Mark in New York (MiNY series) - Week 1 - The Priority of Prayer and Gospel Renewal
A few of you have asked me to write a blog during my time in New York so I can share with you some of the things I am learning and experiencing.
For those who don’t know, I am currently on the Redeemer City to City International Church Planting Intensive, which is a 5 week intensive course training young leaders in establishing church plants in major cities around the world.
It is a privilege to be here not least for the experience and wisdom of those running the course, who themselves have planted many churches internationally, but also for the friendships I am forming with those on the course with me (14 of us in total), who are hoping to plant churches in N. America, S. America, Africa and Asia.
The intensive consists of classroom style training and discussion; church plant visits followed by detailed debriefs; and project presentations and preaching labs. Classroom training revolves around five main areas: Gospel Renewal, Integrative Ministry, Pastoral Leadership, Ministry Design, Church Planting.
Here are two highlights from the first week that have really struck me:
1. Pray, pray, pray
A consistent message throughout this first week is the need for prayer – daily seeking God’s will in everything – depending on him for everything – dedicating myself to a disciplined, sustained pattern of prayer for the ministry at Inspire. “If God’s not in it, why are you?”
Of course, we all know the importance of prayer but do we actually feel the need to be crying out for the Lord to be at work in our lives? Asking him to equip us for each day; emboldening us to speak up for him; softening hard hearts; thanking him for all his grace and goodness to us; confessing our sin; walking with him; asking him to teach us to pray; motivate us to pray; for ourselves and for others.
We were asked to consider ‘How will your church plant become a house of prayer?’ ‘How will you enable and motivate your church family to focus on God’s priorities in prayer rather than just our own?’ Of course, before one can lead someone else in prayer, one needs to be praying like this themselves. It was a challenge for me to think ‘How am I doing in this area?’
It is interesting that one of the three areas that the Lord has laid on our heart at Inspire for this coming year is going deeper with the Lord in prayer. Obviously, we have the monthly prayer gatherings, which we say is the most important gathering of the month. We also have the weekly prayer meetings at Jane’s. But is there more that we can do in terms of making real this daily dependence on the Lord?
I would love to hear from you: do you feel led to pray each day for God’s work in Inspire and the Old Street area? How can Pete and I better teach you to pray? How can we better model to you how to pray? And how can we just get on … and pray!
Would you pray for that now?
2. Gospel Renewal
Gospel renewal is about the need to re-apply the gospel of grace to our hearts every day. It is easy to think that pastoral ministry is all about what we need to do: pray for the church; study the Bible; lead the Bible study; prepare the sermon; preach the sermon; lead the Sunday service; eldership meeting; the one-to-one; visit the sick; take a wedding; the funeral; as well as all the pastoral care. It’s all about what we do.
But just as in the Christian life, so in Christian ministry; first and foremost it is NOT about what we do, but what Jesus Christ has done for us. And if we forget that, we will end up serving out of duty; or a desire to gain acceptance, identify, self-worth from what we are doing rather than from what we already have in Jesus Christ.
A key text for this was John 13:1-15 where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. We were asked ‘What is it that Jesus calls us to do?’ And we gave answers like: “Wash other people’s feet” “Go and do likewise” “Enter into the brokenness and strife of other peoples’ lives” “Serve others” etc. And certainly in verse 14 Jesus calls us to ‘wash one another’s feet’ and in verse 15 of giving us an ‘example’.
But before that comes verse 12. Before telling us what to do – he talks about what he has first done for us. In verse 12, Jesus asks the question: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Because grace always comes first. And this is what we forget. I’ve got to do this, do that. Serve the Lord. But unless we understand what Jesus has done for us, we can’t do it. We need to let Jesus wash our feet – then we can wash others. And we need to daily remind ourselves what Jesus has done for us – before we can hope to do likewise for others.
That is gospel renewal: reminding yourself daily how much Jesus loves us. What He has done for us. Washing our feet. Going to the cross for us. Giving his life for us. We are adopted into God’s family. We are loved. Accepted. His beloved children. We have been shown mercy. Grace upon grace. Get this … then get going. And that’s not just true for the church leader. That is true for all of us.
Do you … do I … understand what Jesus has done for us?