The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 18

For several weeks now, we’ve been walking through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation.

Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

Next, we tackled–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we looked at both the content and the settings where discipleship teaching is delivered. You must have a plan for people to engage, and then, of course, you’ll need to encourage them to engage that plan.

Our fourth question asked, How will we help them find a place to serve? Here, we worked our way through helping people find their gifts and find a place to use them, how we will go about training them and providing the evaluation that can help people find real success and satisfaction in their ministry efforts. And, we made a final stop considering what it’s like to be on the team–a discussion that focused on how we are investing in them and their ministry experience.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve engaged our final question by looking at two essential steps for pursuing God–to stop pursuing everything else through solitude and Sabbath and to connect with what God has already spoken through Bible reading and reflection.

Now, the conversation with God would seem to have two additional elements. If reading our Bible focuses us on what God has already said, then it makes sense that we would also want to know what He might be saying now. Then we’ll be ready to consider our side of the conversation.

But what of this question about God’s current efforts to speak with us?

I may have lived in a different world than you, but it seems to me that the majority of teaching on prayer focuses on our words to Him. Certainly our practice of prayer has us doing most of the talking, with perhaps a moment or two pause to see if God wants to interrupt. But, listening to God somehow ends up lower on the priority list. How can that be?

Indeed, the first element of our praying should be in response to what God has been speaking to our lives. So, before we respond, shouldn’t we have to listen?

It should come as no surprise that many, if not most, Christians are unsatisfied with their “prayer lives.” Conversations that are as one-sided as our non-stop chatter and nearly endless list of requests can hardly be engaging. I have to admit that when I encounter someone who talks but never listens, I seriously doubt their interest in a real relationship. Prayer, as many of the great writers of previous generations try to tell us, is a response to a conversation God has already started. When we are listening for Him each day and paying attention to what He might be showing us, our moments of prayer become simple and meaningful celebrations of what we are learning.

Part of the problem in our times of prayer is that we’re not really that aware of God through the rest of our day. When we take 5-10 minutes to pray and then rush to our predetermined schedule of activities, we’re really not engaging God in a true relationship. To think that we can briefly pause our rat race and give Him a few seconds to chat us up seems unworthy of the One who died to demonstrate His interest in connecting with us.

So, in this key question of church health, how will we help people move beyond prayer as a checklist item or a chance to babble our way through the list of our family members or the names of every missionary we can remember? How will we show our people how to give God their attention when they’re actually living and not talking? How can we teach people that a real relationship with God is possible so they’ll discover how amazing such connection can truly be?

I’m intrigued that two of our first three ideas for helping people connect with God encourage us to be quiet–solitude and listening. But, that makes sense when you realize that He is the focus of this relationship and not me. He gets first place and I just rejoice that I’m even allowed in the room. He’s God! And He really deserves our fullest attention.

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