On Prayer Walking: some practical guidance

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This past weekend, as I concluded our series on neighboring at Eastbrook, one of the application points was for us to prayer walk our neighborhoods. I realized that for some of us this may be a new concept. I was first introduced to this when I was a new disciple of Christ in high school. I came across this helpful article by Shelley Stott on prayer walking, “Prayer Walking: A Way to Pray Specifically for Our Neighborhoods.” Here is Stott’s definition of prayer walking:

Prayer walking is exactly what the words imply: walking and praying. Prayer walking has been described as “praying on site with insight.” When you hear the sounds and see the sights of a particular place, you understand better how to pray for the people in that location.

Near the end of the article, she offers some very practical advice for prayer walking:

Five Things to Remember When Prayer Walking

  1. Be alert.
    If you prayer walk with a partner, don’t get distracted by conversation with each other. It’s helpful to agree ahead of time that you will keep conversation to a minimum to keep the focus on prayer. You might want to meet beforehand or gather to debrief after your walk, but the time you set aside for prayer walking should be focused on just that.
  2. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
    Just as your five senses gather information from your surroundings, remember to keep your heart open to what the Holy Spirit is telling you as well. Perhaps you feel impressed to stop and talk to someone or to go down a new street. Listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit as you go.
  3. Be ready.
    You may encounter someone who needs prayer or is willing to engage in a spiritual conversation with you. Be ready to interact with those around you. Ask your pastor about evangelism training if you haven’t been trained already. Be willing to ask people if you can pray for them. Find out what is heavy on their heart and be ready to listen and pray. If people are not open to letting you pray right there—or if you’re not in an environment where you can openly pray because of government restrictions or persecution—you can still assure them that you will pray for them later.
  4. Be a doer.
    You can’t really learn to prayer walk unless you just do it. Even if you feel apprehensive or you don’t feel that you can wrap your mind around it, go ahead and try it. As your team debriefs, you may learn better ways to prayer walk that you can implement in your next walk. As a team, you can begin marking a map so you can see the areas you have prayer walked. But don’t stop at marking maps. Put your shoes on and put yourself in the neighborhoods.
  5. Be on the lookout for God at work.
    Make your prayer walk an opportunity for thanking the Lord. Be assured that you didn’t beat God into the neighborhood. He has been there working long before you arrived. What an awesome privilege we have to join God as he draws people to himself.

The Pastor and Evangelism: Six Freeing Approaches to Fulfilling our Evangelistic Calling

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It’s a pleasure to be a regular contributor to The Gospel Life blog. sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. My latest post dropped today: “The Pastor and Evangelism: Six Freeing Approaches to Fulfilling Our Evangelistic Calling.” Here’s an excerpt, but you can read the entire post here.

If we are honest as pastors, there are often times when we talk more about aspects of our faith than we actually live them out.

One of the areas we may feel most guilty about in our lives is the practice of evangelism. We hear the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” and many of us may feel the guilt of failing that calling in the midst of our many responsibilities, including sermon preparation, pastoral care visits, board meetings, staff leadership, and so much more.

While we must not ignore our calling to “do the work of an evangelist,” I’d like to offer us to consider six ways in which we of how we might fulfill our calling to evangelism within our ministry as pastors. I hope you find these as freeing as I did when I began to gain a bigger perspective on fulfilling my evangelistic calling…

[Read the entire post here.]

Witnesses to Hope

Over the past couple of years, I have participated in the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

In my post there today I write about the need for us as Christians to become witnesses to hope. This post came out of a lot of my own conversations and reflections upon the present moment in our world and what it looks like to be a voice and presence of hope in the time in which we live. As hopelessness rises up, we must also rise up with hopefulness.

This past year has brought wave after wave of discouraging news. Many people I encounter feel overwhelmed by increasing political incoherence, racial injustice, and global chaos, not to mention their own personal challenges. Despair rises up around us like hunger in the stomach of a famine-wracked child. If I could pick one word to encapsulate the current tone of our society it would be hopelessness.

As followers of Jesus we are called to be people of hope, and this calling is even more important in light of the entangling hopelessness of our day. In fact, our witness as Christians at this present hour will remain inadequate if we do not recapture the hope inherent in the gospel…

[Continue reading the article here.]

Patience and Personal Discipleship

Over the past couple of years, I have written for the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

My most recent post, “Patience and Personal Discipleship,” is part of a reflection on character traits, or fruit of the Spirit, and discipleship in our lives.  I was asked to write about patience, which, to be honest, would not have been my optimal character trait to write about. This is mostly because I am not naturally a patient person. I have a lot of ways I need to let God work in my life in the area of patience. But I do believe that what I wrote near the end of the piece is a truth we all need to grasp: “Perhaps now is a time to disconnect from the impatient pulse of a technologized angst in order to reconnect with the patient journey of discipleship with God.” Here’s a section from the middle of the article, which you can read in its entirety over at the Gospel Life blog.

Spiritual transformation only comes via “a long obedience in the right direction.” Paul the Apostle describes our growth as Christians as a process of growth and maturing, moving from spiritual infancy to nature adulthood, “so that the body of Christ may be built up…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).

We understand this physically, expecting babies to grow to toddlers and on to teenagers before becoming adults. Yet, somehow, we forget that this same process of growth applies to the spiritual life of discipleship. It is not something that comes quickly, but must go through a similar process of growth and maturing over time. Spiritual growth does not happen overnight, let alone in 60 seconds; instead, it must happen over a lifetime.

There is no more valuable, nor more difficult, character trait necessary in the Christian life in this regard than patience. Scripture shows both that patience is invaluable in our own lives (Prov. 19:11; Ecc. 7:8; James 5:7) and in our relationships with others (Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 3:10). Our discipleship, as a matter of fact, is a growth in which God shows forth His patience with us from start to finish (Rom. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:16). If we want to grow with God, following Jesus as our leader and Savior, then we must commit to the patient journey of discipleship over the long haul.

Within the Bible, one of the clearest pictures of this is seen in the Psalms of Ascent. This little collection of psalms was utilized for prayer and worship on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Groups of believers would journey together, caring for one another and building one another up, as they prepared to meet with God and His people in worship.

The pilgrimage journey of the Psalms of Ascent provides us with a soundtrack for the patient journey of discipleship. We need songs in our mouths and hearts, we need others to journey with, and we need lives that move steadily closer to God.

This patient journey of discipleship, and the place that patience begins to have in our lives, is often seen as a key to seeing change in the life of others (Prov. 25:15; 2 Tim. 4:2). In a culture of anxious impatience, where many have misplaced hopes of relief, a patient, peaceful community of people living daily life with God speaks louder than all sorts of religious activity.

[Read the whole blog post here.]

The Power of the Gospel to Sustain Unity

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Over the past couple of years, I have participated in the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

In my most recent post, I reflected on the intrinsic value of unity for the gospel mission of God’s people. For those who are a part of the Eastbrook Church, you will not be surprised to see some reflections on Revelation 7:9-10 work into my writing here. I firmly believe that the unity of people from every tribe, tongue and nation is both a reflection of God’s mission and an aim of God’s mission. Without this unifying power of the gospel, our mission itself loses power and becomes less effective.

In Revelation 7:9-10, we read about the heavenly scenes of worship:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

This is a picture of the end of all things, where people from around the world and every echelon of society come together around God’s throne through the saving work of Jesus Christ. As God’s people, both individually and corporately, that is the aim we must have. We should, in a sense, become a snapshot of that multiethnic Revelation 7 community here on earth. We should seek to become a 7.

But what does it mean to become a 7 as the Christian community here on earth? If Revelation 7:9-10 is a heavenly vision, then we will likely not attain it fully on earth. However, we should pursue it as if that is the end toward which we are growing.

We must be intentional about this because we will arrive at an end goal one way or another. We are either intentionally moving toward something, or unintentionally sliding toward something else. I would rather intentionally pursue becoming the heavenly vision of God.

Let me suggest three aspects of the vision of Revelation 7:0-10 that are essential for God’s unified community to live our mission and identity.

[Read the whole blog post here.]

Where the Light Shines the Brightest

where the light shines the brightest (2).pngOver the past couple of years, I have participated in the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. Every year the BGCE pulls together a resource on sharing our faith to help individuals and churches prepare for Christmas during the season of Advent. I was privileged to write for that devotional this year, and I’d encourage you to check it out here.

In the Shadow of the Cloud: Jacob

Here’s an excerpt from my latest post on the life of Jacob at the Gospel Life blog, where I am a regular contributor.

1-3One of the most famous stories in the life of Jacob is the dream he has of angels ascending and descending a stairway or ladder between heaven and earth in Genesis 28. In the midst of this dream, God reaffirms to Jacob the same promises He made with Abraham and Isaac about making a great and blessed nation from Jacob and his descendants, as well as “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:14). What is ironic about this situation is that God is affirming His promises and mission for the world even as Jacob is running away from his family after stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing by deceiving his father.

If you read through Jacob’s story, you may begin to wonder whether Jacob really belongs in the roll call of faith heroes in Hebrews 11. He deceives his father, his brother, his uncle, and his neighbors. He seems bent on his own gain. He seems to avoid direct conflict even as he seems to leave conflict in his wake. He plays favorites with his wives and his children, causing great tensions between his own family members. In one sense, Jacob is a mess.

However, if we step back for perspective and get a little bit more honest, we realize that we are not that different from Jacob. Jacob’s particular sins and weaknesses may not be ours, yet we also have our particular sins and weaknesses. We may not always see them, but others probably do.

There is another story from Jacob’s life that most of us know found in Genesis 32…
[Read the rest of the post here.]