OK, so I recently wrote a blog post challenging Christians to stand up for God within church against doctrines or teachings that go against the teachings of the Bible. But then I thought to myself – that is all very well to challenge people to “stand up” for God, but in practice what can people actually do?
And this is my answer – prayer, prayer and more prayer! I did post a status update on Facebook asking for people’s contributions, but that received absolutely no replies. For the sake of my pride, I would love to pretend that I received loads of private messages making contributions, but in truth there was absolutely nothing. I did post the same question on LinkedIn a few minutes ago. However, I believe that “prayer” is an excellent answer, and pending any additional answers, I thought I would just go ahead and write this blog post.
Now the issue is what people can practically do – but without leaving, or being divisive, or appearing to be divisive. I guess people would say “you could always leave”. However, who wants to do that, really, when you’ve already invested years into one particular church, and you have carefully cultivated friendships with members of your church, and thrown yourself wholeheartedly into one place? Not me, that’s for sure. And what if there are no other churches to go to? Then what would you do?
Without being divisive…
I am not suggesting that people should get up and write a blog (do I hear a sigh of relief?!) I am not suggesting that people should challenge their pastors. I am not suggesting that people should post provocative status updates on their Facebook wall. I have done all of those things. However, 1. I have been making decisions in real time not in any way being able to imagine or guess how things would possibly work out 2. my blog is not directed towards any one invidual church but my opinions expressed on my blog are generally expressions of dissatisfaction against the whole Black/Pentecostal Church movement 3. I strongly believe that sometimes, these things need to be explicitly stated. And frankly, no-one else is saying them 4. In the back of my mind, I guess I have myself been allergic to prayer, as I have always instead thought it would be easier to leave. Now, however, I’m thinking that prayer would actually be the better option – by far! This is convenient as it also happens to be the more biblical option!
You know why prayer is GREAT? Because it takes matters out of your own hands, and puts them back into God’s hands. Sometimes we can all say things because we are are so sure we are right – but the fact is, God IS right, God sees absolutely everything, He sees right into people’s hearts, He sees who loves Him, but is misguided, as opposed to those who don’t love Him at all. We can trust God to take the right action, where our own actions might be tainted with self, or pride, or fear, or thirst for revenge.
I sincerely think that if you find yourself in a situation where in a church Jesus does not appear to be made central, but rather other things are given His place, then you need to seriously get praying that God would take control. If despite your prayers, things appear to be getting worse, then I would suggest that you need to pray more, you need to pray harder, or you need to recruit more pray-ers so that there is collectively more prayer, until you see positive results. However, even in your prayers, you do not want to appear divisive. For instance, if there is a main prayer group, you don’t want people to think that you are establishing a rival prayer group. By all means post prayer requests on external forums. I am not here advocating dishonesty. But you must never, ever express to anyone either within the church or outside it that you think Jesus is not at the centre. Because if anyone finds out, then they will challenge you with divisive behaviour. ( Thankfully this has never happened to me, but I have quite a strong imagination, and I can see that that is exactly what would happen!) Perhaps you could phrase your prayer requests like this – “Please continue to thank God for our church xyz, and pray that He will continue to strengthen us in Him…..” So can you see that this is true, without revealing any dangerous facts? If you can’t sincerely thank God for your church as a whole, then why not think of things that you can thank God for? At the very worst, you could say “Please thank God for being God…..”
And yet, even if you do post requests on external forums, who, sincerely, is going to pray for a church as much as the members of that church? After all, the likelihood is that the friends you have requested prayer from are also desperately “thanking God for being God” in their own churches too. This is where it becomes important that you maintain positive relations with your pastor. Explain to him that you have a real heart for this church, and you know that God is at work in it (you do know this, as you are desperately praying for it!) Then say you have a real heart to see what God longs to do in this church, and you want to get a group of people praying together for it. Then ask the pastor what he would like you to pray for, how you could support him. If there is a main prayer group, then he will undoubtedly ask you to join in with it. Your aim is to find a way to get the pastor to allow you to establish a new prayer group. Perhaps you should pray before suggesting it to the pastor. Again, in the name of not being divisive, you don’t want to say anything that suggests that the current prayer offered for the church is in any way inadequate. I know from experience that in churches people tend to cling so defensively to their positions, that if there is an existing prayer coordinator, they might start to feel threatened if there is any suggestion of any extra prayer that they are not directly in control of. So frankly, you need to speak to the prayer coordinator as well. If you live far away, then this is actually a great advantage, because you could say “the main prayer meeting is a little far for some of us to get to, but we would love to be involved with the church prayer meeting…Could we hold one a little closer to home at the same time?” They will hopefully agree, especially if you ask them what prayer requests they want you to cover, and emphasise that you will submit to their authority in everything regarding this new prayer meeting.
Then once, hopefully the new prayer meeting is sanctioned, then make sure that you do indeed do everything in submission to pastor and prayer coordinator. Pray the requested prayers etc. But then you are free to also offer up the necessary prayers that “God will continue to have complete control over the church”.
If however, the pastor or prayer coordinator effectively refuse to allow you to establish any new prayer meeting, then you are in position where you would have to disobey their authority to get the necessary prayer for your church. If you can, pray more yourself or get more prayers from others, or, cunningly, establish a cross-church prayer circle where you all meet to uphold one another’s churches in prayer. If none of this works, or is viable, then I currently cannot think of any solution other than to leave – or to endure. However, if anyone can think of any workable idea, then please leave a comment!