My pastor and I were discussing our church’s systems yesterday, defining what is a system and what is not. This conversation was generated by a publication by Nelson Searcy, Healthy Systems, Healthy Church (www.ChurchLeaderInsights.com). The concept is really pretty simple: just as the body is made up of several systems–circulatory, musculoskeletal, digestive, endocrine, etc–so is the church. We were evaluating our systems, exploring whether we define our church’s systems in the same way as Searcy and whether there are others we should add.
It was an interesting exercise, especially when the subject of prayer came up. Should we consider prayer a system? Returning to the human body metaphor, I suggested that oxygen is essential to the proper functioning of the human body. It is carried in the blood throughout the body, giving it life. While it is a major factor in the respiratory system, it is equally integral to the circulatory system, the musculoskeletal system, and so on. Yet it is not a system in and of itself.
Prayer is to the church what oxygen is to the human body. It gives life.
If we are honest, in the fast pace of ministry today it’s really a challenge to give prayer the time and space it needs, isn’t it? Case in point: Our church is tackling some tough questions regarding our location in the future. We currently meet in “borrowed space,” but the desire to have a place of our own has been surfacing repeatedly and the question begs to be answered whether it is time to begin the process of finding our own building. There are nine people on our leadership team and we are struggling to nail down a date when we can meet together for an extended time of listening prayer. Yet, without hearing from God, we can not know how to proceed.
My point is this: How is the prayer life of your church, your ministry? When is the last time you gathered together with your leaders to simply sit together and listen to God for awhile? Not just the perfunctory prayer at the beginning of a meeting. No, I mean for the entire meeting. What would it look like if each ministry area of your church engaged in such listening prayer on a regular basis? Think again of the human body and prayer as oxygen-rich blood that brings vitality to every “organ”–ministry–as it circulates through. Can you imagine the energy-producing, life-giving effect?
Nelson Searcy makes the point that good systems function under the surface to keep things running smoothly. Prayer–regular, deliberate, listening prayer–is the first step in making your systems “good.” As we begin this new year, I encourage you to evaluate the systems of your church in light of the life-giving oxygen of prayer. Sit quietly and listen. Breathe in…long, slow, deep. As you feel the rich oxygen invigorate your body, so it will be with your church.