Bruce Johnson, What's Working for You?
Allow me to introduce you to the Sr. Pastor of Seneca Creek Community Church, Bruce Johnson. I had the opportunity to meet Bruce at a Total Access conference a year or so ago. Bruce it a stereotypical INTJ (Myers/Briggs) so he and I hit it off great. If you are not aware of the Myers/Briggs stuff, Google it to become aware. You can learn a lot more from Bruce at his blog or his church website. You can also download his latest sermons.
What’s Working for Us – The Ten Second Prayer
Jesus pretty clearly said, “My house will be called a house of prayer,” yet, for most of us, that is clearly not a reality. We’re pretty good about technology and preaching, music and drama—but when it comes to this thing called prayer, we’re often stumped about how to do it. I remember years ago, reading an article by Jim Cymbala where he made a statement about how our large churches had stopped having prayer meetings because they weren’t well attended (unlike our concerts or conferences) to which he said, “Imagine that, God can’t draw a crowd.”
I read that line nineteen years ago and it has haunted me since then. Around fifteen years ago, about the same time that Fellowship was started, I launched Seneca Creek Community Church. Back in those days, when we only had a handful of people and no money, we prayed about everything. If God didn’t come through, it was all over. Every week, life or death, hung in the balance. Would we make it or not? That was the question.
It’s now fifteen years later, and we’re now a large “comfortable” church. Yet, this summer, as I wrestled with where we are as a church, I was troubled in my spirit about the prayer life of our church. Yes, we prayed and we had the standard assortment of prayer options available—but we didn’t have a culture of prayer. So, I decided to write a 40 day devotional about prayer and organize a “40 Days of Prayer” campaign at our church for this January through March.
However, despite all of my ideas, I was still short of one simple compelling strategy to help create a culture of prayer. That is, until I asked Bob Bakke, of the Global Day of Prayer movement, what he would recommend doing to turn a church culture around. His advice was simple. “Teach your people the art of the ten second prayer. Train your staff and leaders to engage in ten second prayers on Sunday mornings. Ask them to pray for at least three people. And when people start seeing other people praying over other people in the hallway, you’ll start to see a change in your culture.” It was brilliant.
Why? Because what holds back most people from praying for others is that they think it takes a long time. It you take that excuse away, people will start to pray for others. In fact, I have jokingly told our people, “Listen, when I say ‘ten seconds’ I mean ‘ten seconds’. If the person praying for you goes for twelve seconds, feel free to slap them.” What’s been amazing, is that this simple little practice has changed the culture of our church—in just a few short weeks. Our people are praying more—including our staff.
For example, our high school pastor had a student come in to his office about two months ago to share with him that her parents were headed for a divorce. Her dad had been treating her mom poorly for some time and now it had spread to the kids. The only way out seemed to be a divorce. Our high school pastor is a “pastor” by heart and skill level so he listened and reflected and encouraged this student, but he didn’t pray for her that day. Then, after he heard me talk about the “ten second” prayer, he decided, “I need to do that more often with my students.” Shortly after that, she came in to his office again to say that things had gotten worse. However, this time he said, “Do you mind if I pray for your parents?” He then prayed a quick ten second prayer, “God, I want to ask you to restore [this student’s] parent’s marriage and that [this father] would come into a relationship with you. Amen!” That’s it—a ten second prayer. Two days later, this same student called our high school pastor and said, “You won’t believe this. Last night, my parents stayed up late into the night talking and they’ve decided to not get a divorce and to start working on their marriage.” She then said, “And I think that all happened because of the prayer we prayed together the other day.”
So, what’s working around our place these days? The art of the ten second prayer. That simple little strategy is helping us to create a healthier church culture that, I believe, better honors God. And my hope and desire is that as this practice grows, people in the communities around our church will know that they can come to Seneca Creek, any day, and have someone pray for them. You know, we started out as a church dependent upon prayer. However, somewhere along the way, we took a detour. Now, we’re getting back on track. And the change is good!
God, I now pray that you would inspire every one who reads this blog to figure out how to help their church become more of a house of prayer. In your Name I pray, Amen! That ten second prayer is catchy, isn't it?