PRAYER & How to mobilize your church to pray for the nations — here and there.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Almost all consultations I conduct include a strategy to energize/expand prayer ministries. Here are some practical ideas.

by Terry Sharp, International Mission Board, 7/23/18.

Here are a few ways your church can pray for the nations right here in North America and around the world.

1. Discover people groups. 
There are many resources available to help you not just learn about people groups, but offer brief overviews and the progress of the gospel among their people. People Groups, People Groups Info, Operation World and the Peoples Next Door N.C. Prayer Map are among the helpful websites that provide information on people groups and prayer points to help you pray specifically for each group.

2. Discern how to pray with focus.
Your whole church can become involved in praying for the nations. Promote a prayer emphasis through small groups, Sunday School classes and members in corporate worship. You can even ask families to become involved by praying at home for people groups.

Here is a list of prayer requests that can be used with any people group.

  • Pray that unreached peoples will hear and accept the gospel.
  • Pray for protection for those who accept Christ.
  • Pray for freedom from persecution.
  • Pray for Scriptures to be translated into their heart language.
  • Pray for their physical and spiritual needs.
  • Pray for new ways to see and hear the gospel .
  • Pray for government leaders involved with your people group...

3. Determine to begin now.
… Begin teaching your church how to pray specifically for your chosen people group this Sunday. Here are some suggestions to get started.

  • Prepare a PowerPoint slide with your people group information and a specific prayer request. Explain to the congregation that you will be praying for specific requests on a weekly basis. Slides can be utilized before your worship service begins, during the offertory music or as the last thing you do to encourage the congregation to leave with the nations on their hearts.
  • Ask church members to add your chosen people groups and requests to their current prayer lists.
  • Distribute small dot stickers in bright colors and ask students and adults to put them on the faces of their watches or phones. Ask them to say a prayer for their people group each time they check their devices.

Read more at … https://ncbaptist.org/how-to-mobilize-your-church-to-pray-for-the-nations-here-and-there/

PRAYER & How Speaking to a Group of Nigerian Pastors Taught Me Not to Forget the Current Nigerian Genocide

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Commentary by Bob Whitesel: When I taught a group of Nigerian bishops and pastors about leadership, they in return taught me about the ongoing massacre of Christians in Nigeria.  One pastor carried a photo album. And, the carnage of innocent children and women literally made me sick. Read this article about the largely unnoticed killing of Christians taking place in Nigeria and together let us ask the Lord to show us how to help.

2 Islamic Groups Target Nigerian Christians – 300 Killed While 72 Others Supernaturally Saved from Firing Squad

by Steve Warren, CBN, 3/20/19.

The news out of Nigeria is getting progressively worse as it is being reported that more than 300 people were killed in at least seven predominantly Christian villages across Nigeria in February and March this year, according to multiple sources that monitor persecution of Christians.

“Since February 10, there have been at least 270 people killed in Kaduna State alone,” International Christian Concern confirms. “It has been reported that at least 70 Christians have been killed during a 10-week span at the beginning of 2019 across the other Middle Belt states.”

In one early morning attack on the village of Karamai on Feb. 14, sources said 41 people died after 300 gunmen swarmed the village shouting “Allahu Akbar!” as they fired their weapons and ransacked people’s homes, according to Barnabas Fund. It was reported almost all of those killed were women and children along with a few senior residents who were unable to run away.

Fulani Terrorists

Another 71 people were killed and 28 injured in an attack on the Dogon Noma village by an Islamic group known as the Fulani militia on March 11. The 2018 Global Terrorism Index compiled by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) lists the Fulani among the top terrorist groups in the world. “In Nigeria in 2018, there has been a dramatic increase in violence involving Fulani extremists,” the report states. Those attacks are clearly not letting up in 2019.

In the recent attack on the Dogon Noma village, the terrorists were “torching houses, shooting and hacking down anything that moved,” according to eyewitnesses. Some estimated that 100 homes were destroyed in the early morning raid.

Another nine people were reportedly killed and 30 houses destroyed in the village of Nandu Gbok on March 16.

Church leaders in Nigeria have repeatedly called on President Buhari, who is a Fulani Muslim, to take action against the Fulani herdsmen who have been repeatedly attacking Christian farming villages.

Read more at … http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2019/march/2-islamic-groups-target-nigerian-christians-300-killed-while-72-others-supernaturally-saved-from-firing-squad

PRAYER & Charts showing the percentage of adults who pray and their frequency. #PewResearch

Pew Research, Religious Landscapes Study, n.d.

Frequency of prayer % of adults who pray…

Frequency of prayer by religious group % of adults who pray…

  1. Chart
  2. Table

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/frequency-of-prayer/#chart-1

PRAYER & “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need.” – Jesus

Luke‬ ‭11:10-13 MSG‬‬, Jesus says …

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.

If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?

If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider?

As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/luk.11.10-13,23.msg

RELIGION & Religious Nones Still Thank God, Ask for His Help #Pew #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 4/21/16.

They probably won’t show up to church this week, but the religiously unaffiliated may still pray.

A Pew Research study found 76 percent of Americans say they thanked God for something in the past week. That includes 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

A quarter of nones also say they asked God for help in the past week, while 6 percent say they got angry with Him.

Religious individuals are much more likely to say they’ve turned to God recently, but it’s noteworthy how many of those who claim no faith still report talking to God.

The religiously unaffiliated are broken into two categories: atheists/agnostics and those who are “nothing in particular.” Almost half (48 percent) of those who classify themselves as nothing in particular say they expressed gratitude to God in the past week. A third (32 percent) say they asked God for help.

Even a portion of atheists and agnostics say they thanked God in the past week (18 percent) and asked Him for help (13 percent).

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/04/21/religious-nones-still-thank-god-ask-for-his-help/

RELIGIOSITY & Americans Skeptical Of God But Think Heaven Is Real, Somehow

By Joshua A. Krisch, Vocativ News, Mar 21, 2016.

The United States formally separates Church and State, but it’s hard to deny that America is inundated with religious innuendo, from its controversial pledge of allegiance all the way down to its Judeo-Christian courthouse displays and faith-espousing legal tender. Yet fewer Americans pray or believe in God than ever before, according to a new study in the journal Sage Open.

Researchers found that the percentage of Americans who claim they never pray reached an all-time high in 2014, up five-fold since the 1980s. Over the same time period, belief in God and interest in spirituality appears to have similarly declined, especially among young adults.

The findings suggest that, “millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history,” says Jean M. Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and coauthor on the study, in a press statement. “Most previous studies concluded that fewer Americans were publicly affiliating with a religion, but that Americans were just as religious in private ways. That’s no longer the case, especially in the last few years…”

The notion that the U.S. is inching away from organized religion is nothing new. Throughout the 2000s, studies repeatedly found that many Americans had lost faith in religious institutions. But scientists suspected the shift was from organized religion, rather than spirituality—that Americans had stopped attending formal services, but that they still prayed and believed in private…

But this new study suggests that Americans have a problem with God—and that our spiritual issues run deeper than paltry mistrust of religious institutions.

For the study, researchers pulled 58,893 entries from the GSS, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults. The results suggest a steep decline in the number of Americans who pray, believe in God, take the Bible literally, attend religious services or identified as religious—all factors that should have relatively little to do with America’s skepticism of large institutions.

Read more at … http://www.vocativ.com/news/299168/americans-pray-think-heaven-is-real/

PRAYER & Creative Ideas That Foster “Spaces for Prayer” at Vintage Faith Church, Santa Cruz, Calif.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/27/15.

The following excerpt from my book, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations (Abingdon Press) describes creative ideas that encourage prayer. It looks at how Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California creates “spaces” for prayer.  These ideas can help leaders create a more robust prayer life in a church.

Chapter 5: Vintage Faith Church

The campus of Santa Cruz Bible Church seemed the antithesis of an organic church setting.  Neatly trimmed hedges embraced meandering sidewalks amid beautiful window-laden buildings. Vintage Faith Church had grown out of the college ministry of this congregation, and currently worshipped in this boomer church’s multipurpose worship gymnasium.1  I wondered how Vintage Faith could create in this utilitarian space an atmosphere engendering the mystery and wonder of God so preferred in organic milieus.

The answer arrived as I entered.  Dark curtaining surrounded me on all sides.  Vintage Faith’s simple stage was off center, and thrust into the audience.  Three large media screens were placed along a long wall, and on the ends of the auditorium were two “mood walls” where colorful yet muted images of young people lifting their hands in worship imbued this room with a 270-degree sense of expectation.  A six-foot metal cross graced the center of the stage, flanked by two candles and a large oil painting depicting a stylized cross.  And though this was a bright sunny day, the low lighting, visual images, curtaining, candles, and encompassing artwork transformed a contemporary gymnasium into a peaceful, subdued, and sacred space.2

Dashboard:

  • Church: Vintage Faith Church
  • Leaders Dan Kimball (pastor), Josh Fox (pastor of musical worship), Robert Namba (pastor of spiritual formation), Hannah Mello (director of worship arts) Kristin Culman (communications and hospitality)
  • Location Santa Cruz, California
  • Affiliation Nondenominational, though assistance is provided by Santa Cruz Bible Church.
  • Size 375-450  “That’s an estimate,” states Dan Kimball.  “We don’t count people, we count leaders”
  • Audience: Multiple generations, college students, university personnel and faculty, artists, and pre-Christians – people who are spiritually sensitive
  • Website http://www.vintagechurch.org

Let sacred spaces support your mission.

There was nothing wrong with the aesthetics of the Santa Cruz Bible Church auditorium, for it carried the feel of a conference center or a lecture hall.  A boomer predilection for such venues may be due to an emphasis on the church’s teaching role.  However, the lighting, art, mood walls, candles, prayer cove, etc. at Vintage Faith may indicate a Generation X preference for balancing head knowledge with heartfelt experience.  Vintage Faith created a powerful and encircling atmosphere of mystery, wonder, learning and supernatural encounter.

The following are some of the ways Vintage Faith creates sacred spaces.3

Curtains make the institutional feel of a multi-purpose auditorium more intimate and private.  Though Vintage Faith worships in an auditorium that will hold 700+, the encircling curtains help attendees feel they are in a private and personal encounter with God.

Prayer areas are created between the curtains and the outer walls.  Large throw pillows, candles and rugs not only create a 270-degree cocoon of prayer, but also keep prayer a focus.

A prayer cove beyond an arched trellis offers a space for extended times of prayer with intercessors.  I have observed that over time a prayer room’s proximity to the platform can wane, paralleling a distancing of prayer from centrality in a growing congregation.4  Vintage Faith avoids this, by placing their prayer cove near the stage.

Seating includes tables as well as rows of chairs.  Tables allow interaction for those desiring it, while forward facing chairs allow other attendees a degree of anonymity.

The platform was off center, so that a large cross was centered in the auditorium expressing the centrality of Jesus.  Subsequently, musicians and the lectern were not centrally located, nor the focus.

Low lighting and candles create a sense of reverence, expectation and mystery.  The candles are also “symbolic of Jesus as the light of the world,” stated Kimball.  Though lighting was raised slightly during the sermon so notes could be taken, their muted luminosity kept the focus off of the leaders, the audience and other extraneous distractions.

Two mood walls were some of the more creative elements.  To create this, the end walls of the auditorium were left bare above the eight foot high curtaining.  On the white wall above video projectors slowly and appropriately beamed images correlating to the theme of the night.  This worked remarkably well, creating a 270-degree experience (the rear wall was not utilized).

Art of diverse mediums was displayed on the stage and around the room.  Large paintings in genres ranging from classic to post-impressionism ringed the room.  In addition, congregants were encouraged to participate in interactive artwork, which during my visit included a large mosaic that would upon completion be displayed in the auditorium.

A final caveat.  These examples should serve as models to assist others in sketching their own indigenized elements.  They are not to be followed unswervingly, but rather as examples to forge a coalition between church leaders and artists.

Footnotes:

1. This multi-purpose gymnasium featured basketballs courts, a stage recessed into one wall, and a cheery, if somewhat industrial, ambiance.  Such boomer predilection for light, airy and multi-use sacred spaces seems a reaction to the builder generation’s stained glass, dark wood and inflexible worship venues

2. Vintage Faith’s goal is to have a ministry center near downtown Santa Cruz and rent a larger worship gathering space.  However, presently they are doing a remarkably adept job at creating a sacred space in a gymnasium

3. Adapted from the Vintage Faith Church bulletin, June 5, 2005.  For exhaustive ideas for creating sacred space see Dan Kimball’s helpful book written with David Crowder and Sally Morgenthaler titled Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004).

4.  See “Missteps with Prayer” in Bob Whitesel, Growth By Accident, Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Congregation, pp. 43-53