God’s dream church is both vertical and horizontal. We focus on the Horizontal Church, the “love one another” dimension. This segment offers practical suggestions on how to get things started in areas of worship, evangelism, prayer, doctrinal divisions, small groups and pastoral care.
WHY WE DON’T DEBATE: The history of the church is filled with doctrinal disputes which have divided us beyond belief. Since our focus is harmony in the body, we seek honest conversation and questions, not argument. “Be tolerant of one another, forgiving each other,… Beyond all things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.. (Col 13,14 NAS)
LET’S GET PRAYING AGAIN. We all know prayer is vital. We have experienced for ourselves and we find it in Scripture:
1. Jesus’s Example: The disciples must have been amazed by Jesus’ teaching and miracles, yet there was only one thing they asked to learn. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)
2. Apostolic Priority: When the disciples were left to complete the Lord’s work, they realized what came first: ”But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4 NAS) Jesus did a good job teaching his students.
3. Prayer gets results: If you look up the word prayer in the book of Acts you will find every time the church had a prayer meeting, they prayed with passion. faith and urgency and great things happened
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TO PRAYING TOGETHER. We can get Christians together for Bible studies, but find resistance when invited to pray together. Here are some possible obstacles and ways of getting around them.
1. Fears of Intimacy. Years ago while in leadership training at Inter Varsity’s Cedar Campus, I learned we should avoid praying one on one, cross-gender. “Prayer is very intimate,” we were told “and can lead to romantic and even sexual connections. Since then I’ve seen problems when young Christians pray together that way. Since prayer is intimate, we might find it uncomfortable. We would rather have the pastor do it for us. NUTS AND BOLTS: Small group ice breakers along the lines of the Serendipity Bible and other aids can go a long way to breaking down our intimacy barriers. When leaders in the church are vulnerable in their ministry, that also creates a good atmosphere among the flock.
2. Teach us to Pray. Some believers do not have the experience of praying, especially out loud in a group. While a young pastor, I took it upon myself to teach others how to pray. I found Rosalind Rinker’s method of Conversational prayer, a powerful tool to accomplish this. I’m sure there are others.
3. Engaging the heart. The great commandment says we are to love God with all our heart, but when we pray. is the heart fully engaged? Yesterday I was alone at our complex pool, recovering what I had let slip away: praying deeply from my heart. My intimacy with God reassured me of His love and presence to do this work. It was great! St. Paul said I will pray with my understanding and with the Spirit. When we focus on the former, it is often to the loss of the latter. Shouldn’t effective prayer involve our emotions as well as our intellect? NUTS AND BOLTS: The love required for horizontal church is impossible without being filled with God’s Spirit. We can ask Him daily, “Lord, fill me with your Spirit of love. When I shared my experience of asking to be filled with a friend, she inquired, “Aren’t we already filled with the Spirit?” I replied, “Yes, but we are leaky vessels.” She agreed completely. We believe that if we prayed with passion as we do with other things, like sports and hobbies, we might be amazed at how He would meet us.
What Can Pastors Do? A few years back my wife and I took it upon ourselves to interview pastors of churches moving in a positive direction. We wanted to know what they were doing right. We found one group of pastors in a Florida city from different denominations that met once a week on a street corner to pray for their city. What a powerful way to effect change!
Pastors might preach a series on how to pray. They may also develop classes to help believers feel comfortable praying together then ease them slowly into the experience itself.
Prayer Requests. You’ve been there, we all have. At a church gathering the leaders asks for prayer requests. Almost all of them are for sick, people often relatives and friends we do not know. Surely we can find many things to ask God for besides healing Aunt Tilly’s arthritis.
If we claim the birthright of the first church’s passion for prayer and deeper horizontal connection, we could very well experience her power as well. Then we could have our loved ones experience God’s healing
What Could We Pray For? Let’s pray for our lost neighbors and friends. Let’s pray for our church, to recover her spiritual power Let’s pray for church leaders to connect with other pastors and leaders in prayer and cooperation. Let’s pray that each of us be filled with God’s Spirit of love. We might also ask for His forgiveness for not doing a better job reaching our lost neighbors.