Prayer as a Smokescreen

Prayer is absolutely essential for any ministry longevity.I used to use the word “success” flippantly to describe what I one day realized was really longevity. What most of us are really aiming for is long-term fruitfulness — something that will endure for the long haul. All too often in modern Church history it is common for a flash in the pan of ministry momentum to appear. A decade later that “ministry” or “minister” is no where to be found. The unique idea the person was proclaiming is no longer spoken of.Indeed, what we are seeking after is longevity.Question 1: How do we gain longevity in life and ministry?Prayer is the beginning and the end of that which will last. It is in a life that trusts in our hearts at all times, relies upon and clings to God that is ultimately blessed. I am known by my friends as being an “idea person” or a “brainstormer” but I am quick to confess that my well of creativity, thoughts, the flow of originality would dry up in a New York minute without the stirring up of the Holy Spirit within and upon me. I lean into the Holy Spirit constantly to get ideas for outreach.

Hold that thought. Let’s switch gears for a moment.

Jesus calls us to step out of our safety zones and become extenders of his kingdom. Prayer is more often than not used as a cop out for obedience or an alternative to taking the obvious risk involved in these steps.

You do know that is what you are don’t you? You are more than anything a Kingdom Extender.

Jesus made clear it as can be in Matthew 28 on the Mount of Ascenscion when he called the original Apostles to go to the ends of the earth exporting this message — this life that he had shown them — the life he had lived before them. It was a simple enough matter. It was a matter of obedience.

Question 2: What is the greatest barrier to God’s invitation to us to export his kingdom across the span of Planet Earth?

From where I have been and what I have experienced in the last three decades of Church history it seems obvious that the greatest obstacle is “Fear of the future” or perhaps, “Fear of change.” In any case it is some form of fear. Fear stated simply is “loss of control.”

As a new believer and in a great Bible Institute in the Los Angeles area, one of the hallowed ministries that budding “spiritual giants” got involved with was the “Street Witnessing Team.” Being the incredibly shy person that I am, I felt immediately called to this outreach (that’s a joke about being shy). Long story short, a dozen of us met every single Friday evening for an entire school year from 7:00 to 10:00 PM and prayed in preparation for going out to do ministry. We prayed for everything imaginable and then some things not even a highly creative person could conceive of.

By about our Spring break it dawned on me — we were never going to actually go out to do anything. At the end of the year I was correct AND I was asked to pray and fast as to whether God might be leading me to take over as leader of this group for the upcoming school year. I told the leader, “Pray and fast about that? You may have several years on me as a believer but, pardon my French — you are a spiritual flake and are stuck in a place of fear. I love you bro, but please drop this prayer and fasting smokescreen stuff. You are confusing new believers and making outreach seem mysterious, complex and ultimately miscommunicating what Jesus clearly had in mind. I will lead the group but not because I have gone off on a prayer and fasting jag – –it is obvious I am the one to lead it. Enough said.” Of course he shook his head and said something about me learning my lesson one day…blah, blah.

The last I heard that super spiritual guy has had a string of jobs over the past 30 years from selling vacuum cleaners to used cars. I wonder if he prayed and fasted for days on end for each of those moves… He was so spiritual he was like Brer Rabbit in the midst of thorns. The only question at hand was, “How many pokes am I going to receive, hundreds or thousands?” He set himself up for punishment by his super-small confining life.

Coaching Tips:

  • Call to Action! Of course we pray our way through life, but we don’t ever use something as intimate, as powerful, as heartfelt as prayer as a synonym for human fear. It works like this, it’s really not complicated: Pray, Listen, Obey, Move Out in Boldness. The time frame for all of this happening tends to be rather fast more often than not. In some cases in my life there are issues that take weeks, some are months, and some are years. IMPORTANT: If you are surrounded by people where everything is measured at least in months if not years, reconsider your commitment to the relationship with that group. The call to live “decently and in order” is just one verse amongst 11,499 that model an activistic relationship with God.
  • Plan On The Way to Doing! Where is the balance? This may sound overboard but this is pretty much how I have operated in my day to day application of the living out of Servant Evangelism: If we have a group activity going on we get in the car or truck with serving implements and pray and plan as we drive. It’s that simple. Obviously if you have a large group of people you need to do more than that, but you get the idea. The simpler the better.
  • As you model to your people be careful how complicated you make things. Human nature is to over-prepare and over-complicate all things around us. At CoastlandTampa we will give out ziplock bags of 12 items to each person as they leave to give away to people they run into as they go their way each week. M&Ms, chewing gum, chapstick, most things run about 20 cents. Also each item has a super duper high quality connect card (four paneled) to pass along with each “seed” planted, with each invitation offered. This is done every single week, 52 weeks a year. Important: Many people will take 3 or 4 packs of these to give out during the week. It is very exciting. t is atmospheric. Just be mindful of this: Keep it super simple. Do this and you will stay on the tracks!

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Steve Sjogren

Steve Sjogren is a veteran Evangelist-Church Planter and is considered the "father of servant evangelism." He and his wife Janie have been involved directly in planting 5 churches in Los Angeles, Oslo, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. Out of those churches they have coached several dozen more outwardly focused churches into existence. Their consistent message has been connected with the message of Romans 2:4, that “the kindness of God leads to repentance.” They have found that as we serve not-yet Believers in simple but profound ways, along with verbalizing the Gospel message, in time they desire to repent and follow Jesus. They have seen many thousands go through the process of repentance and salvation. They currently lead a Free Methodist congregation in Newberg, Oregon.

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