Exponential has a vision for a Kingdom advancing movement of multiplication through church planting. The fruit of such a movement can only happen through greater prayer along with unity amongst the Body of Christ. In order to pursue this posture of prayer and connectedness, Exponential is honored to host a monthly National Church Planter Prayer Call led by Larry Walkemeyer. Click here for more info and to join us for the next National Prayer Call on the 3rd Friday of each month.
What does unity look like?
Our initial church staff meeting of 2019 launched with an extended time of prayer. Six new staff were in attendance with sixteen others. We are a diverse group from age 22 to 62, from dropouts to Doctorates, from nine different ethnic groups, and six various denominational streams.
About an hour into our prayer time, I had a vivid image fill my mind. I saw our staff positioned on each side of a long, but triple-wide, competitive row boat. Each staff member had one hand pulling on an oar, while the other hand was raised toward the center of the boat. As my gaze followed their hands to the middle of the boat, I saw Jesus there. He was calling cadence while dancing with joy. My attention was then riveted by the astounding synchronized unity with which the staff was rowing. The boat was being vigorously propelled through the water on a vital mission. It was impressed upon me that the cause of their unity was their upraised hands to Jesus.
As I shared the vision with our staff, we continued to pray that God would bring that degree of unity not only among us but in the American Church. We were soon praying various phrases from Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
In John 17, on Good Friday eve, Jesus prays for us. His prayer touches many themes but there are four I feel are important for this moment.
Jesus prays a mobilization prayer (17:18). He prays that his disciples would be sent into the world in the same way he was – to seek and to save the lost. His disciples were saved to be missionaries to the nooks and crannies of their everyday world. We each have a unique spot on the boat we are called to fill in order to move the boat forward on her mission.
Jesus prays a multiplication prayer (17:20). His prayer reaches through the apostles gathered in the upper room to their disciples, their “grand-disciples”, their “great-grand” disciples and through the generations to us who are alive today. The expectation of his prayer is a multiplication of believers. This gospel boat is only propelled as the mission is shared with others who are equipped to row as well. We are called to pass out oars and help people find their rowing spots.
Jesus prays a unifying prayer (17:11, 21, 22, 23). His prayer was that the same kind of love he and the Father enjoyed would be shared between all his brothers and sisters. This supernatural brand of oneness in Jesus (a unity that did not deny differences but transcended them) would be the undeniable evidence that Jesus was actually Lord. Too often we fail to row together, then wonder why our progress is negligible. Our boat is often slowed or driven in confusing circles as our differences are prioritized above our mission or our Lord.
Prayer itself has the power to unite us. I am reminded of two pastors in a small town who were infamous for their bitter dispute over a certain secondary doctrine. One day a third pastor, new to the town, asked if they might pray together for an hour. Each of the quarreling pastors were too proud to decline. After an hour of prayer together, the feud was forgotten as a gospel friendship was forged. Not long after a revival broke out in their town.
Jesus prays an empowering prayer (17:11, 17, 22, 23). Jesus invokes the power of His name, the power of God’s truth, and the power of the indwelling Spirit. Jesus has just plainly stated to the disciples, “…apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our own power is incapable of moving the boat. If, however, we will take one hand off the oar and raise it in prayer to Jesus, we will find an inexplicable spiritual power thrusting us forward.
In less than a month our national Exponential conference will bring together over 5,000 church leaders of almost every denomination, nationality, and age. Our passion is to see the church row together in unity, so more disciples are made, and more churches are multiplied.
We know, however, this vision will never be realized without devoting ourselves to Jesus’ John 17 prayer. It is one reason our monthly National Prayer Gathering is of such high priority to us. We pray you can join us in prayer this Friday.