiles and edits HPM’s free daily devotional, Connection! and blogs regularly on the HPM website).
Kim graduated from Whitman College with teaching credentials and a BA in Psychology. She has a Masters degree in Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Arbor University.