Intercession, Instruction, Implementation
When it comes to ministry, there are many things that the Lord has left for us to navigate using wisdom principles and the Holy Spirit. For example, should you live stream or podcast your services? Or both? Or neither? How much of discipleship should be multi-generational, and how much should be age- and stage-specific? These and many other questions have no direct answer in scripture, and that’s okay. There are other things, however, for which we do find patterns and direction in the Word, and to these we should pay close attention. As I’ve considered this particular pattern over the years, I’ve become more convinced that it provides great guiding value for approaching ministry in general. I am very grateful to Rev. Joel Van Hoogen who first brought this to my attention. Joel is a long-time C&MA pastor in the RMD and you can read further about this topic in the resources found at traincpe.org, particularly in Pathway to the Soul.
This pattern, found in many of Paul’s letters, begins with a foundation of prayer. This first step is generally more intuitive in evangelism, as we typically are moved to pray deeply for those who are lost. However, when it comes to discipleship, this work of prayer is often overlooked. This is an unfortunate mistake in at least two ways. First, if we pray that the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of the lost and draw them to Christ, why would we not continue to pray that He would then form Christ in them? Second, it stands out of order with the example that we see in Jesus (Mk 1:35; Lk 6:12, 9:18, 11:1) and Paul (Eph 1:15-21; Col 1:9-12; Phil 1:9-11; 2Ti 1:3; 1Th 1:2) who both laid a foundation of prayer before instruction (cf. Act 6:4).
Some of you may remember a popular maxim from a couple of decades ago that went something like this, “We don’t need to learn anything more, we just need to practice what we already know.” While I generally agree with the principle that knowledge needs to result in action, I would argue that we don’t really “know” something if it hasn’t made its way into our actions. The unfortunate and unintended consequence of this maxim for many is that they rushed into practice without a solid theology to guide them. Almost every scholar who has attempted to piece together a timeline of Jesus’ life and ministry will note that He spent significant time teaching His disciples before He sent them out to do ministry. Similarly, in all of Paul’s letters, doctrinal teaching always precedes practical application.
This might sound like an odd word, but I chose it carefully to serve the broadest contexts possible. Whether it’s in regard to discipleship or evangelism, there comes a time for action. The intercessory prayers, and the underpinning doctrine, have been aligned for a purpose: to implement something that brings glory to God.
The question for us, then, might be: is there an element here that doesn’t have a place in my ministry? Does your church’s evangelism strategy include intercession? Does your discipleship plan have a way to help people learn to walk out doctrine in their lives? Does your leadership rest solidly on theological truths and not merely on the popular wisdom of the day (some of which may be very good)? There is something significant in this pattern of intercession, instruction, and implementation, and I share it with you, as it was shared with me, to the end that you would enjoy fruitful labor with the Lord.
Together with you,
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