My congregation has two distinct districts in which we witness – the Sleat Peninsula (where we’re redeveloping a small very rural congregation) and the townships around Broadford (where we’ve been operating a sort of church re-plant). Over the last few years we have witnessed significant blessing and growth in the Sleat area. But things in Broadford have been very different. The curious thing is that both my Presbytery, and our denomination’s Home Mission Board, allowed my original posting here specifically to re-plant the Broadford church, and their expectation hasn’t changed. The Church clearly still believes there is a work to do, and we’ve taken that as a clear commission from the Lord. But while the small “core team” are still enthusiastically committed, others in the congregation are unsure about the Broadford work going on.
With a clear commission, but a congregation where some are starting to lose heart, how do we pray constructively for a “struggling” work?
Paul reminds us (in Philippians 4:6) that we are “not [to] be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Actually, we have a lot to be thankful for in relation to this work, but there is a tendency to focus on things that have not gone so well – specifically the small numbers attending, and non-existent growth over 3+ years. But that God-ward attitude is the key to understanding and praying about hard, seemingly fruitless work that God has called us to.
Last night, in a really fruitful time of Bible study and prayer, I took my congregation through 2 Corinthians 4 as we thought about this issue. Here are the notes we worked thorugh.
Please read 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.
- What does it mean (in verse 1) to have a ministry “by the mercy of God”?
- What “ministry” has God given to us?
- What does this tell us about God’s character in relation to the people we are called to witness to?
- In what ways does this make our God more worthy of adoration?
Please pray, and reflect on the following points:
- God’s character. In the Lord’s Prayer, before Jesus taught us to pray “your kingdom come” he taught us to come to God as our heavenly (hence all powerful) Father (hence caring and receptive).
- God’s grace and mercy. If God has called any of his children to a particular witness and ministry it is because God himself wishes to show his grace to those being witnessed to and ministered to. Give praise to God because in placing us in Broadford, he is showing his mercy to the people there.
Please read 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.
- Looking at verse 3, what reasons might people have to lose heart?
- Why is losing heart not legitimate for the Christian? (The point here is that losing heart because of human blindness is really a deficiency in our attitude towards God’s sovereignty, if we can say, honestly, that we have not used cunning or underhanded ways to proclaim the Gospel.)
- Thinking about context, what loss of heart might we be guilty of? What does our loss of heart say about us, and more importantly about our God, to those who might be watching us?
Please spend a few moments privately reflecting on areas where, as Christians, we have become dispirited and lost heart in God’s service. Please confess areas where God has been dishonoured:
- As our treasure. Is this lack of confidence and expectation in God worthy of him?
- As our only hope of blessing. If we, in our hearts, are lacking in a confidence in God, it is wrong to really expect anything other than discouragement.
Please read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.
- Looking at verse 7, what treasure is Paul speaking about? Where is that treasure stored?
- Thinking about our work in our context, what “clay jars” are holding this treasure? How has God’s surpassing power been displayed in this?
Please give thanks for the many things that have gone well in our work in Broadford:
- Mustard Seed Cafe. Although labour intensive, we’ve passed council inspections, and are getting on top of paperwork issues. The cafe is appreciated, helpful, and every week people have conversations that have been building relationships, and the seed is being sown.
- Services. Although attendances are small, we have double figures at a regular weekly meeting.
Supplication / Request
Please read the remainder of 2 Corinthians 4.
- What part does God play in the advance of the Church (see verses 6,7 and 14)?
- What part do we play in the advance of the Church (see verses 2 and 7, but particularly verse 13)?
Please pray for:
- God’s blessing on our words. Our words might be the Gospel (important though that is), but also in basic friendship forming too.
- God’s Spirit in our hearts. The promises of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 must be grasped by faith.