How to Make Crisis an Opportunity for Growth

Every crisis is a leadership opportunity.

As a pastor, you minister to people in crisis all the time. It could be a health, relational, or professional crisis. It could even be a crisis born out of a natural disaster, such as a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or flood. In these situations, people will often turn to you first.

What should you do when they come your way?

Start with prayer. Don’t use it as a last resort, after you’ve done everything else. Even though there are a variety of actions you should take when ministering to people in a crisis, always pray first.

Daniel is a great model for how to pray during a time of crisis. Near the end of his life, 70 years after he and his friends were exiled into captivity in Babylon, Daniel faced a crisis of confidence. Daniel wanted to go home before he died. He knew the prophet Jeremiah had promised that the Israelites would return home after 70 years—and that time period was finally coming to an end. So Daniel prayed.

His prayer is a great model for believers who find themselves in a period of crisis. Here is how Daniel prayed:

Daniel listened to God.

How do you listen to God? You study his Word. That’s what Daniel did. At the beginning of chapter 9, he is reading God’s promise from Jeremiah to bring back the Israelites to Jerusalem.

When our people are in a crisis, we must help them focus on God’s promises. God gives us thousands and thousands of promises in the Bible. These promises provide a great foundation for prayer during a crisis.

Daniel focused his attention on God.

Daniel did this physically. Daniel 9:3 says, “I turned to the Lord” (NLT). One of the reasons a crisis causes us so much pain is we often take our eyes off God in the middle of it. Instead, we desperately need to focus on God during difficult times.

When you turn toward your family and friends, you focus your attention on them. The same is true in your relationship with God. Many people do this by bowing their heads and folding their hands. Personally, I like to look up when I pray because it helps me focus on God.

During a crisis, teach people how to focus on God—not their circumstances—and on what he is doing in their lives.

Daniel expressed his desires with emotion.

The Bible says that Daniel did more than just make his requests known to God. Daniel “pleaded with him.” Your passion and intensity often reveal how much something matters to you. Show God that your request is more than just a whim, that it’s a strong desire on your part.

The Hebrew word Daniel uses to describe his pleading means “begging.” Daniel wasn’t just asking God to let him go back to Jerusalem. He was begging. Teach your people that it’s okay to fully express themselves to God while in a crisis. When a person doesn’t feel like praying, it’s because they aren’t praying their feelings. Encourage your people to pray with emotion.

Daniel demonstrated his seriousness.

First, he fasted. Most of our congregations are familiar with this spiritual discipline. Then Daniel prayed wearing sackcloth and ashes. No one does this today, but for hundreds of years in the Middle East, this practice showed a person’s seriousness.

Jesus said some miracles can only happen through prayer and fasting, not by prayer alone. Fasting showed how serious a person was about the request. You see the importance of this over and over in the Bible. During a crisis, we need to help people demonstrate their seriousness before God.

Daniel thanked God for his love and promises.

The Bible says that when you give your requests to God, ask with thanksgiving. Daniel prayed: “Lord, you are great and deserve respect as the only God. You keep your promise and show mercy to those who love you and obey your commandments” (Daniel 9:4 GW). Daniel told God he was grateful for him, and he recognized the Lord’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises.

As we help people through a crisis, we need to encourage them to express their gratitude to God. It’s easy to forget this aspect of prayer, but it’s important because it’s God calls us to be grateful people—this is what we see illustrated in Daniel’s life. Thankfulness helps us see beyond our problems.

Daniel humbly confessed his sin.

God doesn’t want to hear prideful complaining, but he does listen to humble confessing. God never responds to our confession of sin with punishment. Instead, he blesses us when we’re honest about our sin.

“We have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from your commandments and laws” (Daniel 9:5 GW).

Daniel didn’t just give a general confession. He specifically mentioned what the people of Israel had done wrong. He knew that God’s help would only come because of his grace—not because the people deserved it.

You and the people you lead will face all kinds of crises. As a pastor, one of the most important things you can do is help them to pray during this time.

> Read more from Rick.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Prayer is Essential to Hospitality

I could not be more grateful that my prayer life has gotten both thicker (deep) and thinner (ongoing) as I move through my post Sabbatical world. It has produced some new practices in my assimilation ministry, galvanized some old ones, and given me new passion for others that Gene (our Lead Pastor) leads us in.

Here are 9 ways that thicker and thinner prayer is permeating our church and its assimilation ministry:

1.  5:08 Prayer

Over a year ago, Gene Appel invited everyone at our church to set the alarm on their phones to 5:08pm. This was to remind us to pray that we would reach 1% of the 5.8 million people who live in a 20 mile radius of our hub campus with the message of Jesus. We call this our “Go Beyond Vision” and we have been sharing it in Next Steps with new people God is adding to our church for 5 years. Gene asked us to pray daily at 5:08pm for the fulfillment of this vision for a full year. It was fun to hear phone alarms go off in the middle of the message or in Next Steps during the Saturday service (even when it was my own phone as I hosted Next Steps…which prompted me to lead everyone in 5:08 prayer on the spot!). There is a power to this kind of “thin prayer” when it’s daily, and includes everyone for a 365-day streak. I could go on and on about the unprecidented things God brought about during this concerted daily prayer effort, but let me share just three of them here:

  • We were given the largest donation Eastside has ever received: a 4.5 million dollar church property in Bellflower that enabled us to launch our 4th campus.
  • The number of guests who gave us their contact info at Guest Central increased by 90% year over year and Next Steps grew by 26% as a result.
  • We became the 2nd fastest growing church in the U.S.

2. Car prayer

Like many of you, I pray in the car on the way to church that God will defeat the forces that are opposing guests as they attempt to make it to church and to Next Steps. I also pray that the Hosts and Table Hosts at every campus will be empowered by God to help guests experience their connection to the Body of Christ. This regular practice of “thin prayer” not only makes a difference in things unseen, but it makes a difference inside me as I remember whose battle this is and what my role is (and isn’t).

3. Phone prayer

We do a lot of phone follow up when guests make decisions to follow Jesus or are baptized. When a need is shared in one of these phone conversations, I have learned to ask if I can prayer for them right now. They are always surprised and grateful to have me pray for them over the phone. Many of them have never heard a person pray for them before and it has an impact on guests in multiple ways. I try to practice this in person as well when a guest shares a prayer request with me. They are consistently so appreciative that I paused to let them hear me pray for them or their loved one.

4. Pre-game prayer

One way of expressing a thin but powerful prayer is by circling up with the Table Hosts and Assistants just prior to “game time” in Next Steps. I do this with any of them that are present before the guests arrive, spontaneously. When we do this, we can sense our dependence shift internally from ourselves to God. We also observe breakthroughs together that we credit to God and our asking Him for them specifically.

5. Table prayer  

At the end of every session, we have Table Hosts pray that the assignments of the week at Next Steps will make a powerful difference in their growth as a Christ follower that week. Though they do not have time to ask for prayer requests, they usually include in this prayer anything that an individual may have shared in discussion that could use prayer support. Sometimes, they even email that guest during the week to see how that issue is progressing.

6. POC prayer

POC stands for Pastor On Call. We always have at least one available during and after services. The cool thing is that they are not just ordained staff, but Next Steppers who have graduated who have the gift of pastoring. I am so proud of these people when they serve in this role. We are in the habit of referring people to POCs from Guest Central and Next Steps when we sense someone needs a level of conversation and “thicker” prayer that can best be experienced in a pastoral moment in a room we have dedicated for this purpose.

David Sotelo is one of our interns and also a young adult. He is not a ministry major or necessarily pursuing vocational ministry. Recently he received a card that a guest sent to our office addressed to “Pastor David”, thanking him for taking the time to listen and pray for them. Whether it takes place in our office on weekdays or in the church at weekend services, there is nothing quite like this kind of prayer for helping guests feel connected to God and our church.

7. Big weekend prayer

Before Christmas and Easter services, Gene will have the entire staff meet him in the auditorium to hear him share specific prayer targets surrounding these high-outreach weekends. He then sends us for 20 to 30 minutes to anywhere a guest might appear that weekend: Every seat in the auditorium, Guest Central, the parking lot, restrooms, Kidside, and more. All are covered with “thick prayer” from the perspective of guests who we want to see connect with God and others at our church in these services. It gives us as staff the conviction that our property is now set apart for a holy purpose and we are ready for it, come what may.

8. Diploma prayer

This is one of my favorites moments of thin prayer and a real privilege. Whenever someone has completed all 4 sessions of Next Steps, they are given a Certificate of Completion (Diploma) for graduating from the training. I am always amazed at how much they value these certificates. On all campuses, they are printed out with guest’s names on them so that they are ready for the guest’s final session. They have Gene’s signature printed on them as well and a wet signature from either myself at the Anaheim campus or a Campus Pastor at our other Campuses. We sign each one individually so that we can pray for each person being added to our church by name as they are being added. This not only gives us name recognition for guests joining our church, but it also gives us the ability to say to each Next Step Grad, “I have prayed for you by name”. This just feels right.

9. 21 days of prayer

This is a time to thicken the prayer life of everyone at our church in a way that those new to our church can easily connect with. Inspired by Church of the Highlands in Birmingham AL, we do this one to two times a year to rally people around who they are as followers of Jesus in our community in this generation. This year, it will be attached to Gene’s series on the book of Acts entitled “The Deep”. The online prayer guide breaks Acts into 21 readings, gives a key thought for prayer each day fueled by a daily video prayer request from an Eastside staff person released through social media. To thicken the prayer even more, we have Wednesday evening Nights of Worship during the 21 Days to help the church members new and old experience prayer in community. Rocket fuel for the climb.

Since returning from my Sabbatical, my prayer life has become an ongoing tapestry of thicker and thinner conversations with God throughout my day. It has also been permeating the lives of our guests in ways they don’t even realize. My challenge to you as a Sherpa is to not take any guests on the climb without taking prayer along with you as a key piece of equipment for reaching the summit.

> Read more from Greg.


 

Want to know more about Guest Experiences at your church? Let’s talk! Connect with an Auxano Navigator here.

Interested in bringing your team (up to 5 people) to Auxano’s Guest Experience Boot Camp coming to West Palm Beach, FL on February 26-27? Find out more here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg Curtis

Greg Curtis

I came to the church I serve, Eastside Christian Church, when I was 14 years old. I never saw anything like it. I saw so many changed lives (including my own), that it changed my career trajectory. I choose to not attend the college I planned on and choose instead to go to Bible college to pursue a degree in ministry. Gene Appel came back to Eastside in 2008, this time as Senior Pastor. Gene had interned at Eastside when I was a Senior in high school and stayed at my home during part of that season in his education. Both churches now were facing critical facility issues. The short story: both churches remerged after 27 years at a new location half way between the two. Gene gave me pretty much a blank slate for creating an assimilation environment to connect the guests that were arriving in large numbers due to our relocation and outreach strategy after the churches merged back together. 3-plus decades of leading in the local church. my journey has brought me here. That's who I am and what I am about.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Mike Taylor — 02/04/20 10:57 am

Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Pastor’s Heart, Part 1: Prayer as Personal Examination

It’s time to get back to the basics in your inward spiritual practices

We live in a society that demands instant gratification. We are always connected with devices that bring the world to our fingertips. We know more, more quickly, than at any time in human history.

And yet we seem to be satisfied less, just as quickly. Leaders are in a quest for more, but the obtaining more seems to result in just wanting more. It is a vicious cycle not easily broken.

Church pastors and staff are not immune to this; in fact, in some ways they may even be more susceptible. Congregational leaders and promising opportunities pull pastors in multiple directions at once, resulting in almost constant feelings of being overwhelmed by ministry, and by life.

The true, deepest need for leaders today is not to be more intelligent, or more gifted, or even more successful, but to be more connected, more fully to God.

The classical disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration) of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths of communion with a Holy and Living God.

Solution – Understand the inward discipline of prayer as an avenue of personal examination and change

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Everything Belongs, by Richard Rohr

This popular and bestselling book of the renowned Franciscan challenges people to move beyond the comfort of a settled life toward an understanding of themselves that is rooted in their connection to God. Only when they rest in God can they find the certainty and the freedom to become all that they can be. Contemplation has its place at the heart of Christianity, a place that allows people to experience how “everything belongs.”

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Most of us live on the edges of life. We are happily (for the most part) busy with family, friends, work, and life as we know it. And that is not of itself a bad thing – it is a temporal thing without true acknowledgement of the centering presence of God.

Life is often lived as an escape to avoid reality. We remain happily content to live on the edges of our life for a long time – so long that it starts feeling like the only life available.

The danger is that we live life on the edges and never experience Life in the center.

We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.

 Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As we take another it means that God is choosing us now and now and now. We have nothing to attain or even learn. We do, however, need to unlearn some things.

Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence, living in awareness of the Presence, and even of enjoying the Presence. The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it.

I believe that we have no real access to who we really are except in God. Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can “everything belong.” All other systems exclude, expel, punish, and protect to find identity for their members in ideological perfection or some kind of “purity.” The contaminating element always has to be searched out and scolded. Apart from taking up so much useless time and energy, this effort keeps us from the one and only task of love and union.

The purpose of prayer and religious seeking is to see the truth about reality, is to see what is. And at the bottom of what is is always goodness. The foundation is always love.

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

A NEXT STEP

Using these seven contemplative thoughts and corresponding prayers, seek to be centered in God today.

The religion of man has lost sight of the presence of God. We create a system and a people who think they have God in their pockets, ready with a quick and easy answer to life’s problems.

Prayer 1: Lord, reveal to me where I have lost sight of your nature…

Deep inside, though, as created beings of God, we know the mysteries of life cannot be that simple. A longing for awareness should lead us into paradox, into darkness, and on journeys that never cease.

Prayer 2: Lord, deepen my longing and awareness of your presence in this area…

And that is what prayer is about. Real prayer is something we learn. The disciples spent their entire lives praying, but something about the presence of Jesus made them see how little they knew about prayer. So they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Prayer 3: Lord, reteach me to pray, starting with this next step…

Your learning process of prayer should start with getting into contact with God so that His life and power can flow through you into others. You must first quiet all the activity around you and within you, and listen for the breathing of God.

Prayer 4: Lord, show me what needs to be stilled in my life in order to hear Your voice…

Understanding that we must learn the process of prayer often means we make it too complicated. Jesus taught us to come like children to a father. Children talk to their parents without difficulty or embarrassment – they trust their parents. Is there a greater lesson in trusting our Father while praying?

Children can also teach us the value of the imagination, which is another powerful tool in prayer. Don’t lightly dismiss the amazing imagination of a child who expects that wonderful things can happen if they believe them.

Prayer 5: Lord, inspire me to imagine how You desire for greatness through this audacious dream…

Prayer is work, and like any form of work, you may not feel like it, but once you are doing your work, you begin to feel like working.

Prayer 6: Lord, show me the obstacles that could potentially slow progress in prayer…

Prayer and life are not separate, but exist simultaneously. Prayer “takes no time, but it occupies all our time” (Thomas Kelly). We must learn to live our life on the edges, but always seek the center, a constant awareness of God.

Prayer 7: Lord, center me in awareness of You today.

 


Leo Tolstoy said, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The change demands an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. Following the spiritual disciplines prepares your inner being for the change that only God can bring.

Taken from SUMS Remix 34-1, published February 2016


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.