Body of Christ

Why Praying With Others Works

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In September, we spent some time learning about prayer and devotions as part of your “regular” Agenda at a Deacons’ Meeting. In our post “A Diaconate that Prays Together, Stays Together,” we laid out why prayer is a vital part of the ministry deacons do and how praying together can actually make a diaconate more effective. While it seems counterproductive to spend time praying instead of ‘working’, we discovered together that prayer IS work, and even better: PRAYER WORKS! Prayer helps us know God’s Will more clearly AND it increases our love – for God and for our world. (If you need a refresher or reminder of this point, take a look at our blog post from Sept. 13 before reading further!)

In our follow-up post, we talked about Praying with Expectation, aka faith. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, click here.

Prayer helps us know God’s Will more clearly and it increases our love – for God and for our world.

For our final post in this month’s theme, I want to look a little more closely at the importance of praying WITH OTHERS. Our hope at Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is that deacons will not only be a working group in our churches but will be a community of believers who love and care for one another, for the church AND for their community.

Corporate Prayer is Helpful

There’s a wonderful story in the Gospels which talks about a few friends coming together to help bring their friend to Jesus for healing. These friends were so convinced that Jesus could help their buddy out, they were going to get some face time with Rabbi if it was the last thing they did! Because of their sheer determination and faith, Jesus healed this paralyzed man – both physically AND spiritually! (See Luke 5:17-26 for the whole story.) There is something so beautiful about people coming before God in faith with a common purpose. While we are not able to physically bring our hurting friends before Christ to receive His healing touch, we can do so through PRAYER! And we know He will help them. “Prayer may be countercultural, invisible, and difficult. It’s also truly helpful.” (Megan Hill, Helped by Prayer)

Megan Hill, author of Praying Together, says it this way: “In prayer together, we join in the praises and laments and supplications of our neighbors, carrying their burdens and blessings to the throne, lending them a hand to lay them before the Lord.”

“Prayer may be countercultural, invisible, and difficult. It’s also truly helpful.”

Hill also points out, “It’s not only people who have had similar experiences who can love one another by prayer. Those who sit in comfortable pews in suburban American can pray for persecuted Christians on the other side of the world. And those who are in chains can pray for those who are free to proclaim Christ. The healthy can weep with the sick, and the sick can rejoice with the healthy. The lonely can rejoice with the married, and the married can weep with the widows. This is love.”

In his article “The Benefits of Praying Together”, Jonathan Graf reminds us that “churches that do not pray together still minister in whatever ways they can, given their resources, abilities, and sacrifices. But churches that pray together begin to see the miraculous power of God at work in their midst. It goes beyond what they can and should do into what God wants to do through them.” [emphasis mine]

“And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 

Corporate Prayer Grows our Faith 

Jonathan Graf also reminds us that “faith grows as we pray together. Here’s how it works: Maybe I personally am going through a tough time. In the midst of it, I try to pray with trust and faith, but it is difficult because I only see the issue. If I go and pray with others, however, what happens? As I listen to others pray with more faith than I have, my faith grows.” He goes on to say that the more you pray together with others, the more your faith will increase as well as the amount of miracles in your church and ministry. Which in turn will increase your faith, which will likely result in more prayer!

Think back to the friends who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof. What faith they had initially! But imagine how their faith increased when Jesus did what they hoped for and knew he was able to do! What a celebration to experience that together as a group!

Corporate Prayer Brings Unity and Understanding 

What Megan Hill says above leads us to our next point. In Matthew 18:19-20 we read, “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” While we may come to the table with different hopes, dreams, opinions, and ideas, what binds us together is that we approach Jesus together as His followers, under His lordship and in His strength, and we pray in His name alone. If Jesus is our focus when we pray, we are coming together in agreement and Jesus promises He will be there. The more we do this, the more we begin to let go of our own personal desires and dreams and start to open ourselves up to what God wants. Praying with others will always pull you away from personal preferences into what’s best for the entire body.

If this happens, faith AND ministry can truly grow!

Praying with others will always pull you away from personal preferences into what’s best for the entire body. 

Pray Without Ceasing 

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

If you haven’t done so already, we encourage diaconates to begin incorporating prayer into their monthly meetings. As we said above, diaconates will find a greater level of effectiveness when their purposes are centered more on God than on themselves and their tasks. Jessie Schut acknowledges this in her book, “Beyond the Agenda”: “We recognize that your group has an agenda to follow and tasks to accomplish. We propose that these tasks will be done more joyfully, with a greater sense of purpose, and with more satisfying results if your working group is a community of caring people who support each other. And in the process, your group will move beyond the agenda to become a model of Christ’s body here on earth.” (pg. 7)

DMC has a couple of great resources to help you incorporate prayer and scripture into your monthly meetings, even for those who feel uncomfortable or uneasy about praying in groups. Check out our Devotions in Your Diaconate handout and our Growing as a Community of Deacons brochure.

“If we are no longer centered by Jesus in prayer, it becomes harder and harder to experience Him in the people we work with. … If you want to do it long term and remain faithful in it, I think it is very important that you ‘spoil’ yourself—spend some good time with Jesus and Him alone. This is the way to prevent burn-out and to remain joyful even when you see so much suffering and pain.” Henri Nouwen

Written by: Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator

Love our resources? Want to see more? DMC is an organization that was created by deacons, for deacons and we work hard to provide timely and relevant resources so deacons can be at their best. While we are primarily funded through Diaconal Ministry Shares that churches across Canada contribute, this income alone does not cover our entire budget or allow us to expand our ministry and increase our impact.

Will you help us so we can continue to provide training and resources to deacons? 

Donate today! Every gift helps and will impact diaconates and churches across Canada as we work together to transform communities with Christ’s love!

STOP! Collaborate and Listen…

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Waaaaay back in June, we talked about Deacons at Classis & Synod. Then in July, we continued that conversation and included Community Engagement. At first glance, you may have wondered (or still wonder!) what these 2 things have in common. Well – both require Teamwork, a.k.a. COLLABORATION.

In our post dated June 11, “What’s Gonna Work? Teamwork!”, we shared some learnings from the book of Nehemiah. In chapter 3, we read about the people of Jerusalem rebuilding the damaged wall around the city. In this story, we see a beautiful picture of how the residents there worked together. They put aside their positions, their genders and even their loyalties, in order to accomplish this great feat. Priests and rulers worked alongside perfume-makers and goldsmiths. People came from other cities and regions to lend a hand. Men worked alongside women. Some repaired two sections while others simply repaired the section opposite their own homes.

As we continued sharing stories and articles on our e-Quip Diaconal Blog, we kept seeing that word and theme pop up! So, what is collaboration? For the purpose of this article, it means working with another or others on a joint project, OR something created by working with another or others. To put it more plainly: Two or more people working together towards shared goals.

While some will still poo-poo the notion of teamwork, saying it stifles ingenuity, it limits the individual’s right to pursue their own hopes and dreams, and/or it slows down progress, (I kid you not! Check out this rant, er article!), we TOTALLY DISAGREE! For those of us who profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we see it differently. Because at the end of the day, IT’S NOT ABOUT US, and it’s certainly not about our own individual needs and wants.

Ephesians 4:16 sums this up perfectly:

“[Christ] makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Just read that one more time before moving on. Teamwork is Christ’s work and when each person does their part, there is growth and health and above all, LOVE.

“[Christ] makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)

Why Teamwork WORKS!

Out of this story from Nehemiah, we drew 4 important lessons regarding teamwork and collaboration:
1. Teamwork means no one’s work was more important depending on how much they did;
2. Teamwork means we are each lending our own gifts and abilities to work toward one common goal;
3. Our positions or titles and even our gender must be put aside for the greater good AND the grander vision of what God would have us do;
4. While we often pray for prosperity and peace, hard times or calamity can be an opportunity to bring us together and make us stronger.

Steven J. Cole sums this up by saying, “To accomplish God’s purpose, we need a common vision, dedicated leaders, and willing workers who do their part.” That’s what teamwork is all about and that’s why it’s an important part in how we live out our faith and ministry to one another.

So let’s take a closer look at the 4 points listed above and find out what real teamwork and collaboration looks like and why it works:

Teamwork means no one’s work was more important depending on how much they did.

1 Corinthians 12 sums this up perfectly.

1 Now, dear brothers and sisters,[a]regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this…4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other…. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. …
18 Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body .21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

We read about this recently in the story about First CRC’s new ministry, called Opportunity to Bless (or OTB). The Brandon, Manitoba, church began this ministry after hearing about it from another local church and how it had propelled their congregation to become more outward-focussed. It’s a simple ministry with considerable potential and meaningful impact. And the best part? Everyone can participate! From donating needed items, to praying for the local organizations, to connecting more personally to the community organization they are helping (by volunteering or using their services), each person can help out in big and small ways no matter their age, gender, occupation or location!

Teamwork means we are each lending our own gifts and abilities to work toward one common goal.

When deacons gather together in Classis Chatham to talk about the future of their Diaconal Conference and how deacons can fulfill their mandate regionally, this is the Body of Christ working together. While each church can offer its own unique gifts and abilities, the deacons of this Classis are committed to loving God and loving their neighbours in tangible ways and they believe they can be better TOGETHER!

Collaboration is two or more people working together towards shared goals.

This point was also reiterated in our interview with deacon Ada Kloet, from Oakville, ON. Ada shared that her “church began to reach out by holding community dinners and a community cooking group, running a year-round food pantry, holding bible studies, being a part of a Justice Film Festival, and more. The church has discovered that collaboration in ministry helps them offer more wholistic assistance to the people they are serving. Their church really owns the ministries listed above and most are done in collaboration with other agencies in their city or region. Networking with local agencies who can assist their church not only helps the church (so they aren’t trying to do it all), but also the individual person or family receiving assistance: if someone else can do it better, let them!”

This opens up the conversation about Spiritual Gifts and passions. Within your own diaconate, each person around that table has been gifted with strengths and passions and a willingness to serve in a particular area. Take the time to discover those gifts! Harness those passions! And don’t forget to mobilize your congregation to join in! If every Deacon around your table cared only for creation and stewardship of our world, who would help inspire and animate your congregation to visit the shut-ins or work with Refugees? Ada noted the importance of encouraging one another’s passions, no matter where that may lead someone to serve. In her own church’s diaconate, one deacon there had a passion for stewardship and was led to serve in a different ministry. Try to celebrate this, instead of begrudging it!

Our positions or titles and even our gender must be put aside for the greater good AND the grander vision of what God would have us do

This point is bang on when we talk about why Deacons are needed at Classis and Synod. In God’s Kingdom, we are reminded over and over again that no talent or skill or person is greater than another. Remember 1 Corinthians 12: 5-6 above? “There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

Seating Deacons at Classis and Synod meetings helps to strengthen God’s Church, the body of Christ. The whole church is fully represented when all the offices (deacon, elder, pastor) are represented at these larger denominational gatherings. For more info on this, check out our brand new handout/resource: Top Reasons Why Deacons are Needed at Classis & Synod.

Remember, we are the BODY of Christ, working and functioning as ONE with our own special work to do (Eph. 4:16). We can’t all be an eye, or a leg, or a neck. It just wouldn’t work. And it would look SUPER silly!

While we often pray for prosperity and peace, hard times or calamity can be an opportunity to bring us together and make us stronger.

This couldn’t be seen any clearer than in the story of Meadowlands CRC in Ancaster, ON. The church and its surrounding community had been experiencing vandalism. The church brought together concerned neighbours, city politicians and police so that they could share ideas and join forces to make their community safer. They all knew the church couldn’t do it alone. Neither could the neighbours do it alone. Not even the Politicians or the Police could do it alone! It was going to take teamwork! COLLABORATION!

What started as a ‘problem’ has now become a reason for collaboration that will grow beyond solving the vandalism issue. In this story we read, “Moving forward, the church hopes to create a “community hub” for the Meadowlands neighbourhood that will gather to identify and talk about the needs for residents and to be a unified voice for safety. What an incredible story of seeking and discovering where God was at work, and then joining Him!” And the best, most interesting part? The church had been praying for a way to have ‘more in common’ with their neighbourhood and THIS was how God answered that prayer. WOW! What a wonderful reminder to keep our eyes on Jesus when the storms come our way and not pray or wish them away too quickly before He can do something great!

Collaboration at DMC

Here at DMC, we believe in Collaboration too! (Hey, we don’t just ‘talk the talk’ over here ya know!) Here are some ways we collaborate with other agencies and ministries to better serve deacons across Canada:

1. We have begun a joint, monthly e-newsletter with some diaconal friends in the US. This is being done so we can provide even more helpful resources and tools to better equip deacons and churches. A big thanks to Mr. Andy Ryskamp for his work on this;
2. While we are doing away with the annual Ancaster Day of Encouragement (DOE), we are helping various Classis and churches run regional DOE’s so they can focus on local issues and initiatives better. These events are a wonderful way for ministry leaders to encourage one another and network, reminding everyone that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
We are also working on a new venture in partnership with World Renew and Resonate Global Mission to offer larger, more specialized workshops/events across Canada for those involved in diaconate work. Stay tuned for more details!
3. We have been working diligently with Christian Stewardship Services over the past year to find and share helpful stewardship resources so that deacons can help their members serve God with the 4 T’s; Time, Trees, Talents & Treasures.
4. Each year we bring together our Operation Manna Partners for a Ministry Networking Day (MND) so they can learn, share stories and ideas, and network with one another. For many of our partners, this is a highlight for them: it not only reminds our OM partners that they, too, are not alone in the work they do, but it encourages them to be with others who have experienced some of the same joys and challenges! A new online community is also being set-up by our Regional Ministry Developers as we speak, so our OM Partners can ‘continue’ their conversations long after the MND has ended.

How About You?

Where do you see collaboration in your church and/or diaconate? In your city/neighbourhood? In your Classis? What have been the advantages? What have been the challenges? When is collaboration NOT the best way to do ministry?

Need More Help?

If your diaconate (or church) would like to begin collaborating with other local churches or agencies but you aren’t sure where to start, contact one of our Regional Ministry Developers (Tammy, Eastern Canada; Rachel, Western Canada) or your local Diaconal Ministry Developer.