If you are new to Outward OPC or this series, the introduction is here (10 Things I’ve Seen: Intro).
In this series of posts, we will consider the practices of other churches that share some similarities with the OPC, though also some significant differences. With some of the examples (ten in number), we may see some ways in which their practice is inconsistent with our doctrinal commitments, but also hopefully learn from these brothers and sisters in Christ. In particular, we hope to learn more effective ways to welcome new people into the language and culture of our worship, practice, and life as a church.
Opportunity to Receive Prayer: Most of the churches that I’ve visited that are good at welcoming people have an arrangement for people to receive prayer after the service. Often they announce that men AND women will be here or there and ready to talk with you and pray.
Initial Reformed Reaction – I don’t know that there would be any objection to this one. Perhaps we haven’t thought of it or we haven’t thought through the benefits. Or maybe we just aren’t comfortable or accustomed to this type of spontaneous prayer, and see it as part of the “evangelical” church culture. I have visited about 35 OPC churches and have never heard it offered. In the types of churches we are talking about in this series, I’d say I’ve heard it offered in half to two-thirds of the churches I’ve visited.
Principle That Transfers – People in need and hurting are often surprisingly willing to have people pray for them and often very willing to open up. What more could we want? As a side note: I know some men who have very productive outreach efforts by setting up some kind of prayer station in a public area. It’s surprising how many unbelievers who are hurting will receive prayer. They may ask for things that are strange or unbiblical, but we can take such a great opportunity to pray biblically and to pray through the gospel with them.
Some important logistics:
1) The people who will pray are already in place either when the announcement is made or before any person could leave and go to that area. Don’t make people look for the place or be the first person there.
2) Location could be up front, to the sides since most people move to the back. It could be outside the sanctuary in a non-trafficked area. But keep it close and easy.
3) You need the right people hosting the prayer. I wouldn’t do a sign-up sheet. People need to have good social graces and awareness. Also, this isn’t the time to put 3 elders there. It needs to be a mix of a solo man, a couple, a solo woman so that guests can find a natural fit for who to talk to.
4) There may be many times nobody takes advantage of it. It may take some time to get momentum. You are doing it for the long haul—connecting with a few people a year in this way and opening the door for furthering the relationship with a visitor.
A connected side note: In a more informal manner, I’ve noticed a culture in these churches where when people talk to you or each other informally after the service, they are willing to pray for you on the spot. I had this happen to me and I found it very warm and welcoming. Obviously it could be off-putting to some, so you need people with social awareness. It’s far more appropriate if you have a meaningful conversation of some length or if somebody expresses a serious issue or need. But I like that instead of saying, I’ll pray for that….you do it for them right there. It shows a seriousness, a commitment, and a willingness to get outside of convention or comfort to pray. How to implement this culture isn’t as clear as the primary idea above, but maybe some would like to consider it.
We believe prayer is a vital means of grace. Maybe a nudge out of our comfort zone and shift outward in our Sunday culture will be a blessing to visitors and further our relationship with them and ministry to them. If something in this idea hits you, we’d love to hear from you—comments, questions, need more info or encouragement….send us an email directly to Outward OPC: firstname.lastname@example.org