Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you… ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all Flesh. Is anything too hard for me?’ (Jeremiah 32:17, 27)
I admit, I grew up Baptist. It’s not an earth-shaking revelation. One sit under my preaching and you’ll figure that out. Yes, there are some things I have left behind and some things I still embrace with no apology. I still find comfort in the old hymns. I don’t mind a good old hell fire and brimstone message in four points all beginning with the same letter. I still love to see folks gathered at an altar call after a chorus of Just As I Am. I now wholly embrace the antithesis on some other things legality shackled to me. I don’t mind NOT wearing suits and ties anymore. I like the freedom of seeking the Holy Spirit (no longer a “ghost”) that we barely spoke about, except to point out the flaws of Pentecostals (I’ve learned better since then).
I grew up with outreach methods that were a bit schlocky or hokey…okay, yes, laughable. In attempts to reach the lost we would add a twist of flair and prayer…the closest to a Baptist seeking an actual miracle that we mostly doubted were real (save for those crazy Pentecostals). So, it came as no surprise that my latest antics in the Kids Ministries was met with a chuckle and an accusation of falling back into my old Baptist ways. I make no apologies for this…but I see their concerns, ha.
In October my wife and I attended a conference for Kids Ministry workers through LifeWay and Gospel Project which is the curriculum we use with our kids. One of my friends is a director with the company. He has been a sort of mentor to me, he disciples me…in other words…he talks me off the ledge when I’m at my wits end. He has become a good friend through this process, a much needed one outside of my home circle. So, when Chuck spoke, I thought I’d be encouraged by my friend BUT it went deeper, the Holy Spirit spoke through him to my wife and me.
With little detail here, my friend spoke on the need for our churches to pray for not just those attending church but for those NOT attending…the EMPTY SEATS in the church. We should pray for them to be re-filled with those who use to come out. We should pray for new folk who are looking for a church to attend. We should pray for those who are sick (emphasis was put on COVID related issues) to return to health. We should pray for leaders, teachers and co-laborers that stopped coming out and helping. And in some cases, those once faithful that just simply stopped coming out to church at all. We knew someone in each category…our church had every one of those and more so. Those empty seats I remembered were no longer just empty seats. He challenged us to look at each seat as a missing person…give it a name…a face. THEN he went and did the most ridiculous thing…
He drags a seat to the center of the platform, and he tells us he is going to pray over this chair. He gets behind it, starts to pray, then kneels by it and continues his prayer naming each type of person he mentioned. Hearing the choking up in his voice, the petitioning of God to hear his prayer. Beyond the hoke, the Holy Spirit spoke. I was tearing up. I knew right then what God wanted us to do in our Kids Ministries when we got back. After the prayer I lean over to my wife…she looks at me…NO WORDS…but we both knew. I finally said “I want to do that…” She looked at me with the affirming eyes that said, “You have to do that!”
The plan was simple…and the name for it was a no brainer, Prayers for the Chairs.
We placed five chairs on the platform in the Large Group area. There was a seat from each area, each age group (Discoverers, Explorers, Adventurers and Trailblazers), and a spare chair for teachers/leaders.
The first week I was nervous and full of doubt. This was silly. This is hokey. The kids won’t get it. My leaders will not see what I’m trying to do. Our numbers were already drifting lower. I considered putting it off a week to discuss it more with my leaders. If we all agree…then…. I shared my plan with a few close to me…they kind of laughed it off as my Baptistic past rearing its silly head. A couple would chide “I remember when we use to…” and shared a ridiculous thing they did in the past. They wished me well. Fully supported yes…tongue in cheek…possibly.
Then God said, “if I told you, then you need to obey…trust and obey”. Be the Pastor that shepherds the sheep…they will follow. So, the very first Sunday back I stood behind five empty seats and shared with the kids and leaders what God asked us to do. I explained what each seat represented. I prayed over each empty seat. I called them by group name, named each type of child that would claim those seats. By faith these seats would be filled. We make sure the kids know, this is NOT about just having more kids but that more kids learn about Jesus. We want this to be about outreach and spiritual growth.
The results embarrassed this faithless man…GOD HEARD OUR PETITIONS. And I have to say…without fail…every week since we started three months ago, we have seen returning families, returning leaders, we’ve seen the sick healed and returning, we’ve seen new families, new kids, new leaders. And God has a sense of humor because right after we do this now weekly prayer, we see someone enter our Large Group Room.
Miss Steph has added bringing kids and leaders up into those seats to represent those who will return. Mr. Kyle encourages the kids to bring friends who need Jesus. Each leader who covers this prayer has made it their own to share. We have needed to ADD chairs, so each group we added their own five chairs. They have been getting filled up. We are praying to run out of chairs. And YES…I have grown-ups who have been praying that they can buy us more chairs soon.
We are seeing it make a difference in the kids too. I’ve had parents say their kids want to pray for their chairs in their home, at the dinner table, in school. We had one of our kids share Jesus right there on her bus to the kid in the seat next to her. I’ve heard of kids sharing to other kids in their seats at home on ZOOM for school.
This past week, between the two services we hit a record number of kids for a Sunday. We aren’t bragging…we are PRAISING GOD. The five chairs are still on our platform. We still pray for each one. And this week…we went over our “high” by 5 seats. ONE for each chair on the platform.
He continues to bless us and hears our prayers. The kids are seeing God move in their lives…their church. What an awesome lesson for them to learn…God listens, He hears…He answers!
1 John 5:14:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
Maybe I’m not being Baptistic…maybe I’m just being biblical in my obedience!
So, who’s up for praying for our chairs??
Be Bold, Be Blessed, Be Loved,