Back in my youth ministry days, we used to use the phrase “Mandatory Opportunity” with our students to talk about some specific events. It wasn’t employed as a coercive term, just as a gentle reminder that there were some things that were so important that our participation in them was not optional; but we were going to look at these experiences as opportunities for something great to happen, not as burdens to be grudgingly met.
Now as a Senior Pastor, I find that I have lost the power to declare “Mandatory Opportunities” to the gathering. Sometimes I miss the old days when the other leaders and I were able to decide what was mandatory for all; instead I have to resort to persuasion, invitation and encouragement in order to convince folks to participate in truly important experiences and actions.
If I still had the ability to declare a Mandatory Opportunity for First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn, the “Let Us Pray Congregational ExperiLent” would certainly be one.
As I mentioned in the sermon on Sunday when we studied the way the early church prayed together, the church understood itself to be a movement of people who existed not for their own safety and flourishing, but who existed in order to live into the mission of God together. They were witnesses to the story of Jesus and they understood themselves to be willfully surrendered servants of the most High God. And the belief that their relationship with God was about God’s empowering them to love and serve the world, led them to pray things like, “grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness,” and “stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-20).
Between now and Easter, I want to invite you to pray like the early church prayed, to pray like Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, and to pray with a Christian friend.
We are calling this a “Congregational ExperiLent” and it is a simple invitation. From now until Easter, you are invited to
- Find a prayer partner (if you need help, let me know, we are happy to work with you to find a good fit.)
- Pray in person or by phone/video conference 2-3x/week.
- Pray for the church, pray for each other, and pray for the world.
The church has created some resources to help you. Visit http://firstpresge.org/let-us-pray/ to find all you need to begin participating in this opportunity. If you are willing to take the step to meet with another Christian and pray for these things, I am confident that God will be present with you as you gather and will be at work in your life.
So that’s all I got. An invitation, mixed with some encouragement, and a splash of persuasion. I still kinda wish I was your Youth Ministry Leader and could just make you do it because I am your ride back home from camp and I will leave you in the woods if you don’t participate. But those days are gone.
I do hope you will say yes to this invitation.