Every once in a while I hear from a leader who says, “We don’t any need more ideas/strategies/conferences … all we need to do is pray.”
Well actually, writing this piece, quite often I hear from people like that.
Maybe you have people like that at your church.
You even know the conversation. Every time you suggest, “Why don’t we try reformatting our services/changing our kids ministry/reaching out into the community,” they shoot back with “what we really need to do is just pray” (or “what we really need to do is get back to the Bible …”) as though that settled the discussion.
It puts you in a horribly awkward position.
If you disagree, you sound like you’re coming out against prayer.
If you agree, you’ve just mothballed any productive strategy conversations.
I mean who really wants to come out against prayer?
Not me. Not you.
And so, not sure what to do, we shut down the leadership conversation and all the potential that comes with it.
Can it be that something that sounds so spiritual can actually stop some very spiritual work?
In the name of God, some leaders might end up opposing the work of God.
And it’s all done in the most holy-sounding way.
Who’s right? How should you respond?
We Need to Pray
So before you freak out, I haven’t become an atheist.
Far from it. It’s not an exaggeration to say I pray every day. I also read the scripture daily and love it deeply.
I also believe I need to pray more. I agree that the church needs more prayer.
Finally, I believe all authentic, effective ministry is rooted in prayer.
But saying, “All we need to do is pray” really misses how God actually works.
If all we needed to do was pray, we could lock ourselves in a closet and never come out. But I’m not sure that’s how God has moved historically.
What begins in prayer should usually end in some kind of action.
And We Need to Do More Than Pray
While prayer is foundational, God almost always moves people to do something.
The walls of Jericho ultimately fell down because having heard from God, people obeyed God, marching around the city for a week, blasting trumpets and shouting.
Come to think of it, that kind of sounds like a strategy doesn’t it?
Interestingly enough, the scripture is filled with strategy if you look for it.
Strategy Is Not the Enemy
Sometimes church people behave like strategy is the enemy.
It’s not. It never has been.
Strategy is not the enemy.
Overly simplistic thinking is.
But strategy isn’t. A great strategy is actually a companion to a great prayer life.
Strategy is inherently biblical. For example, God noticed that Moses had a bad leadership strategy that was ultimately going to wear out both him and the people. So God used Moses’ father-in-law (of all people) to give him a new strategy that required tremendous reorganization.
Jesus intentionally organized his community of disciples into concentric circles of 70, 12, three and then one. His prayer resulted in action … thoughtful action.
We’re Supposed to Love God With More Than Our Hearts
So what’s the point?
Strategy should be a good word in the church. And it should be a good word in your church.
That means you should have the tough conversations.
You should surface disagreements (even pray through them).
You shouldn’t skirt tough issues.
It also means you need to lead.
Leadership requires your heart but it doesn’t stop there. It requires your soul, your strength AND your mind.
So use your mind. And your strength. And your soul.
So Next Time
So next time someone interrupts the conversation and says, “What we really need to do is pray”…what should you do?
I think you might agree … and say, “I agree. We should pray.”
But then add:
“And after we pray, let’s get working on the most important issues facing us. The mission is just too important to ignore them.”
Great prayer can and should lead to great action.
It’s time for the church to act. And to get the best strategy we can find to accomplish the mission God has given us.
Have you ever run into leaders who block action in a holy-sounding way?
What’s been effective as you’ve navigated this?