I love, love, love my church. My church is brimming over with some of the most godly, humble, zealous, gifted men and and women I know. And if you’ll allow me a few seconds of second-hand bragging, we really do have some seriously talented people in my church.
My friend Greg is a killer worship leader. My friend Barry can rip off a guitar solo that will melt your face. My mother-in-law Pat, along with my friends Matt and Erica (and several others I’m forgetting), have turned our children’s ministry into a finely tuned thing of beauty. A man who I won’t name (because he wouldn’t want me to) is one of the most generous men I know, and has given many thousands of dollars to our church. My friend Elaine has a sixth sense that allows her to discover and meet needs within the church. And then there’s my grandpa, who at 94 years old is still leading Bible studies. I am so grateful to God for all the men and women in our church who serve and give and live so passionately for the Lord. I want to be like them when I grow up.
But having so many talented people has one distinct downside: it can tempt us to rely on our talents and wealth rather than on the Lord. In his book The Necessity of Prayer E.M. Bounds writes (to those in my church – this is in no way a correction, just a reminder):
Many men, of this day, obtain a good report because of their money-giving, their great mental gifts and talents, but few there be who obtain a “good report” because of their great faith in God, or because of the wonderful things which are being wrought through their great praying. Today, as much as at any time, we need men of great faith and men who are great in prayer. These are the two cardinal virtues which make men great in the eyes of God, the two things which create conditions of real spiritual success in the life and work of the Church.
I’m so grateful for the talented, smart, generous men and women in my church. But talent alone isn’t enough to create true spiritual success. Talent can create a tight worship band that nails every transition and never misses a note. Talent can create a fun, vibrant, safe children’s ministry. Money can create a beautiful, comfortable church building. Money can make missions trips possible. But all the talent in the world and all the money in the world cannot create spiritual success.
A killer worship team can create a killer sound but they can’t cause a person to see the heights and depths of the love of Christ. A finely tuned children’s ministry can create a fun, cheerful atmosphere but it can’t cause a child to be born again. A pile of money can create a wonderful place to hear the preached word, but it can’t change a heart of stone. Only God himself can do that.
What my church and every other church needs more than anything else is men and women who are committed to great praying. Men and women of great faith who ask great things of God. Men and women who are regularly down on their faces before God asking him to send his Spirit in power. Without God moving nothing of truly lasting value will take place. Prayer is what transforms the Sunday music from a concert to worship. Prayer is what transforms the children’s ministry from fun to profound.
So yes, let’s pursue excellence in everything we do as a church. Let’s continue to serve and give and live with all our might. But let’s also be men and women of great prayer. Let’s ask God to do mighty things in worship, mighty things in children’s ministry, mighty things in our budgets. Prayer is what gives life to our service and talents and money. A church can’t survive on talent alone. Prayer is what accomplishes great things for God.