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The Forgotten Essential

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I know that I am taking the following sentence out of context but I think that it extends beyond just the immediate context of the passage in which it is found.

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”  (James 4:2b)

Our Lord’s brother was dealing with a situation in the churches to which he was writing but the significance of the statement goes way beyond just those situations. It applies to every church with a need that they can’t fill and a failure to ask God to fill it.

Here are five needs that small churches often have.


A lack of families with small children

I probably hear about this need more than any other that small churches have. “We are a small church with mostly older members. We have so few small children that from Sunday to Sunday we don’t even know if we will have anyone for Sunday school.”

I sympathize with those churches. It is great having children around. They bring an energy with them that can’t be found anywhere else.

There are a number of things that a church can do to attract families but it has to begin with prayer. The church needs to move from more children being a wish that they hope might happen to a heart felt prayer request that is prayed constantly by everyone in the church.

Many churches don’t have more children because they don’t ask God for more children.


A lack of teenagers

Closely related to the lack of children is a lack of youth. “We only have a couple of teenagers and that isn’t enough to run an effective youth program.”

I believe that God has called every church to impact the young people that they have rather than lamenting the fact that they don’t have more. Having said that though every small church would love to have a few more teenagers. Working with teens enables churches to impact future leaders.

Serving teenagers begins with prayer. There are a lot of other things that a church can do in order to be more appealing to youth but don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

Many churches don’t have teenagers because they don’t ask God for teenagers.


A lack of musical talent

Some small churches have talented people way out of proportion to their size. They have two or even three worship teams that can lead on Sunday mornings. Those churches should thank God every day for his provision of this important part of church life.

On the other hand, there are small churches that suffer from a severe lack of musical talent. A few years ago, I preached at three small churches in one month and all three were happier to see my wife than they were me because their only pianist was away that Sunday. It’s tough to develop worship teams when there is only one person in the church that plays a musical instrument.

I was impressed with the breadth of talent in one small church that I visited and so I asked the person who led the worship what her secret was. Without even a pause she told me that it was prayer. She said that when she first began to attend that church, there was almost no one with any musical talent. She began to pray and over time God answered and answered and answered until she had a surplus of people for her teams.

Many churches lack musicians because they don’t ask God for musicians.


A lack of leaders

Leadership is everything in a church because no church will move beyond its leaders. I’m not talking about people who are filling leadership positions because no one else will fill them. I am talking about people who have gifts that equip them for the role that they are filling. There is a lot of damage done to churches because people with no leadership ability are serving as leaders.

Rather than putting any willing body into a leadership position, I would suggest praying that God will provide real leaders, people who will bring vision and passion to their roles. Sometimes for these people to move into a leadership role someone without those qualities needs to step aside. Every church should be praying constantly for true leaders because the future of the church depends on finding them.

Many churches lack leaders because they don’t ask for leaders.


A lack of resources

One of the greatest challenges facing all small churches is that they struggle with a lack of resources of all kinds – a shortage of people, finances, talents, and facilities. It comes with being small.

When I ask people in small churches for the greatest challenge facing them, the answer is almost always something to do with a lack of resources. There are certain things that a small church can’t do because it doesn’t have enough of the essential resources to pull it off.

Again there are things that churches can do to counter this but it has to begin with prayer. Identify the resources that are needed. Be specific. Let the congregation know what is needed. Then pray – not a short prayer after the need is shared but constant, passionate, daily prayer that God will provide.

Many churches lack resources because they don’t ask specifically for the resources that they need.


A closing challenge

When I was a teenager, my church had a mid-week prayer meeting. I used to attend every week. It was the most boring and in many ways the most meaningless experience of my week. That meeting has been history for a long time. Canceling it was probably one of the best decisions that the church ever made.

The problem though in canceling that meeting was that it wasn’t replaced by anything else that gave the church an opportunity for corporate prayer. The church moved from an outdated, boring mid-week service to nothing that brought people together to pray for the needs of the church. The same thing has happened in churches all over Canada.

The result has been a serious lack of corporate prayer and the result of that has been that churches don’t have because they don’t ask.

This was James’ challenge to the church in his day and it is still a powerful challenge today. Don’t let it be said of your church:

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”

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