When I was called to this church as your pastor, I was called with the express mandate to help this church in its endeavours toward becoming a “people of prayer.” It was evident from my conversations with the Board of Elders of the time, as well as the search committee that corporate prayer was a discipline that was important to this church, and it was demonstrated to me to be more than just an ideal when I was invited to join an Acts 2 Prayer meeting during my candidation weekend here at The Bridge. As a pastor, I resonated with that desire and made it a personal priority during my first three years here to breathe life and energy into corporate prayer initiatives at The Bridge, but as I broached the beginning of my fourth year, last summer, I began to question whether we were investing our energies in the right places to achieve our goal.
To be frank; participation in corporate prayer in this congregation is nowhere near where I would have hoped it would be by this point in my ministry. And our attempts at wooing people into prayer meetings at alternate times and locations dwindled and ultimately failed over a solid two-year investment of time, and Acts 2 Prayer – the crown jewel of our corporate prayer strategy has been shrinking steadily over time as people (for good or bad reasons) have chosen to occupy their Sunday evenings with alternative activities and commitments. What we have been doing no longer works in the way we want it to and so something has to change.
Since the beginning of 2017 the Board of Elders has been maintaining an ongoing dialogue about this issue and it was decided that the proper course of action was to hold a discussion forum with those who constituted the committed core of our corporate prayer strategy at the March Acts 2 Prayer meeting. That night we heard a lot from people who were passionate to see our congregation rise to become something more than it has become in the realm of corporate prayer. We heard the hearts of those who have chosen to make attending prayer meeting the highest priority in their schedules, and we also heard honest talk from those who have chosen to make other things in life higher priorities than Acts 2 Prayer, and who for that reason rarely (if ever) attend. We also heard a number of very constructive and innovative ideas about ways in which we could re-engage and equip the congregation with corporate prayer and the Board of Elders took time to listen that Sunday evening and take note of all that was shared and then spent some more time praying, discerning, and discussing what our path forward should be. And in the end, it has seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit that we should proceed down the following path:
Beginning in June of this year we are going to set aside one service per quarter (March, June, September and December) as a special service of prayer and worship. These services will deviate from our normal format and will be designed specifically to train, equip, and engage the congregation in various types of corporate prayer. The service will be led by the Elders and Pastors and will serve as our primary corporate prayer strategy at the church. It is our hope and intention that the equipping that comes from these events will help to fuel other corporate prayer times that happen in the life of the congregation – whether in small groups, prayer meetings, mentorships, music practices, or various team and committee meetings that happen throughout the year. The day and time of Acts 2 Prayer in particular was cited by a number of people as a significant hindrance to corporate prayer participation and so we hope that by focusing our main investment of time and energy during the Sunday morning worship service we will be targeting our discipleship to those very people who wouldn’t be receiving it otherwise.
What does this mean then for Acts 2 Prayer? Well that is a question that we wish to leave in your court. With the board and the pastors re-directing their energies toward our quarterly prayer services it has been decided that it would be unfair to expect them to also commit to giving leadership to Acts 2 Prayer. Those who consider this corporate prayer meeting to be a non-negotiable priority may still gather with the blessing of the board, but they will need to organize themselves and appoint someone to lead them. For the time being it will remain on the church calendar on the 4th Sunday of every month, if that changes we will notify you accordingly and then encourage you to re-deploy into other prayer opportunities available at The Bridge Church, including but not limited to, The Bridge of Hope prayer meeting Tuesdays at 9AM, or the pre-service prayer meeting Sundays at 9:45AM upstairs in room 6.
Most of all, I would like to exhort you, on behalf of the elders, to fully commit yourselves to this new prayer strategy. The way we embrace and champion prayer in these larger settings will set the tone for how prayer grows or withers in our congregation in the years to come.
Stay tuned for more news as we begin our journey next Sunday through the Psalms which will culminate on June 4th with our first quarterly prayer service.