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Praying for Church Planters

In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis described distraction and a busy lifestyle as a valuable tool of demonic forces, used to weaken the Christian’s devotion to God. Screwtape, the senior devil, told Wormwood, the younger demon, to simply nudge the Christian away from God, inch by inch: “It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing… Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Perhaps that is how it was with Martha.

Jesus entered into the home of Martha to find her scurrying about and serving the guests, while Jesus taught. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, sat at his feet. I can envision Martha, rushing in with a tray of finger sandwiches. She then blows the hair off her face in a gesture of frustration, and accuses Jesus of being indifferent to her plight. Her sister Mary was unthoughtful, neglecting the immediate demands of ministry! (Luke 10:38-42). Yet Jesus gently rebuked this busy servant, saying, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42, NLT).

What would Jesus say to us?

Perhaps Jesus might look at our busy church culture, and say, “My dear Christian, you are letting social media, the internet, the church budget, the building, the band, and many other things pull you away from your most important duty of all—intimate communion with me. Come, let’s bring your cares and needs to the Father. Come, sit with me.”

Our church planters need us to be at the feet of Jesus. They need us to take time and draw near, to listen to the Holy Spirit and be led in prayer on their behalf. Our prayers are indispensable to their ministry. Charles Spurgeon was once asked the secret of his great success. He simply replied, “My people pray for me.” This is an often-overlooked aspect of church planting. We get distracted from the glorious grace-filled privilege of praying for our Christian leaders. Are we praying for our church planters? They need our prayers for oneness, for boldness, for protection, and for endurance.

Pray for Oneness

Church planting is a demanding job, and it is an ongoing temptation to become anxious and concerned for the many good things, rather than choosing the best. God wants the church planter and the church planting team to be in close relationship with him. Everything that the new church accomplishes will come from that oneness with the Father. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5, CSB). We need to pray for our church planters to abide in Christ, to know oneness with him through the Holy Spirit.

Pray for Boldness

Paul asked the Ephesian church to specifically pray for him, “praying at all times in the Spirit… and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20). To open the mouth is an idiom that means to communicate something gravely important. Jesus “opened his mouth and taught them” the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2). An open mouth is a bold, courageous message spoken from the authority of God’s word. Martin Luther said, “Preach as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow.” Pray against fear, which may keep us from proclaiming the Gospel boldly. John Calvin said, “Fear hinders us from preaching Christ openly and fearlessly.”

Pray that the church planter would be given the time and space to feast heartily on the Word of God, so that he or she may proclaim it boldly out of a rested, nourished, and satisfied soul—not the weighty burdens of secondary matters (Acts 6:4).

Pray for Protection

Church planters are under non-stop attack by the Enemy. Jesus referred to himself when he said, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Matthew 26:31). This is true of the local flock as well. We shudder every time we read about a pastor who has been taken down by the Enemy. Satan uses every opportunity—good and bad—to weaken the messenger of God’s people. Paul begged the Roman church, “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30).

Pray for Endurance

Paul said that he was “an ambassador in chains.” In addition to their regular duties, many pastors deal with other issues that tether them, or chain them. Unseen issues are often present: health, accusations, challenges which are financial, physical, emotional, relational, marital, and familial. Church planters often have young families, and a marginal income. How are you praying for and looking after your church planter’s soul? Paul was an ambassador in literal chains. His prayer was that, in spite of his circumstances, in spite of the time commitment, in spite of the tears, he would continue to proclaim the Gospel tirelessly.

Prayer, Prayer, Prayer

When Billy Graham was asked about the most important steps in preparing for an evangelistic outreach, he always answered that there were three things that mattered most: prayer, prayer and prayer. Prayer is the hardest activity in which to remain committed, when so many other important activities compete for our time and energy, yet it is also the most indispensable ingredient for church planting.

By Scott Thomas

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The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and the continual renewal and revival of the existing church in a city.
— Dr. Tim Keller

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