By Shannon Youell
Over the winter, my home church in Victoria engaged in the 77 Days of Prayer Initiative with CBWC. As CBWC staff, I suggested the idea and promoted it. After all, we have been teaching, preaching and practicing corporate prayer for at least the last few years!
By corporate prayer I mean prayer that moves beyond petitionary prayer for needs and includes—as Grenz states it—a “cry for the kingdom,” for the whole purpose of God, church and discipleship.
So we invited our congregation on the journey. If your congregation is anything like ours, it is populated by a diverse group of people indoctrinated on our Western worldview of individualism and self-help. We had some reluctance and even a little push back; just a few folk who didn’t want to be told what scriptures to meditate and pray into.
The reluctance, however, was that people weren’t feeling comfortable being put into a triad or quadrad group for eleven weeks. Because they don’t know each other as well as one might imagine they would, even though we all attend the same small church. Because the pastoral staff was forming the triads. Because they felt they didn’t know how to pray, or felt they didn’t hear God even when they did. Because most of them claim to be introverts. But, we have great folk who trust us, and to our delight, more than half our congregation signed up to journey with staff and leaders.
As the weeks passed and we engaged the prayer initiative together, something began to happen. The most reluctant and sometimes resistant folk began to look forward to their weekly meeting. But what caused us to dance and sing and thank God was the byproduct: discipleship started to happen. We have been working hard to become an intentional community that makes disciples who can then make disciples by sharing Jesus with others and discipling them. But it has been hard, because, well, folk are reluctant. Reluctant because discipleship in the manner in which Jesus modeled it takes commitment, and commitment takes making changes to our own personal priorities.
I will confess that for the most part, though each group read the Scripture, prayed, listened and followed the rhythm of the 77 Days of Prayer, they didn’t report too much around what they were hearing in regards to the CBWC initiative. But they did report what God was speaking to them about life together as a community of believers who are to be sent ones, co-labouring with Christ in the kingdom-of-God initiative of on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven Shalom and disciplemaking.
Dallas Willard said that “every church should be able to answer two questions: First, what is our plan for making disciples? Second, does our plan work?” Is what we are currently doing shaping disciples who live out the gospel in such way that others are drawn to them and are discipled by them?
On this blog, we will be posting several articles and some musings about the call of the church to make disciples. I’ve heard multiple leaders contend that if we make church we rarely get disciples; but if we make disciples we always get church. What do you think?