“We need to learn to pray like our lives depend on it.” I was struck by these words spoken years ago by Moses Chung, then director of Home Missions, now Mission Innovation director for Resonate. Those words have convicted me that my prayer life is not as fervent as it should be. I admit I am more comfortable with analysis, strategic five-year plans, creating new structures, and studying the Bible than with spending an hour praying. I know prayer’s utmost importance on an intellectual level, but in practice I probably underestimate its power.
That is why I was struck by synod’s prayerful atmosphere this year. There were prayers for synod before it even gathered. Our joint worship services with the Reformed Church of America synod featured times of prayer in small groups as well as video messages assuring us that our synods were being prayed for by Christians in India, Niger, Brazil, and South Korea. Many times synod paused its work to pray for various matters. I saw people praying in groups beyond these organized prayer times. I was personally involved in four impromptu occasions of praying for others and being prayed for by others, in a hallway, in a prayer room, out in the pathways, and in the parking lot. So it did not surprise me at all to hear delegate Ray Dennis, Classis Georgetown, remark that this was the most pastoral synod he has ever experienced. I believe those prayers also brought us closer in unity.
Last October, I wrote about our need for a “new reformation” (Oct. 2017). It was a call to revival and renewal. I suggested that we need to rely more on God and less on our strengths and intellect and asked us to lean into our heritage’s more flexible side, the side that is willing to get messy with the Holy Spirit, for the sake of God’s mission.
That sentiment is echoed by the Council of Delegates Report to synod, Appendix D: List of Resources re Church Renewal, Church Planting, and Evangelism Training:
The first . . . conclusion is simply that renewal for evangelism and church planting is an act of the Holy Spirit and not the application of “the correct tools” by ministry professionals. . . . The Lord must breathe life into the dry bones of his church (Ezek. 37) and give it a passion for evangelism and church planting. Such breath reinvigorates Christ’s church for mission through prayerful encounters with the Holy Spirit. The question is, Do we want it? Such a movement of renewal will be messy in our current church culture. [emphasis mine] (Agenda for Synod 2018, p. 74).
I no longer think that revival starts with getting either our theology or social activism right, as important as both of those are. Revival does not begin with us standing tall with our Bibles in one hand and either protest signs or theological tomes in the other. No. Revival begins with us humbly on our knees praying for our lives, recognizing that we cannot save ourselves or even our denomination. Because of this year’s prayerful synod, I am hopeful for the CRC.