Studies, polls, and articles abound when we look at the common threads between thriving churches. There is a plethora of great insight for the modern church and it’s people. The first thought that comes to my mind about achieving our vision goals centers around Jesus’ ministry (I know, shocker!)
With news of Jesus ministry spreading fast and the increasing number of crowds that would gather everywhere he went, it might have been very tempting for Jesus to adopt a “rock star” mentality and insist the people come to Him. Instead, we read about his humility and character of service that permeated his every action.
Nothing demonstrates this more than a simple and often overlooked fact. Jesus walked a lot of miles. He traveled by foot vast distances in order to do the work Father had laid out before Him. He knew it was necessary. Regardless of what other ways he traveled, he was forced to cross long distances in order to serve. Every time service was needed it required action. Intentional, purposeful, decisive action. Often that means inconvenience and work.
We live in a culture that doesn’t value either of those things. If its inconvenient then someone else can do it. If it means work, we just don’t want to do it. Service requires action. Action is work and more often than not… inconvenient. Thriving churches have all made a decisive, intentional choice to not be afraid of work or inconvenience when it comes to ministry.
There is probably nothing more inconvenient to people than asking them to take time out of their schedule for anything… but it is certainly compounded when we ask them to pray. Thriving churches are ALL praying churches. Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Publishing, recently published this same finding. His conclusion was that growing churches are praying churches. Not just a little prayer at the beginning of a service, but they seek out intentional times of substantial prayer. When Jesus was facing His greatest test in the cross, He took an entire night to pray. In fact, over and over again, Jesus is seen in scripture as being intentional about prayer. Prayer must begin to take center stage in our lives. It must captivate our hearts, steal our attention, and drive us to solitude for the sake of Jesus being made known through His church.
The last commonality between thriving churches is surprising. Brian Dodd, the author of The Two Minute Leader wrote, “Growing Churches Celebrate, “In the end you have to ask: ‘Are we happy living in the world we’ve built?”” People watch to see if we are truly content living in the world we have embraced, and in the case of Christianity I think they are desperate to us as people who are truly happy being who we are. The unchristian around us are clamoring for a glimpse at a true to life excited Christ follower because, sadly, they are too rare of a species.
I am so excited to have started 2015 with more intense focus on some of these characteristics than any other year. We have built in plenty of opportunity to gather and celebrate all that God has and is doing in our community. We have purposefully created places where we can sacrificially serve those God has placed us near for the sake of making Him more known. And we have a collective mindset that if 2015 will be found as our greatest year yet, then it must be on the foundation of everyone praying.