Tag Archives: Prayer

Is there an “X Factor” that makes a church successful?

X Factor (Netherlands)

I assume you are familiar with the term “The X Factor”? Simon Cowell has helped a bit with that. By definition, it is something you can’t quite describe that makes someone or some organization special and or successful. Some might call it the Midas touch – everything they do seems to turn to gold. But is there and “X Factor” that can make a church successful? I believe there is but it is not unknown, just not always correctly identified.

  • Is it clarity of the vision?
  • Is it the quality of the leadership?
  • Is it the excellence of the programs?
  • Is it the charisma of the senior pastor?
  • Is it the quality of the preaching?
  • Is it the way the church seeks to meet the needs of its people?

All of those play a greater or lesser role in making up a good church. But the Bible is clear that ultimately none of those are “The X Factor” of the church. They are important, and God uses them, but they are not “The X Factor”. They are not what ultimately make the church successful.

Well what is it? I believe the answer lies in (amongst other passages) John 16: 5 – 16. In John 13 – 17 Jesus spends some quality teaching time with his disciples preparing them for His sacrificial and substitutionary work on the cross for the sins of the world and their sacrificial gospel mission on earth to tell the world about what Jesus has done on the cross after He returns to heaven to His Father. Jesus makes it very clear that this gospel mission will be very tough for His disciples because although they know the good they will be doing, the world won’t see it that way and will hate them for it like they did Jesus. And in fact it becomes clear that the gospel mission that Jesus sends them out on is impossible for them to accomplish. They possess no X Factor that can turn the hearts of spiritually dead people who hate Him and His disciples into people who are spiritually alive and love Jesus and His disciples and are willing to sacrificially serve the world with the good news themselves. It is going to take a miracle to change spiritually dead people into spiritually alive people. And only God can do that. And so in John 16: 5 – 16 we see (and this is the main point of this blog entry) that the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and we have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process.

So the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean we are not involved. We have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process. And how do we depend on Him? Yes we get stuck into continuing the gospel mission given to the disciples doing whatever we can to be witnessing disciples for Jesus. But we must realise that unless the Holy Spirit works, all that we are and do will not achieve what will make the church successful in its mission.

But how do we show that dependency on the Holy Spirit? Just keeping these things in mind? Yes, we must keep this in mind, but the way we show our dependence is on God the Holy Spirit to is to PRAY! A helpful definition of prayer is “expressed dependency on God”. Read Ephesians 6: 10 – 20 to get a sense of that.

So how successful do we think our church are? And what I mean by that is how many people’s lives are we seeing being changed by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through us? I suspect that while there are many good churches, there may not be too many successful churches. And I wonder if that is so because we do not pray for it to happen (as usual we have to live in the tension between God’s sovereignty and our action). But maybe we do not express to God just how dependant we are on Him for that to happen through us? Or express just how willing we are for that to happen through us? Also, however much we may pray privately and in small groups, but how often as God’s family do we pray together?

“I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.” James Hudson Taylor “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” R. A. Torrey

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten to preach.” Charles Spurgeon

Can our churches be successful? That is can we make a great gospel impact on our communities? Yes we can. Will it happen in the way we envisage it? Probably not. But one thing is for sure, if we don’t pray urgently for it we will never know!

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to pour out His power on and through us for gospel living and success. Let’s ask Him to:

  • Revive our hearts
  • Revive our families
  • Revive our churches
  • Save many in our neighborhoods, town, cities and countries through us

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A Prayer for Japan

Lord while You are always  in control of all things in ways that go beyond our minds and logic and according to your Word in a way that always works out for Your glory and the good of those who love and will love You we reel at the magnitude of this disaster. Our hearts go out to those weeping and mourning in Japan!

Orthographic Projection of Japan (green) and i...

Please help all who are helping the people of Japan to be successful in their rescuing, medical and logistical help. Please bring the nuclear threat to nothing. Please may there be no more earthquakes and tsunamis. May there be less people killed than expected. Thank you for all those that managed to escape the destruction.

Most importantly Lord, please enable Your people in Japan to be loving, comforting, influential disciple-making disciples at this time of great destruction and death. Please allow Your Holy Spirit to be an even more powerful tsunami of salvation over this whole country. Please allow Your Holy Spirit to shake and crumble the foundations of unbelief and allow Your Son Jesus to be seen as the Way of rescue and salvation. Please allow the hurting people of Japan to see that real power and love can never be shaken, washed away, shut down or explode because it is Jesus who controls all things for His glory and the good of those who love Him and will love Him even when we don’t see it like that!

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Guest blog: Ron Edmonson: 4 ways to win your husband to Christ


Man and Woman

Very helpful blog. Thanks Ron!


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Reflections on 1 Timothy – chapter 2: Right prayer and lives

The study translation Bible 2009

If we are passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman – because that is what God is passionate about (see previous two reflections below) then that will be reflected in our prayer and lives.

As we reflect on 1 Timothy 2 (probably one of the most controversial chapters in the Bible) it is important to remember the above paragraph so that we will not get unnecessarily caught up in arguments that could not be further from Paul’s mind as he pens this letter. In fact Paul writes this letter to promote unity not division. But perhaps that was easier then than now in a day when we will do seemingly anything to make the Bible say what we want it to say rather than take it for what it is saying?

Paul says that our prayer and lives must reflect God’s passion for the gospel (2: 1 – 7). God tells us to pray for all people, because of what He’s like (as we have seen in 1: 3 – 4) He wants “all people to be saved, and to come to knowledge of the truth”. We know that is why He sent Jesus to die on a cross. If our prayers are to God-honoring they’ll reflect God’s passion. That will also shape the way we live and is the great test of whether we belong to a truly God-honoring church or not. In the way we live will it focus on people being saved and then grow in their knowledge of the truth? And so in verse 2 we are not just praying for those in authority so that we can have comfortable lives… in context it means we pray for those in authority so that they will be saved, but whatever, so that we can get on with telling the gospel so that people can be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth!

Paul then turns in more practical depth to how we should pray and live by writing to the men (2: 8). His concern is what men do with their hands. And he doesn’t mean a style of singing in church but are men’s hands holy? In essence Paul is saying that with their hands men can reach out in friendship, in forgiveness and to embrace; with their hands they can express tenderness or can strike, hurt and inflict pain. So if men are to lift up their hands it must not be in ungodliness but in a way that goes with God’s passion that all be saved. Men who come to church and pray impressive prayers for the lost but have unclean hands/hearts (hypocrisy) which works against what they are praying for is what concerns Paul.

Paul then turns to how we should pray and live by writing to the women (2: 9 – 10). And as he did with men, Paul deals with the problem of outward appearance looking good but hearts that are not. It is not that Paul doesn’t want women to look pretty… it is just that their real beauty comes from a life and prayerfulness that centers on God’s passion for all people to be saved – that is what it means to worship God.

Paul then refers to how praying men and women should live their lives in relationship to each other in the family of God (2: 11 – 15). Whatever Paul means in verses 11 – 12 it doesn’t mean that women must be absolutely silent in church because that would contradict 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul says they can pray and prophecy (and whatever prophecy means here, there is some debate, it is not being silent). 1 Timothy 2 is not a command for silence in general it deals with the activity of women teaching in authority over men. And I personally don’t buy the argument that this was only applicable to a specific problem in Ephesus at the time because Paul links this command to creation (13 – 14). Although the argument as written here in my NIV looks pretty arbitrary Paul is saying that when we look back at Genesis 2 and 3, at the very way God’s made us, at our design as men and women, that ought to be reflected in our relationships in the family of God.

In other words in Genesis 2 we see that Adam and Eve have been created equal but different. Adam being first doesn’t mean that he is better than Eve, but it does give him a special responsibility as leader. Adam alone is given the command to not eat from the tree of good and evil. When in Genesis 3 we see that sin enters the world, it turns everything in God’s good creation upside down. A creature takes God’s place, saying what’s right and wrong. And Eve then takes Adam’s place and tells Adam what was said and gives him the fruit to eat. Paul’s point is not that Eve sinned and Adam didn’t. It’s about the order things were done in.

Another example of Paul’s thinking is in Ephesians 5 where the relationship between Christ and His church defines the nature of the relationship between a husband and wife… and here in 1 Timothy Paul is saying that in the household of God it is the same order.

That helps is make sense of 1 Timothy 2: 15 – it simply means that women should look at the order of things that God has ordained and follow that as a part of their faith, love and holiness.

And all of this (11 – 15) so that God can be worshipped and people come to be saved, which is God’s great passion.

So this passage is not meant to stir up controversy but to focus on God’s great passion that people be saved and grow in their knowledge of the truth. And as part of that Paul calls us to right praying and living as God intended… For modest dress, holy hands and servant leadership.

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Prayers for your day

Marshall Fields' Clock

Many people benefit from using set prayers for different life circumstances or during different times of the day. An ancient Jewish pattern of prayer is to offer oneself to God as the first thought of the day, and at day’s end. Both of these prayers focus on the idea of “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” which were Jesus’ last words on the cross, but also were the words of a common Jewish daily prayer, almost like the modern: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Perhaps you will find them useful.

A Morning Prayer

Dear Lord… As this day begins I confess that I will need you every moment. I long to know you more deeply today. Help me in what I say to other people. Give me wisdom in each decision I will make. Make love and truth the motives behind everything I do. And when I fall short, help me not to give up, but to find an extra measure of your strength. This day is your creation and your gift. I commit my body and spirit to your good purposes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

An Evening Prayer

Dear Lord…As this day ends I am glad to be able to rest in you. I believe that you are with me and that you hear my prayer. May the good things that happened today be planted deeply in the memory of my heart and shape me into a better person. Help me to learn from my mistakes and sins. Thank you for the promise of a new beginning tomorrow. Now allow me to rest in you and you alone, body, mind, heart, and soul, to awake refreshed in the goodness of your care. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mel Lawrenz
The Brook Network | Elmbrook Church

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Celtic Prayer

Prayer is the language

“O Son of God, perform a miracle for me; change my heart. You, whose crimson blood redeems mankind, whiten my heart. It is you who makes the sun bright and the ice sparkle; you who makes the rivers flow and the salmon leap. Your skilled hand makes the nut tree blossom, and the corn turn golden; your Spirit composes the songs of the birds and the buzz of the bees. Your creation is a million wondrous miracles, beautiful to behold. I ask of you just one more miracle: beautify my soul.”

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A prayer to start the work day

Lord, I’m going to work now.

My Work Space

It seems like it was just an hour ago I was waking up and getting ready to do my work. One day seems to run into the next. So I pray that today you would show me something new, teach me something new, and let me do something new that will be constructive, will help someone else, and will glorify you.

Lord, I’m going to sweat now.

It isn’t like living in the Garden of Eden. But I know that in “the field” of this world I can honor you in my work. I know that today I will face challenges and probably some frustrations. Help me know how to respond to any bad attitudes or influences I may encounter. Let me see how I can be a positive influence where I work. Sanctify my own attitude, raise me above my own fallen nature, empower me to uphold righteous values, and help me to persevere, especially when the work is hard.

Lord, I’m going to serve now.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a blessing to someone else today in the work I do. You have created this world and everybody and everything in it. Help me see how I can bring your light and life to someone else today. Grant me wisdom to make good choices throughout the day. Prompt me to be compassionate toward the unemployed and the underemployed. I want to conduct myself according to the character of Jesus. And whatever I do, I want to do it in his name and for his sake.


“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:17, 23 NIV)

Mel Lawrenz, 2010

Brook Network

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