Beloved of Christ...
For the sake of God's glory manifest in the unity of our missional-partnership, I beg your indulgence as I speak from my heart...
For more than 16 years, I've been prayerwalking our nation as a pastor-at-large with a prophetic call to repentance-in-unity. Alongside fellow pastors, my friends and I have walked over 23,000 miles across the length-and-breadth of the land, watching God touch tens of thousands of lives across hundreds of communities nationwide.
From this unusual vantage point, I've seen much of America's spiritual landscape up close. This doesn't make me an "expert," but it has certainly broadened my perspective. So, from this fairly wide bandwidth of hand-in-hand experience with leaders throughout the greater body of Christ, here's what many of us find troubling:
Many of us, especially leaders, have few, if any, genuinely close, intimate friends. We're better at getting together than being together.
Oftentimes, we're better at commiserating about what's wrong, politically or culturally, than communicating the love of Christ. If we're not careful, we can build relationships on counterfeit unity, which is simply a shared offense...being against the same things. 1
God's promises of fruitfulness are for those who dwell daily in His presence. 2
We are the bride of Christ. Marriages require intimacy; intimacy requires privacy. Healthy married couples enjoy a lifetime of honeymoons, but many of us have
little-to-no "alone time" set aside for our heavenly Bridegroom.
Further, from our prayer-closets to the pews...
Many churches have relegated corporate prayer to a special "A-Team" of intercessors, but our agreement-in-prayer was never meant to be a "members-only" endeavor. Indeed, Body-wide fellowship in prayer is essential to the advance of the Gospel. 3
There is a pressing need for fervent prayer-leadership.
Scripture doesn't designate "intercessor" as a separate gift-office. 4 This distinction helps to avoid confusion, empowering praying churches to flourish within the secure framework of Biblical accountability.
Notwithstanding, many of my closest friends are die-hard intercessors...courageous, tenderhearted and fiercely loyal. They haven't separated themselves; they've been segregated by our prayerlessness. They're not the problem; the rest of us are.
But far more important...
...than these concerns is the breakthrough we see God bringing to whole communities, usually starting with us "reverendized" folks:
Clockwise from top-left: Our Mid-Ohio Valley family, Bishop Derek and company in Connecticut,
Kansas Statehouse, crazy pastors in Rhode Island, and my wise-guy brothers from Jersey.
We're making friends.
The word "relational" is common leader-speak, but we've started using the word "friendship" more. When we leaders break past the polite acquaintances of ministerial alliances and become real friends, look out! Cities begin to change. The regional body of Christ rises up to be the New Testament family we can only be together. These are the birth pangs of true revival.
We're repenting as His people.
When friendship-driven unity breaks through on the scene, we champion one another in genuine humility, embracing the Holy Spirit's conviction that leads to life. 5 We're all reminded that God's "if My people" promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 places the responsibility for the spiritual condition of our cities squarely on our shoulders. No more finger-pointing at everybody else. As the Church goes, so goes the nation. 6
We're praying with passion.
Every place we go, pastors and leaders share similar testimonies: That the simple, spiritually-organic experience of prayerwalking their streets together as a band of brothers (and sisters) is leaving them smitten...for their city, their calling, and even for each other, all over again.
A NATIONAL MINISTERIAL NEWSLETTER recently outlined six surefire ways to reach one's city for Christ. Somehow, working with other pastors and churches didn't make the cut. There are tons of "how to" resources about reaching the lost...but, ultimately, they won't work, unless we are one.
Or do we not believe what Jesus prayed?
May they be one just as We are one...so the world may know You have sent Me.
(From John 17:22-23 HCSB, emphasis added)
THE TENDERNESS of friendship is suffocated by the tyranny of the urgent. If we trade face-to-face fellowship for Facebook, expecting to please God without truly investing in each other, we are deceived. Loving God and loving people is a package deal. Jesus says so when He underscores the Two-Part Greatest Commandment in
Loving God, loving people...
Both or neither: Take your pick.
If you're all-in, please join us...