While pastor of a church started in a rapidly growing area, Peter Moon describes how prayer and fasting led his church to a renewed sense of mission, purpose, and humility as they faced new challenges.
Three years ago, Woodlake Church was at a crossroads. Originally planted in a large subdivision southwest of Richmond, for years the church had a local focus. As Woodlake Church grew, however, it became more regional in nature, ministering to a broader community. We had to make some decisions about who we were and who God was calling us to be. This was exciting to some and challenging to others.
In a visionary move, the church purchased twenty-five acres of land, but was still unsure about any sort of move. The result was a spiritual plateau. Although vital ministry was occurring, there was the underlying and enticing sense that there could be much more.
A long-range planning team was called together to discern God’s will for Woodlake Church. This group began with what seems a novel approach to our modern world. They asked the church to take on a month of prayer and fasting. Each congregation member was asked to fast and pray for one day during the month of January. At the end of their day, they were to fill out a questionnaire asking what they thought God wanted us to do.
When the results were tallied, there was a remarkable consensus that moved the church off the fence. More importantly, the church processed a key decision spiritually, instead of looking solely to political, cultural, or financial issues. When the vote arrived, there was not just a unanimous decision but a celebration that God was going to use us in such remarkable ways.
Yet something even more powerful came out of that time of fasting. The planning team was also charged with developing a mission statement from the ideas generated by our time of prayer and fasting. We worked on it for awhile, but something just did not seem right. Many churches and businesses have found mission statements to be powerful rallying points. But as we prayed, we sensed a mission statement would not work for us. Rather than communicating boldly, and perhaps even arrogantly, who we are, we wanted our statement to communicate humbly that we are Christians who need God, who have not arrived, but who, by grace, are seeking together God’s will in Christ.
Instead of a mission statement, our church put together a “mission prayer.” As we wrote it, we wanted to communicate what we hoped God would do through us in the key areas of the church. We wanted the prayer to give some direction to the different ministries of our church. We wanted it to help members understand the purpose of our ministries. In light of our tradition, we wanted to make it Trinitarian. And, most of all, we wanted it to be something we could pray together, asking God to make us into the people of faith God would have us be. Here is the result:
Gracious Lord, by your Holy Spirit, grant us:
Worship that draws us close to you,
Witness that feeds those who hunger and thirst,
Healing that offers hope to the broken,
Discipleship that makes us like Christ, and
Stewardship that invests ourselves and resources in your kingdom.
In Christ’s name we pray,
We join together and offer this prayer at the conclusion of almost all of our five weekly worship services. Most of the congregation can recite it by heart. And, most importantly, God has answered this prayer we pray each week. The prayer has not been just words recited in worship. We have now organized, staffed, and budgeted around the five primary ministry areas of the prayer.
We have sensed the Lord’s presence in new and remarkable ways. God has drawn us in worship closer to God and one another. God has extended our witness to new urban ministries. We have seen God offering healing in the midst of many, many broken lives. Often, we think we cannot handle all the issues that come to our door, but miraculously, God has provided. We have begun several new discipleship and small group ministries in this last year that have focused more on growing in Christ than simple discussion. As with many other churches, stewardship continues to be a challenge. We are getting better, but we have a long way to go. But, each week, we are praying.…
Next month we are voting on our final plans for a very large new church facility on the new site. As before, we will begin with a church-wide time of prayer and fasting. We have learned that remarkable things happen when a church humbles itself in prayer and fasting. We are looking forward to God doing even greater things through us in the years to come!