Friday, January 31, 2014
One of Those Problems That Shouldn't be
Every Sunday morning, I lead the congregation of Third Avenue Baptist Church in what we call a “pastoral prayer.” I pray for many things during that time—congregational events, members who are suffering, evangelistic opportunities, various officials in government, missions opportunities, and even events that have been in the nation’s headlines. The part of that prayer that elicits the most comment, however—both positive and out of sheer confusion—is when I pray for another evangelical church or two that is meeting in the city of Louisville.Are we really THAT competitive? Are our theological and ecclesiastical views so narrow? Do we have so little understanding of who we worship? Are we really THAT worldly?
Each week, I choose one or two churches and pray for their services that day. I pray for the church to be attentive to the Word of God. I pray for the pastor to speak boldly and accurately from the Bible. I pray for people to be convicted of their sin, for Christians to be encouraged in the faith, and for non-Christians to be converted. I also thank the Lord that we live in a city where we are not the only church in which the gospel is preached!
Believe it or not, the practice of praying for other churches is so rare in many Christians’ experience that many don’t know exactly how to process it. More than once during my pastorate, a visitor to Third Avenue has walked up to me with a very concerned look to express surprise that such-and-such church is having troubles. After all, why would the pastor of one church pray for another church if there weren’t serious problems afoot there?
This really bothers me. It is as if "we" are not conducting ministry, then ministry is not happening. It is as if God cannot work through any vehicle other than our group with precisely our views. Are we really that self-focused?
Christ told us to have the interest of others more important than our own. I think we are missing the boat on that one.