Prayer exercises for a season of discernment and renewal

Week Four|Tuesday

Square Peg in a Round Hole

In the 1995 film Apollo 13 we join the astronauts and mission control crew as they work through unexpected and life threatening complications with limited resources, but unlimited imagination. Watch the following clip depicting a problem with the oxygen filter on the space craft:

How anxious did the participants seem?

Where did their story take unexpected turns?

Watch this next clip and see how the engineers discovered a creative solution:

Reflect slowly on each one of the following questions. Don’t rush. Wait for insights and journal about your thoughts.

How was a new filter formed for the space capsule? What assets were discovered and how were they re-purposed?

Who participated in the formation of a new filter and what was their role?

How were the participants re-formed by by this dilemma and its solution?

How did both planning and discovery play a role in formation?

Is planning or discovery more difficult? More rewarding? More open?

How are both planing and discovery valuable in the life of the church?

Week Three|Friday

Dream of Your Ideal Church Start: Who

Last Friday and this past Tuesday we worked on an on-going exercise where you imagined starting a new church. So far we talked about why and where. Review your thoughts on these two and revise your notes as you feel your vision evolving. Today we will imagine who.

The question of who is somewhat tied to the one of where from Tuesday, but today concentrate on the group of people that you would focus on. Describe this community of people and their needs. It might be a specific geographic community, or it might be an age range or a group with common interests or activities. Explain why there is a need for a church to this group of people.

Week Three|Thursday

Reading Our Community

Context is everything when it comes to being an engaged church. The church needs to discern with God the particular needs in the community. To fail to thoroughly contextualize your church will lead to immense frustration and potentially failure of the church itself.

According to Cameron Harder, author of Discovering the Other:

The first move in building community must be to increase our awareness of each other. We have to hunt each other, do some research, start listening. Community begins when people seek to know each other. Remember that old song, ‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’? That’s the first step in the love that binds us together.

According to another author, putting your finger to the pulse of your context is all about awareness, understanding, evaluation, experiments, and commitment. (Mark Branson. Starting Missional Churches)

As we observe our community, let’s we consider where people are, what they are doing, and how they interact with others. To truly get the pulse of our community, we must engage others with intentional conversation to discover their hopes, dreams, and needs. Your new vision will be developed after visits in the community, listening to people’s stories, and reflecting on how God can use these encounters. Contextualization is all about intersecting what God is already doing with the needs of the community around you.

Today, I would like for each of us to observe the community. Be brave. In the next day or so, seize an opportunity to share in a conversation with someone in the community that you do not already know. Listen to their story: their hopes, dreams, and needs. Get to know them as a person beyond the job or role they fill in society.

When you get home, say a prayer for that person and journal about your experience. Where have you seen God at work?

Week Three|Wednesday

Windshield Prayer

Sometime in the next day or so, go to Living Faith (map) by a different route than you normally travel. As you drive, pray for the residents and businesses you see. Pause for prayer in the parking lot. Then drive to the blue building (map) that Living Faith used to meet at and do the same. Now drive to the land that we intend to build on (map) and do the same. Drive home a different way. Meditate and journal on your experience. What do you notice about the community?  Write down what you notice.  What does this tell you about the community?  Why do you think these aspects captured your attention?


Week Three|Tuesday

Dream of Your Ideal Church Start: Where

Friday we began an exercise where you imagined starting a new church. Go back and reread your thoughts about why. Revise your notes as you feel led. Now we will imagine where.

Where do you hope to plant the church and why? Do some demographic work in the process. A lot of information can be found on the Internet: for example Census data (US Census Site) and local government pages (City of Elizabethtown). But a lot can also be learned with a drive through the neighborhood or interviews with residents. What natural borders distinguish communities? Do interstates or school districts divide areas? What other faith communities are present? Why a new church here? Have you given thought to where you would meet specifically – a church building, a home, a school, a restaurant?

Write about these ideas in your Ideal Church Plan.

Take a few minutes and pray for our community. As you go about the next day try to be extra sensitive to really seeing and hearing from the people you come in contact with.

Week Two|Friday

Dream of Your Ideal Church Start

What if we were not discerning a direction for an existing church, but discerning the shape of a brand new church? What is their was not past record of “success” or “failures?” What if all options were on the table and we were fully open to God’s dream for Christ’s church in our community? What might that church look like?

As we move forward in this process of discernment we are going to begin working on an imaginative Church Start Plan. Each week you will have the opportunity to ask some of the questions that new church starters ask before they launch a new work and to go back and revise your answers from the previous weeks.

So, take five or ten minutes and imagine what your ideal church start would like if you were to start it tomorrow. You may want to sit with your eyes closed, you may go for a walk outside, you may have a prayerful and creative conversation with a friend or family member. In either case, try to “see” this ideal church in your mind and heart.

Journal about your new church start with as much detail as possible.

This week we are focusing on Why.
In developing your church start plan, you should be explicit in laying out the 1) Mission 2) Vision and 3) Values of your new community. You may not have these perfectly crafted at this point, but begin to explain why do you want to start a church and what is the purpose for this church. Think about how your gifts and style of ministry fit with this vision.

Dedicate time to capturing all your initial ideas, but don’t be afraid to go back and add and revise your thoughts over the next several days and weeks.

Week Two|Thursday

A Conversation with Peter

Monday you read Matthew 9:35-38 and yesterday you read Acts 2:38-47. In Matthew Jesus is healing and tells his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In Acts Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, preaches and the message is met with an overwhelming response. The church community formed is intensely compassionate and deeply committed to mutual support. Can you imagine how Peter felt watching this new and remarkable work unfold before him?

Today we will practice a prayer called “colloquy.” Colloquy is an imaginative conversation with a person like a biblical figure. In colloquy you address this person directly and personally like you are talking to a close friend.

As you reflect on Peter being taught by Jesus then leading the early church, have a conversation with Peter. What would you like to know from him? About his experience? About his feelings?

Start by asking Peter a questions, then patently wait for a reply. Record your conversation in your journal like a play script.







Week Two|Wednesday


Read Acts 2:38-47

Spend some time in silent prayer and meditation over this passage. (Guide to Sacred Scripture Reading is here.)

Write down your initial thoughts about this passage.


Pray about the following questions one at a time:
1. Incorporating your ideas about yesterday’s video, why do we do what we do as the church?
2. Should the “why” be motivated by genuine compassion? What does that look like?
3. How does could a renewed vision for this church fit into the “why?”




Journal about these questions and share with your family member if you are meeting as a group.

Rest in prayerful gratitude.

As you go, allow these questions to resurface over the next day. As fresh ideas come to mind record them in your journal.