I am more convinced than ever that the apostolic – the vision, conviction and grit to start new ministries and extend the Kingdom beyond existing boundaries – is born in prayer.
Before you say, “Ya, duh Beau” think about this:
Most ministries and people I know, including my self, are spending a lot of energy motivating, training, and coaching people into the apostolic. Not praying. Apostolic types are activists, so we naturally lean towards activating people into the doing.
We want more churches planted, we want more ministries started, we want more people taking risks for Jesus in their networks and third spaces. So what do we do?
We start church planting conferences to get them together to train, inspire, and coach them. We give them solid vision and then send them out to start that new thing. We ask them to gather their network and then we will come along and give powerful vision for what this new missional community could look like.
All of those things are great, and I have been doing and championing all of them.
But recently the Lord has been convicting me about the order I go about things.
The LA Campuses
In my effort to start ministry to fraternity and sorority students across 17 campuses in Greater Los Angeles, I have tried many things. Over the last three years we have had some success, but not nearly the kind that I want to or expect to see.
I like to think that I am apostolic in the way that I lead and carry the vision for the ministry. We don’t want just one campus that is strong and building – we want a network of campuses that have robust missional leadership teams that are pressing into the various fraternity and sorority houses bringing the good news of Jesus boldly.
This requires convicted and committed leaders. This requires that students who are in one of the most debaucherous places on campus – the Greek system – would stand for God. But not just stand for God, lead for God. This is a very weighty mantle to carry.
We are asking students to stay engaged in a very wild environment and live a pure and convicted life for Jesus, while pressing into the lives of others and leading them into encounters with Him. It is a powerful picture of a student on mission.
I don’t want a ministry of students that just attend things; I want an apostolic missional environment that sends students out into their calling to be revival leaders inside their chapters and houses. I want students that interact with God in such a way as they join our movement that they catch an anointing that allows them to lead in such a way that whole Greek chapters of 100-200 students could turn to Jesus through their leadership. I want revival to break out.
But revival doesn’t break out because we have great training, vision, coaching, motivation, or recruiting – all things that I have tried amply over the last few years.
I think this is where my leadership has fallen short.
When I find a leader that wants to start a Greek ministry or lead inside their chapter, I send them to training, or empower them to start the ministry now. Some have made it, but most have fallen. Either because they have morally fallen, or they don’t have a real sense from God about what it means to keep going. I believe they are missing apostolic vision, conviction and grit.
Apostolic Movement Is Born In PrayerOnce a month I meet up with a few InterVarsity staff in SoCal and we pray for hours about revival on campus. One of those people is Ryan Pfeiffer, the leader of InterVarsity in San Diego. Ryan and I were just talking about this yesterday with the group as God began to speak to us.
The key to unleashing apostolic and revival leaders is not more training, vision and coaching. The key is prayer.
While I am hesitant to say anything is the “key”, hang with me here.
As students assemble in prayer in a regular way to ask God for vision and conviction about where he wants them to go and press into, I believe He begins to dig them out with real anointing and favor for the task at hand. Real spiritual power and filling from the Holy Spirit is given in a way that no training or conference can give.
We meditated on just a couple of scriptures that lend itself to this:
14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. – Acts 1:14
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3
The apostolic spirit in these men and communities was born out of prayer. The impulse to go, and to send off, was developed and delivered to them in prayer by the Holy Spirit.
I am cut to the heart especially by Acts 1:14 when it says that they “joined together constantly” in prayer. This is a “no duh” kind of statement but not for the missional movement or at least where I have been in my leadership.
Prayer Before Action
I have fallen into the trap of activating people into mission because a great idea or a missional strategy is presented. Then I get them praying – if I do. There are lots of people to reach and places to plant. We just need people! So if the right people come to me that want to lead and reach their friends, I send them out. Willingly. Start meeting with me and a team of leaders and I will coach you and train you.
But this is no longer the way I will plant the network in LA. Nick, my associate, and I are planting every new ministry by calling people together in prayer for a season to let God dig out the vision and the conviction for the apostolic mission.
If students cant “meet together constantly” to pray, then they wont be able to have the grit to keep meeting together in the active mission when things get hard. Not only is prayer a place for them to hear from God – to receive his vision and conviction for mission – but prayer is also a great testing ground for young leaders. Can you meet with me for 6-8 weeks and just pray for the mission at hand?
If not, what makes you think you can actually lead a group of people for the next few years in college if they actually show up?
Again, I want to see student led ministries that are staff coached. I don’t want staff led ministries that are student attended. If this is going to be the case, we have to expect and develop students to become leaders of vision, conviction and grit. This happens in prayer around the mission.
But gathering regularly for prayer is not just the incubator for apostolic vision and conviction, it is also the regular place for grit to be formed. We have to create regular places of prayer for young planting leaders to come back to so they can bring their disappointments to God in community. Planting is filled with disappointment, surprise, and spontaneous change of direction. We need to develop in our young leaders the desire to pray and the practice of prayer so they can come back to God and community regularly and develop grit – the ability to stick with it when it gets tough and you want to quit.Let me be clear: We need excellent planting conferences, training and coaching. I think we should spend ample hours developing these things. But these must come along side of and supplement an apostolic leader that is convicted and led by God out of prayer. Prayer must be the center, and it must be the thing that is driving the mission forward.
However, I am afraid for many of us, the conferences, the coaching, and the training is what we have in the middle. If that is the case, we wont see lasting leaders, and we wont see true breakthrough and revival.
I will write more on this later, but what we are developing are “seasons” in planting and season one is the foundation of prayer – vision and conviction from God. As I develop the season and this prayer guide to lead people through, I will share it here.