A House Of Prayer For All Nations
If you have never read Will Mancini’s book Church Unique, you need to click over to Amazon right now and order it. The premise of Mancini’s book is that God never intended for every local church to be a cookie cutter of Willowcreek, Saddleback, and Northpoint. God has a unique calling for each local church just as each member of a body has a particular role in the functioning of the overall body.
God was gracious in allowing the church that I pastor, Grace Fellowship in Katy, Texas, to stumble into our unique vision 10 years ago when we paused to do some strategic planning at our 7 year mark as a church. The more we talked and prayed about our identity as a church, the more we realized that our unique calling was tied to Isaiah 56:7 where God says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The purpose of this short article is to unpack that vision statement for you in hopes that it might inspire you to pursue your church unique.
For us, Isaiah 56:7 contains three key words that outline our purpose and strategy as a church: house, prayer, and nations. “House” is discipleship. “Prayer” is seeking God’s Presence. And “nations” is outreach.
“House” is discipleship. We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. We have two key strategies in doing this. First, expository preaching. It is our lifetime goal to walk our congregation through all 66 books of the Bible in order to allow the scalpel of God’s Word to do its work in each of our lives. Ecclesiastes was “Suburban Legends.” Colossians was “This is a Football.” Philippians was “Getting Your Joy Back.”
Our second strategy for discipleship is small groups. We have partnered with LifeWay Publishers to create sermon-based curriculum so that we can process God’s Word together in community. We think life change happens best when we gather with a small group of people who know our names and our kids’ names, who care about what is going on in our lives, and who pray for us.
“Prayer” is seeking God’s Presence. Prayer is plugging into the Vine. Prayer is knowing God intimately. This is more of a lifestyle than it is a strategy, but we have found several ministries helpful in cultivating a lifestyle of prayer in our congregation:
- Prayer Altar – After the sermon each Sunday, we invite people to come and kneel at the prayer altar railing to talk to God about what He has been talking to them about in His Word. “If you would like for one of us to pray with you, then please cup your hands like this while kneeling at the altar.”
- Yellow Sheets – Our attendance sheet is a prayer request form. Unless you check off “For Senior Pastor Only,” your prayer request will be Xeroxed and put in someone else’s bulletin next Sunday so that we can pray for each other. Last year we prayed for 23,000 requests this way.
- Prayer Blitz – The third Thursday in October every year we call every single attender of our church on the phone to pray with them.
- Quiet Time Journal – Every December we give every attender of our congregation a free journal that contains a Bible reading plan and a suggested method of praying Scripture back to God through journaling.
- Freedom and Healing Ministry – Regular opportunities to get prayed for healing and freedom.
- Prophetic Ministry – Regular opportunities to receive the ministry of encouragement, comfort, and strength.
- Audience of One – Our attempt to join with other churches in our city to try to sustain 24/7 worship and prayer. (We are one quarter of the way there.)
- Call Room – A phone prayer ministry.
- Prayer in small groups – Every small group is a prayer group.
“Nations” is outreach both local and international. Local outreach includes yoking with our local food pantry and other compassion ministries. The Church Has Left the Building is one Sunday in March where, instead of worshipping in the sanctuary, we disperse throughout our community during the prime time hours of Sunday morning and engage in over 60 compassion projects. Church in Action is a monthly opportunity to minister to the poor. But our big “nations” emphasis is unreached people groups. So far God has led us to adopt four unreached people groups: the Ban*jar, Bug*is, and Makas*ar of Indonesia and the Raj*put of India. We have told God that we will not stop giving, going, and praying until each of these unreached people groups is at least 5% Christ-followers (currently they are all less than 0.1%).
This flows very easily for me. We have found our niche in the Body of Christ. We have a unique calling and we are seeking to live it. We don’t need to duplicate everyone else. We are a church unique. We are a house of prayer for all nations. What is your church unique?
Jim Leggett is a Christ-follower, the husband of Lisa, and the father of three. A self-professed chemical engineer nerd, Jim is the founding senior pastor of Grace Fellowship UMC in Katy, Texas (www.whatisgrace.org), and the President of The Bible Seminary (www.thebibleseminary.org).