Centre Grove’s Core Prayers

Some churches have a Core Purpose. Some have Core Values. Perhaps churches should also have Core Prayers!

After writing my post on (personal) Core Prayers awhile back, it struck me that Centre Grove UMC has (community) Core Prayers. I included them in that post, but here they are again …

We didn’t intend to develop a list of core prayers, but these have stuck over the years. The list may never be complete. In fact, I wonder if “God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us!” should be a core prayer, because it is absolutely essential that we receive God’s power and favor, and live under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We want our ministry to be done with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power!

I like the idea of having a few prayers that stick so people know what’s important to God’s work among us, and pray them!

Jesus said …

I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. (Matthew 18.19, CEB)

What other prayers might be core prayers for the church?

Stretch!

What do you do when you first get up in the morning? Stretch? What do you do when you get up from sitting a long time? Stretch?

Stretching. We talk about stretching our body. We talk about stretching our mind. I wonder if we ever need to stretch our spirit.

“Stretching our mind” refers to being challenged in our thinking; expanding our thinking. “Stretching our spiritual mind” does the same thing. As we go about our day, we can be influenced by the world — by the attitudes of others, conversations of others and through media. When we read the Bible, worship together, and study God’s Word together, we stretch our minds to hear God’s voice. What does God’s Word have to say about our experiences and our cultural influences? God’s Word challenges us to think differently; for our minds to be renewed.

Physical stretching increases blood flow to the muscle. Perhaps spiritual stretching can increase our spiritual blood flow. When I think of blood flow, I think of the heart because the heart is what pumps the blood. We also refer to the heart as the seat of our emotions (i.e. “I love you with all of my heart”). Prayer, God’s Word, and worship are a few things that increase our spiritual blood flow. They stretch us by leading us to love God with all our heart. They stretch us to love with God’s love. They stretch us, challenging us to serve with compassion, and to speak in love and humility.

Physical stretching improves flexibility. Spiritually, improved flexibility means we are ready for whatever comes our way. Yes, there are surprises for life, but we serve a God who knows all things and is in control of all things. God teaches us to be more flexible, relying on him in his great power and love for us.

Lastly, one article on physical stretching says, “Don’t consider stretching a warm-up.” Morning devotions are not a warm-up. They are a solid part of starting your day and sustaining and leading you through your day! Morning devotions are the way to take God with you, acknowledging his presence with you, all the day long. Physical stretching, like any physical exercise, is a discipline. That’s why we call spiritual things like morning devotions, prayer, Bible reading and study, worship, and even serving, “spiritual disciplines.” We discipline ourselves to practice these things regularly … and we are stretched.

Let God stretch you! Perhaps you need to stand up right now and stretch your body, and at the same time stretch your spirit by saying a sentence prayer to God.

Here are four suggestions

  1. “Thank you, Jesus, for this day.”
  2. “Jesus, help me with this project, or this relationship, or this circumstance (name it before the Lord).
  3. “Thank you, God, for your great love for me; let me know your presence in my life.”
  4. God says: “I am the Lord your God.” (Introduction to Ten Commandments, Exodus 20)

Protecting Your Church

On Sunday, I challenged our church family to protect the church. I read several statements from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

Warren begins, “It is your job to protect the unity of your church.” He notes …

Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroy it, and you rip the heart out of Christ’s Body. It is the essence, the core, of how God intends for us to experience life together in his church. (161)

Unity in the Body of Christ matters. Warren contends …

Nothing on earth is more valuable to God than his church. He paid the highest price for it, and he wants it protected, especially from the devastating damage that is caused by division, conflict, and disharmony. If you are part of God’s family, it is your responsibility to protect the unity where you fellowship. (162)

Warren offers six pieces of practical advice

  1. Focus on what we have in common, not our differences.
  2. Be realistic in your expectations.
  3. Choose to encourage rather than criticize.
  4. Refuse to listen to gossip.
  5. Practice God’s method for conflict resolution. (Matthew 18.15-17)
  6. Support your pastor and leaders.

On criticism, Warren suggests, “It is always easier to stand on the sidelines and take shots at those who are serving than it is to get involved and make a contribution” (164). He writes …

The Bible calls Satan “the accuser of our brothers.” It’s the Devil’s job to blame, complain, and criticize members of God’s family. Anytime we do the same, we’re being duped into doing Satan’s work for him. (165)

Warren defines gossip as “passing on information when you are neither part of the problem nor part of the solution.” He warns, “Listening to gossip is like accepting stolen property, and it make you just as guilty of the crime” (165).

Warren concludes the chapter with the challenge, “What are you doing personally to make your church family more warm and loving?” He states …

There are many people in your community who are looking for love and a place to belong. The truth is, everyone needs and wants to be loved, and when people find a church where members genuinely love and care for one another, you would have to lock the doors to keep them away. (168)

How strong would the church be if we all took our responsibility of protecting it seriously?

Equipping Vital Congregations

At the 2015 Annual Conference of the Susquehanna Conference, I had the honor of being part of a team presentation on Equipping Vital Congregations.

The presentation was facilitated by Janet Durrwachter (First UMC, Williamsport). Other team members included Jaime Carpenter (Christ UMC, Selinsgrove) and Rev. Rich Morris (Hicks Memorial UMC, Duncansville).

Jaime talked about “Passionate Connections.” Rich reminded us, “It’s all about Jesus!” And, Janet encouraged us to “Stay the course!” My challenge was, “Reach out!”

For my 6-minute segment (plus 3-minute video testimony), I briefly shared the story of what God is doing at Centre Grove, then highlighted three elements from Acts 6

  1. Proclaim the Word!
  2. Mobilize people for ministry! (The Matthew 28 Initiative helped us; see my post, The Matthew 28 Initiative In Review)
  3. Pray to be empowered!

The session lasted one hour; my segment starts at 19 and a half minutes.

We hope and pray that leaders are encouraged to move toward greater vitality!

Every Stronghold Must Come Down!

We sang many songs in worship at Centre Grove on Sunday. Some words from “Victor’s Crown” really resonated with me …

Every high thing must come down. Every stronghold shall be broken!

We don’t want anything to prevent us from experiencing and accomplishing all that God desires!

There are spiritual forces at work. Paul writes in Ephesians 6 …

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. (Ephesians 6.10-13, NLT)

We have spiritual enemies. They are not flesh and blood. Rather, they are “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world.” They are “mighty powers in this dark world” and “evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

But, God is greater than our enemy. Jesus told Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16.18, NLT). Paul writes, “Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10.4, CEB).

If we want to be victorious, we must be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” We must “put on all of God’s armor.” We must stay connected to Jesus and “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5.17, CEB)!

If we do those things, “we (will) win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us” (Romans 8.37, CEB).

Yesterday was a pretty intense day at Centre Grove. We have a sense that some strongholds did indeed come down. If so, I truly look forward to what God will do next, in us and through us!

Please pray for us!

A Significant Moment for Centre Grove UMC

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, Centre Grove United Methodist Church celebrated 200 years. It was a significant moment!

Leonard Sweet devotes a chapter in his book, Learn to Dance the Soul Salsa, to challenging readers to “Make a Moment.” He writes …

There is one day in your life that will be your best day. There is one day in your life that will be your worst day. It’s important to know when you’re having one of life’s best moments. And worst. Landmark both.

The anniversary celebration on April 19, 2015 was a significant moment.

We sought to celebrate God’s faithfulness, God’s greatness. I remember saying more than once, “We gather, not to celebrate our greatness or our faithfulness, but to celebrate the greatness and faithfulness of our God!”

We received tremendous affirmation from our Bishop (Jeremiah Park) and District Superintendent (Kathy Kind). At times, it was a little uncomfortable, but it was affirming. We know we have some real growing edges, and we know that the vitality we’re experiencing is fragile (life and vitality always is). We know we have some work, and some growing, to do. And with God’s help, we will do it. But right now, we simply need to mark this moment!

This Sunday, we will spend some time reflecting on the significance of what God is doing in this moment. Then we will move forward. But first, we need to mark this moment. Again, it’s not our significance that we celebrate, but rather, we celebrate the significance of what God is doing in us!

May God continue to work in us and through us!

I believe he will if we will stay humble, stay hungry, and stay in tune with God!

A Prayer for Centre Grove UMC’s 200th Anniversary

Centre Grove United Methodist Church is celebrating its 200th anniversary on Sunday, April 19, 2015. I was honored to write the following prayer for the booklet we published.

A Prayer for Centre Grove

O God, thank you for loving the world so much that you gave your only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life! (John 3.16, CEB).

Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and empower us! “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord!” (lyrics, “Holy Spirit”).

You are a great and mighty God. There is “nobody beside you; there will never be anyone anything like you!” (lyrics, “Glory is Yours”).

Thank you for revealing yourself to us, and for inviting us to follow you. Thank you for sending us into the world to be your hands and feet!

Thank you for your work in and through this community over the last 200 years. Thank you for all those who have gone before us!

We confess, O Lord, that we have not always gotten it right, and that, at times, we have missed the mark. So, we pray with the psalmist …

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139.23-24, New Living Translation)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love! Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion! Wash me completely clean of my guilt; purify me from my sin! … Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me! (Psalm 51.1-2, 10, Common English Bible)

O God, give us hearts like yours. As we surrender all to you, please make us more and more like Jesus in every way!

Break our hearts for what break yours. Send us into this broken world with the hope, and the saving message, of Jesus Christ!

Do something unpredictable and uncontrollable for your honor and glory. We want your will to be done, not ours (Luke 22.42). May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6.10).

Please use us to make your name great. May Jesus be lifted high through us as we live out your mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation the world!

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Stay humble. Stay hungry. Stay in tune with God.

Centre Grove United Methodist Church Celebrates 200th Anniversary!

For more nine months, April 19, 2015 has been marked on our calendars to celebrate 200 years. Now, it’s finally here!

I love history, and church history and Methodist history, in particular, so preparing for this anniversary has been a joy. It has also been a challenge to learn more about events that are not well documented!

I will share more about the Centre Grove history in the future, but for now, I simply want to share a bit about what we have planned for this Sunday.

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, we have four events planned …

  • 9:00 a.m. Historical Reflection: Cathie Hughes, a local historian, will discuss what was happening in this part of the world 200 years ago as it was being formed. I will share what was going on in Methodism, and specifically, in this community.
  • 10:15 a.m. Worship Celebration: We are excited to welcome some former pastors back, as well as some who’ve gone into ministry from Centre Grove over the years. And, we’re extremely excited that Bishop Jeremiah Park is going to be here to preach and celebrate Holy Communion with us!
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch: We will enjoy a special lunch together.
  • 2:00 p.m. Hymn Sing & Sharing Time: The singing of hymns will be interspersed with sharing of memories by former pastors and others.

My hope and prayer is that this day will be a celebration of what God has done in and through the people called Methodist at Centre Grove (and its predecessor churches, Centre and Pleasant Grove).

God is faithful!

I am excited to be part of this historic event, and I’m truly honored to be the pastor of Centre Grove UMC for such a time as this!

Core Prayers

Are there certain things you find yourself praying over and over, such as when you pray for yourself, your family, and your ministry?

I do. I have a list of some things I pray regularly. These have become some of my core prayers.

I’m sure there is no perfect list of core prayers, and I’m sure it varies from person to person and situation to situation. That said, here are some of my core prayers.

Personal & Family

  • Wisdom
  • Love
  • Health
  • Peace & Protection
  • Strength & Energy

Leadership & Ministry

  • Wisdom & Knowledge (“Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can lead this people, because no one can govern this great people of yours without your help.” 2 Chronicles 1.10, CEB)
  • Clean Hands & Pure Heart
  • Courage
  • Clear Vision
  • Passion & Energy
  • Patience & Persistence
  • Fruit & Joy
  • Change & Transformation
  • Favor & Power

For more on praying for leadership and ministry, see A Prayer for Transformational Leadership.

On favor and power, especially for preaching, I often pray Acts 4.29 and a prayer based on some of Paul’s words …

“Lord, … enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence.” (Acts 4.29, CEB)

“Lord, please let my message and my preaching be presented, not with wise convincing words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power and with deep conviction … so that people’s faith won’t depend on human wisdom but on the power of God (based on 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 and 1 Thessalonians 1.5), for ‘God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power” (1 Corinthians 4.20).

During the course of my leadership at Centre Grove (almost 7 years, so far), four prayers have become part of our church culture …

What are some of your core prayers, for yourself and your family, and for your leadership and ministry?

What If We Prayed Before We Complained?

A few years ago, I wrote a post on The Balancing Act by Bishop Robert Schnase. Recently, I’ve been thinking about something Bishop Schnase wrote.

Bishop Schanse relayed a conversation he had with a woman, who thought churches should do a better job of caring for pastors. Bishop Schnase writes …

She said that she did not think anyone should ever be allowed to complain about a pastor unless that person was also in constant prayer for the pastor. We should all desire our pastors to succeed, to fulfill their mission, to be strong and whole and healthy, and so we should pray for them, their families, their work, and their ministry. Imagine if every time we felt annoyed, discouraged, or disappointed by a pastor, we prayed for them with even greater eagerness and sincerity. Imagine if we felt as much or more an obligation to pray for a pastor as we feel to criticize or correct a pastor.

This is important because when complaining comes from selfishness, it tears down, but when it comes from a place of prayer, it can build up.

But, it doesn’t apply only to pastors. It applies to everyone and everything in the church–every ministry, every leader, every person.

What if the whole church operated this way toward everyone and everything in the church? What if we prayed before we complained?