I sat in his downtown office in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. My friend is a few years older than me, a former minister and now for many years has worked as an attorney. We will generally have lunch together once or twice a year. At these lunches, we will talk about life, God, ministry, etc. On this particular day, I had come with questions. As we finished eating, I asked him:
So how can I help our church to pray more? What do you think I can do so that we can become a more prayerful church?
His answer? "Why don't you quit trying to do something to the church? Why don't you just be a person of prayer in the body of Christ and see what happens?"
At first his answer puzzled me. After all, wasn't my desire regarding prayer in our church a good thing? Wasn't I in a leadership role? Shouldn't I do something? I then began to think about what he was saying. What he was saying sounded a lot more like Jesus than what I was thinking. After all, Jesus prayed and his closest followers saw his prayer life. They eventually said, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).
Yes, I think my friend was right. Oh I still believe that teaching about prayer is good. I still think that some may need special help with their prayer lives. But ultimately, people do not change by a leader "willing" them to change. People do not change because I make an announcement, or because I decide to present a series on prayer.
Many people ultimately change because they see in us something of Christ incarnate. They are experiencing "Christ-in-you." This happens as the Spirit of God pours out the very life of Jesus through you and me. People experience this as they are in relationship with us over a period of time and they witness who we really are.
So often, Christian leaders just wear people out. We talk. We announce. We talk more. Sure, there is a time to talk. There is a time to announce. But--what is most important as a Christian leader or a Christ follower is to be a guy (or woman) who is living an authentic life before God. That is powerful. More importantly, that is real.
I want to be there--but I'm not yet. I want to follow Jesus--but some days I don't do this very well. Yet, I think to say this is not a liability. Imperfection does not mean that ones walk with Jesus is not authentic. In fact, it may communicate authenticity.
I believe my friend is right. There is something powerful about being God's person in the setting where you find yourself. I really believe that we could lose our church buildings, our programs, our organization, our offices, etc. and still be an authentic community of faith in our cities. I believe this because the power in the church is not in these trappings. Yet, it might also shock us as to how much faith we have placed in the trappings that we are so accustomed to having.
The real power in today's church is in men and women who wake up each day intending to live as Christ-followers. As we follow Jesus, the Spirit of God, who lives in every Christian, pours the life of Jesus into us. That life is real and visible in the way we love God and love people.
This is not a lot of talk. I really believe this. Our relationships are impacted by what the Spirit is doing in us. People around us are impacted.
If Jesus had a church, I think he would keep us focused on the source of real change and the source of real power. I think he would tell Christian leaders, "Don't tell them to do anything, unless you are serious about going there first."