In this second article for Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit, our featured guest blogger is the Rev. Bernie McGale from Knox Church in Welland, Ontario, Canada. Pastor McGale focuses on the dynamic power of prayer in cooperation with the Holy Spirit unleashed when church leaders lead the way.
In the book, Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit, we read, “Churches are shaped by their leaders.” (p.47). At Knox Presbyterian Church, I have seen this first hand. I am convinced of the basic principle, that leaders must assume their rightful place as leaders within their congregations if the Holy Spirit is going to grow them in sharing the Gospel of Christ and expanding His Kingdom. Since the Presbyterian Church is governed by an eldership structure, it is essential that the elders, the Session, be functioning under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
The Eldership at Knox is fully committed to being a House of Prayer for the Nations. When we completed our building renovation of $250,000, the congregation was rededicated by the Presbytery as a House of Prayer. While we have taught extensively on prayer, and have established some effective prayer ministries, it is the praying Session that gives shapes to our ministry.
The Session doesn’t just offer up words of prayer, but has also learned to pray by listening. In listening prayer, our elders have begun to express their spiritual gifts in remarkable ways. Some have visions. Some are given gifts of faith to believe beyond what we can see. Others share their gifts of wisdom and discernment for engaging in spiritual warfare.
The Session meets every Saturday morning from 10:00 am until noon. We catch up on congregational news. We share a short devotion which leads us to praise the Lord in song. Next, we study together. Currently we are reading and studying the book, Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit. After all this, we engage in listening prayer. I usually open our prayer with words of thanksgiving and adoration. Then, we become still together before the Lord. After a significant time of silence, I invite the elders to share aloud what they see, hear, feel and think. We document our responses on a white board for all to see in black and white. Soon we are discerning together what the Lord is saying to us.
As a result of listening prayer, the Session has been led to make changes in our worship service. We have discerned spiritual strongholds in our congregation. The Holy Spirit has led us into new ministries. In a word, the Session is leading our congregation to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I share here two stories of our Session listening to the Holy Spirit in prayer and acting on what they hear to establish new ministries at Knox.
In 2008 one of our elders had a vision of a wheel chair accessible vehicle. As we discerned the meaning of his vision, we thought it was to be a van. This elder launched a fund raising campaign to purchase such a van. He ran the campaign for six weeks with the idea that $2500 raised would be a green light to confirm the vision. We raised $4500. A couple of months later we came across a church that was selling their wheel chair accessible bus. We approached the Church and discovered that they wanted $10,900 for the bus. Yet, they felt that the Lord wanted us to have it.
The elders of this church and their pastor gathered to pray for guidance—they went off by themselves to pray and each came back with a figure. They would sell their bus to us for $4500!
In June of 2008, we bought that wheel chair accessible bus for $4500, the exact amount of money we had raised for a van, to establish an outreach ministry for the elderly and the disabled in our community.
This was the direct result of listening prayer.
In the fall of 2009, the elders heard from the Lord that He wanted us to do a prayer walk through the neighborhood. The elders also invited members from the congregation to join us. We prayer walked our neighborhood on four consecutive Saturdays. Some elders were drawn to an elementary school to focus their prayers. Others sensed the need to tarry in prayer before an apartment building behind the school around which they perceived “some really bad feelings.” Finally, they were led to an opening in the fence around the school where they discerned some kind of evil activity. They prayed over the fence and the opening. The following month it came out, that a pedophile that was living in the apartment building behind the school, made a habit of standing at the opening in the fence with the hope of luring the school children over to him. The pedophile was arrested and relocated.
These are just a couple of examples of how the elders at Knox in Welland, Ontario, Canada, are co-operating with the Holy Spirit by the art of listening prayer. The Session’s commitment to such prayer has impacted the entire congregation. The more the elders pray, the more the members of the congregation become a praying congregation. Furthermore, the elders are now able to mentor members of their districts in listening prayer as well.
The reality is that if leaders are willing to be led by the Holy Spirit, their congregations will follow.
Rev. Bernie McGale
Knox Church, Welland, Ontario, Canada.