Many things have been suggested over the years. Here’s my list – these are the things I pray for:
The Manifest Presence of God. The bible tells us God is omnipresent (everywhere). We believe God is with us every time we gather. So what is this “manifest presence of God?” By that I mean that we are aware of God’s presence – that God is changing lives in such a way that there is no other explanation but God. We can do the best preaching, music, programs, architecture, and friendliness in the world. But without God it won’t amount to anything in the long run.
A Willingness to Do Hard Things. Going with the crowd is easy. Living a life indistinguishable from the world is easy. Rationalizing our own righteousness and refusing to forgive those who have hurt us? Perfectly normal. But we’re not called to be normal, we’re called to follow Jesus. Because Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who believe we are equipped to do awesome and amazing things. But most of those things aren’t easy. Many won’t be popular.
Openness to Failure. I learned a long time ago to ask a key question of each person seeking employment: ‘Tell me about some of your failures in ministry.” If they’ve never tried anything that didn’t work they don’t get the job. People matter so much to God that it is worth our while to be willing to fail if it means some might come to faith. I pray for a church full of people who are not only willing to fail, but willing to extend grace to others when they fail, so they’ll have the courage to get up and try again.
Jesus-Like Love to Rule. Jesus said, “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” He clarified this by telling us our love is to be modeled on his love. I pray for a church where people genuinely love each other, a church where when we have problems – and we will! – we have a deep enough commitment to Jesus and to each other that we are willing to work things out.
A Greater Concern to Serve than to be Served. Jesus said, “The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to lay down his life as a ransom for many.” I pray for a church that is passionate to reach out to and draw in those who are on the outside. I want a church that attracts sinners—to be a place where they see a hope for deliverance.