All of us know that "the church" is not an institution or a building, but a people called out by God's grace to reflect the image of Christ in this world. I am thankful that God has His people in every nation, every tongue, every tribe of earth, not to mention people in every denomination, every assembly and every institution who names Christ as Lord. For the past eighteen years God has allowed me to be a part of a wonderful group of Christians at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma. Being a pastor necessitates regular contact and ministry with these members through hospital visits, small groups, counseling sessions, funerals, weddings, etc..., but the pastors of Emmanuel do something very intentional that goes beyond regular pastoral ministry.
Every Tuesday morning we gather in the room pictured here and we pray for our members. There is a roster of 4,598 names of people who have an affiliation with Emmanuel. Each week I will assign ministry contacts to individual pastors, ranging in number from as few as four to as many as fifteen, depending on the pastor's schedule that week. I make sure no pastor has more ministry assignments than I. Our job is to personally visit with our assigned members that week and find out how things are going for them and their family members in every facet of their lives, particularly spiritually. We let them know up front that the following Tuesday the staff will be praying for them, and our task is to find out how we can more be specific in our prayers on their behalf.
The pastors know that nothing can be brought up during a prayer time that has not already been discussed with the person for whom we are praying. Too often, we Christians use "prayer request" time as an opportunity to talk about others and say things we would not say to them personally. Our pastoral rule is that our prayer times will only encompass those things which we have already discussed with our members. This precludes gossip. We also require each pastor to write down a report with the results his ministry contact, a copy of which will be attached to our member's profile. It's our desire, for instance, to follow through with our members in the months to come, covering those areas of prayer concerns from previous months to see how the Lord has graciously provided in their time of need. In addition, within a year's time, we will have completed our member ministry and will be starting over again. The reports provide a record of the previous contact.
Our support staff joins us for these hour and a half prayer and ministry times every Tuesday morning (8:30 to 10:00 am). It is absolutely amazing the amount of effective ministry that take places when we pastors see ourselves as spiritual shepherds and not spiritual overlords. The Chief Shepherd tells us that He knows His sheep by name, and it is my desire that every undershepherd at Emmanuel know every member, attender and prospect of Emmanuel by name--to know them with the same kind of loving, merciful knowledge that Jesus has for His people. These ministry and prayer times each Tuesday, the culmination of intentional ministry to approximately 75 to 100 family units by our pastoral staff during the previous week, makes this room the most important room at Emmanuel.
In His Grace,