I could begin this article with another cliché about 2020, but I won’t.
Pastors are ready to move forward. Church members are ready to move forward. Indeed, it’s time to move forward.
In that light, I asked pastors a simple question on social media: “What are your prayers for your church for 2021?” I received hundreds of responses, but the answers were amazingly consistent. Here are the top seven prayers in order of frequency:
Unity in the church. Many pastors noted that 2020 has not only been a time of stress, it has been a time of stress resulting in disunity and bickering. Masks or no masks? Gather or not gather? Social distance or not? Many of the members took their complaints to social media. I wish we could devise a rule that requires members to spend twice as much time in the Bible as they do on Facebook. We might have revival.
Embracing the community. It has truly been heartwarming to see so many pastors have renewed conviction to be a gospel presence in their neighborhoods. These pastors are now praying that their church as a whole reach and minister to the community. Your church address is no accident. Your church was placed in your community to be a gospel presence.
More evangelism. One pastor put it this way, “I am not praying for our church to do more evangelism; I am praying for our church to do any evangelism.” Another pastor marveled at how far so many churches have strayed from the priority of sharing the gospel. “We have become so busy doing good things,” a pastor noted, “that we have neglected the best things.
Embracing change. A number of pastors prayed that their church members will embrace change more readily in 2021. They realize the urgency of the moment. Business as usual will result in decline or even the death of the church. Many of these pastors have experienced worship wars and other conflicts. They know major change must take place, so they are praying it will come without major conflict.
Eradication of COVID. Very few of us really expected the pandemic to last this long at this level of intensity. COVID has taken its toll on our health, on our emotions, on our marriages and families, on our businesses, and on our churches. Like all of us, pastors are ready for the pandemic to get under control.
Return of church members. “I want us all to be back together again,” a Michigan pastor commented. “I really miss a lot of my church members.” Though these pastors are realistic and know not everyone will return, they are ready for as many as possible to gather again in the worship services, groups, and ministries.
Elimination of the unnecessary activities. “One of the positive consequences of the pandemic,” a Florida pastor shared on social media, “is that we were able to see we really didn’t have to have all the programs, activities, and meetings we had. It’s my prayer that we will continue to refine our ministries and eliminate all the busyness that really did not make a difference.”
Thank you, pastors. You are on the front lines of ministry. You deserve our gratitude and not our criticisms. We pray with you for these seven prayers and many more you expressed.
Have a great Christmas, and may 2021 truly be a wonderful new year.
This article was originally published at churchanswers.com on December 10. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.