Evangelism Ignites The Church
By Dave Butts
There’s a fascinating change taking place in the way the Church
perceives prayer. From dusty
devotions and meeting personal needs, prayer has taken center stage in our
attempts to reach the lost. Prayer
seems to have become the Divine Strategy for the completion of the task of world
evangelization. Wherever the church
is growing the most, you find the Church praying the best.
The explosion of prayer evangelism is happening in Korea, in Argentina,
in many places in Africa...and it’s beginning to happen in North America as
well. Christians are creatively
bringing together prayer and evangelism in ways that are overcoming both natural
and spiritual barriers to Christian conversion.
I think it’s important at the outset to understand that prayer evangelism is not some sort of mystical weirdness where we pray and then sit back and do nothing else. It is rather, a releasing of God’s power through prayer that is focused on overcoming barriers to evangelism and on preparing the soil of an individual’s life to receive the gospel. We pray powerful biblical prayers and then our evangelistic efforts follow, with far greater effectiveness.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this.
The New Testament speaks of the connectedness between prayer and
evangelism in a number of places. When Jesus told His followers to look around them at the
white fields (potential spiritual harvest), His first instruction to them was to
pray. “Then he said to 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’” (Matthew 9: 37-38). Later, when Jesus had given His disciples the assignment to
go to all people everywhere, teaching, preaching, baptizing and making
disciples, their first step was to have a prayer meeting.
“They all joined together
constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and
with his brothers” (Acts 1:14).
Paul wrote to Timothy that God wanted us to pray...interceding for
everyone (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Why? Because God
wants everyone saved. The New
Testament teaches us much on the power of prayer in evangelism. Somehow the Church has lost the connection.
My friend Terry Teykl of Renewal Ministries says that sometime after the
first century the great divorce occurred--the divorce between prayer and
evangelism. Prayer became
devotional and liturgical, but not very practical; while evangelism was more and
more a matter of human effort or even coercion at times.
Fortunately, this New Testament concept is being recovered as prayer and
evangelism are once again wedded together.
It’s happening in many exciting ways. One preacher in Texas asked his
congregation to turn in the names of 100 people who needed to come to Jesus.
Those names were prayed over by a trained team of intercessors and by the
end of the year 92 of those people had come to faith in Christ. This type of focused praying by those who have been
well-trained is central to effective prayer evangelism.
One way of praying for the neighborhoods around your church is an
innovative method known as prayerwalking. Christians
gather at the church building for a time of prayer and preparation.
Then they go in groups of two or three through a particular neighborhood,
walking up and down the street, praying for each house, that God would be at
work in each home. It’s done
quietly, without calling attention to those who are praying, but effectively
releasing God’s power into people’s lives.
There’s a great resource book written on the topic entitled
“Prayerwalking: Praying Onsite With Insight” by Graham Kendrick and Steve
One minister I spoke with some time ago prays for everyone in his church
by name every week. To help him remember who is who, he has put all of their
pictures on his laptop computer so that he can see their faces as he prays.
Oh, did I mention that their attendance has gone from 150 to 1300 and he
still prays for everyone by name every week!
Many churches are sending cards to homes in their neighborhood asking if
there is anything they can be praying about.
They are not asking them to come to church...not asking for money...or
advertising a special program...just wanting to know if there is any way they
can pray about what is important to them. It’s not long before such a church
is attracting people who are looking for a church that cares enough to pray.
The power of blending prayer and evangelism is not something that is
limited to local churches. Whole groups of churches and large evangelistic outreaches
are beginning to see the importance of prayer.
One of the most exciting and ambitious efforts to reach this nation for
Christ is called Mission America. Its
goal? To pray by name for every
man, woman and child in the U.S. and to present them with the gospel.
It’s a goal that no one group within the Church can do by itself.
It will take the cooperation of many organizations, fellowships and
One of the things I like about Mission America is its emphasis on local
congregational involvement and voluntary cooperation. There is no monolithic
program for everyone to buy into. It
is simply a networking of ideas and strategies with a common goal--“The whole
church taking the whole Gospel to the whole nation in this generation.”
The centerpiece of Mission America is the Lighthouse Movement.
Over one and a half million Lighthouses of Prayer have been established
in the United States with many more being added daily.
A lighthouse is any person, family or group of people who will commit to
pray, care and sensitively share Jesus Christ with their neighbors, co-workers,
schoolmates or friends as God directs.
Billy Graham has said of this effort: “The Lighthouse Movement has
brought the Body of Christ together in a way that is unique in American history.
I am praying that God will use this movement to help bring about a
massive nationwide renewal and spiritual awakening in the months ahead.”
For more information about Lighthouses of Prayer you can call toll-free:
1-800-217-5200 or check the website at: www.hopeministries.org
It is exciting to see what God is doing in the midst of His people as he
draws us to Himself in prayer. Prayer
is re-igniting the Church’s fire of evangelism as we reach out to this nation
and to the ends of the earth. “Lord,
teach us to pray...in your way...and in your
will” seems to have become the battle cry of the Church in these exciting
If you would like to read more articles by Dave Butts, please visit www.harvestprayer.com.