The ‘powerhouse’ of the church
It is often said, and rightly so, that the prayer meeting is the ‘powerhouse’ or the ‘heartbeat’ of the church. To know the true state of a local church, therefore, we look not at the Sunday morning congregation, nor at the satellite works amongst young people, children, men or women, but we examine the prayer meeting – this alone gives us a true reflection of the spiritual health of the local church.
Given that this is the case, it is a sad fact that in many situations the prayer meeting is the neglected meeting of the church. It is also evident that the problem seems to grow in proportion to the size of the church – the greater the numbers on Sunday, the fewer proportionately there are in the midweek prayer meeting. Why is this the case?
Is it that believers are not convinced of the importance of prayer? Or could it be that for most evangelical churches, we are wedded to a largely Victorian system whereby the prayer meeting must be on a Wednesday at 7.30pm?!
Here are brief accounts of how two churches have tackled this issue and known a good measure of success in increasing the proportion of members at the prayer meeting:
A city centre church in South Wales
Here is a city centre church with a large, diverse and growing congregation. Many members work till late in the evenings; a number of members have young children or are single parents who ordinarily would be excluded from the midweek prayer meeting.
To overcome some of these obstacles, the leadership have organised a pre-prayer meeting evening meal starting at about 6.30pm. Members who work late are able to come straight from work; those with young children are able to bring them to the meal; single parents are able to attend the meal – in fact it is a valuable time for fellowship in the middle of the week for all the congregation. At about 7.30pm the prayer meeting commences with a time of singing and a Bible reading to which almost all, children included, stay. When the concentrated prayer time begins, a number of the younger children are taken home, whilst many of the older children are happy to stay.
This has produced a marked increase in attendance at the meeting, introduced children to ‘the church at prayer’ and provided an additional and valuable means of fellowship.
Christ Community Church in New Albany, Mississippi
Here the main church prayer meeting is held on a Sunday morning at 10am, a crèche is available for small children whilst most of the members gather for prayer. At 10.45am the prayer meeting concludes and the members move into the morning preaching service. Following the service the church remains for a lunch together, after which there are a series of Bible classes for different age groups – folks head for home at about 2.30pm. Midweek on a Wednesday they hold a preaching service.
The advantages here are that the whole church is able to gather for prayer, none are ‘unable’ to attend. And for the preacher there is the added blessing of moving from a prayer meeting straight into a preaching service.
These are just two examples of thoughtful ways in which local churches have helped their members attend the ‘powerhouse’ or ‘heartbeat’ of the church.
Andy Christofides is the minister of St Mellons Baptist Church, Cardiff.