Seven Hopes and Prayers for Sovereign Grace Churches
Recently I’ve been meditating on a verse in 1 Samuel 12 for my life, and for our lives together in Sovereign Grace Churches. The context of 1 Samuel 12 is that Samuel, who describes himself as “old and gray” (1 Samuel 12:2b, ESV), is giving his farewell address to the nation of Israel. Near the end of his discourse, Samuel says this, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24). It seems that when we consider what great things God has done for us, the effect is that we fear the Lord, and serve Him faithfully with all our heart.
With 2016 ending, take time personally, and let us take time collectively, as a family of churches, to consider “what great things God has done for us.” As I review 2016, I can say with an astonished, grateful, joy-filled heart that God has done great things for Sovereign Grace Churches. By God’s grace we have planted two churches in the New England region of the U.S., we have adopted four churches around the world, we sent missionaries to an unreached people group in Southeast Asia, we equipped 12 men in our Pastors College for pastoral ministry, one of which is planting a church in Croatia, and we continue to produce gospel-centered worship music. God has done great things for us in Sovereign Grace. But in response to His goodness to us in 2016, what will be the effect on my life, and on our lives in 2017? Will we “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully”? With Samuel’s exhortation in view, here are seven hopes and prayers I have for our family of churches in 2017.
Grow in fearing the Lord
I recently had breakfast with a pastor from Canada. During our conversation, he said, “Mark, I only wish my nation would fear God more.” I resonate with my friend’s desire because we live in a post-Christian culture where we don’t talk about the fear of the Lord the way we once did. My hope and prayer for Sovereign Grace Churches is that we would recapture the consistent biblical exhortation to “fear God” and that we would grow in fearing the Lord because it leads to us living lives that are distinct from the post-Christian culture around us. When Samuel exhorts us to fear the Lord, he is not talking about a slavish fear. Rather fearing the Lord means to revere Him and give him due respect and honor. Do our lives reflect a reverence for God? Do we give God respect and honor even amid a culture that is increasingly dismissing God? Will you pray with me, that Sovereign Grace Churches would be filled with people who fear the Lord?
Grow in holiness
In Deuteronomy, fear of God is linked to love of God, and obedience to his commandments. In other words, as we grow in fearing the Lord, we will grow in obeying Him. One of my prayers and hopes for Sovereign Grace is that we would continue to build our churches on the gospel. And as we seek to apply the gospel to our lives, my prayer is that our churches are filled with happy, holy people that reflect the power of the gospel. So, will you pray with me that we, as a family of churches, would grow in holiness in 2017? Will you pray that as we grow in holiness that our lives would be distinctly different from our culture and reflect a reverence for God alone?
Grow in serving God with all our heart
As we ponder the great things God has done for us, Samuel says that we will not only fear the Lord but that we will also “serve him faithfully with all our heart.” As I travel to Sovereign Grace churches, my experience tells me that our churches are filled with people who faithfully serve God and His church. Therefore, my hope and prayer that we would grow in serving God with all our hearts is not because we aren't faithfully serving Him now, but my prayer springs from a desire that we do not lose our commitment to serve God and His church in the years to come. One of the values that marks the gospel culture seen in Sovereign Grace churches is that of service to God and others. Will you pray with me that we do not lose this value and that God gives us the grace to strengthen this value by serving God with all our heart in 2017?
Grow in racial and ethnic diversity
By the time Samuel gives his farewell address the nation of Israel has become more diverse. For example, in Numbers 12 Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. Cushites were black African’s, so Moses had entered into a bi-racial marriage. Ruth, the Moabite, had married Boaz who is a part of the earthly lineage of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In other words, Samuel’s exhortation was given to a nation that was growing in ethnic diversity, which points forward to how the gospel reaches people from different tribes, tongues, and nations. Therefore, my prayer is that God would allow our family of churches to grow in racial and ethnic diversity in 2017 as one means to reflect the power of the gospel.
Grow in reaching the lost with the gospel
God uses churches filled with happy, holy people, who serve God and those around them with all their heart, to draw unbelievers to Himself. We must not forget that the Christian life is attractive to those Jesus is drawing to Himself. Will you pray that God would give us more opportunities this year to reach the lost and share the gospel with them? Will you pray that our evangelism efforts would reach people of all different races, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds?
Grow in our understanding in being a global family of churches
If you’re reading this blog post as a member of a Sovereign Grace church, most likely you’re from the United States. However, that is changing, and it’s my hope and prayer that it changes more in 2017. Of the four churches, we adopted last year, two of them were from outside the United States. I’m also aware of at least 15 churches in countries outside of the U.S. who are currently interested in being adopted into Sovereign Grace, and we are in the process of planting a church in Croatia. What that means is that for us to advance the gospel globally, greater sacrifice (finances, resources, time, etc.) is needed from the members of our churches in the U.S. Therefore, pray for our understanding of how to be a global family of churches. Pray God would expand our vision, and give us opportunities to reach every tribe, tongue, and nation with the gospel. Pray Sovereign Grace Churches around the world are filled with happy, holy people who fear God and serve Him with all of our hearts for His glory alone.
Mark Prater is the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace and serves as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. He and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.