The Prayer Life of a Church Planter (with Andrew Vertigan)

Andrew Vertigan is a mission enabler for the Salvation Army and Fresh Expressions and he heads up church planting within the Salvation Army. In this Broadcast, he talks about a church planter's prayer life.


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The God of Mission Is to Be Continually Sought Through Prayer 

  • Through relationship, intimacy and prayer we need to be continually seeking, renewing and reforming that relationship with God.
  • The first thing we need when planting a church is to create a prayer space - God was calling Andrew's church plant to make an impact, to discipline ourselves and to focus on prayer in the early months of church planting.
  • Everything we needed to do in our church plant needed to come out of a prayer space.
  • Prayer has to be something we keep finding ourselves going back to.
  • Bill Hybels: "Too busy not to pray." This is a significant quote.
  • Charles Spurgeon: "The church prayer meeting is the power house of the church."
  • Oswald Chambers: "Prayer is not preparation for the battle, prayer is the battle." Prayer is where the battle is fought.

Prayer is Critical, But Difficult

  • There's a real danger today that in all our strategies, training and academia, which are good, we can forget the place of seeking after God.
  • When you've been church planting for a number of years, there's a danger at times to say "I know how to do this." But really when we sit before God in prayer, we realise it's the Almighty God who can do more than we can imagine.
  • It's in the time of wrestling in prayer that we recognise that God has promised that we can do all things in His strength. 
  • The problem with relying too much on our strategies and models is that times and seasons change, but the Kingdom of God is unchanging. The most effective Kingdom church planters are those who prioritise prayer.
  • Your prayers should seek to join God in what He is already doing. We should pray for place, promise and people. 

The Important Place of Prayer in the Early Church

  • The early church planters' prayer revealed their devotion to God. 
  • The word devotion means entirety, all we are is devoted to prayer - we are reminded of Hybels quote - too busy not to pray?
  • When they elected decons and elders, prayer was pivotal to the election.
  • In the midst of suffering and imprisonment, Acts 16, Peter prayed to God.
  • If your vision to plant a church doesn't include a commitment to public and private prayer, then we miss a critical piece of the jigsaw.
  • We must believe in the power of prayer as the early church did. 

Developing a Prayer Base is Crucial

  • In the prayer bunker Andrew asked two of the sixth formers at the school if they'd paint a mural on the wall. They both professed that they weren't Christians, so we simply said that this room was somewhere to be still and to pray to God. So they relied on their creativity. A few days later they had painted a picture on the wall. They described the painting depicting the sun, the moon and the stars which God has set in place. They had quoted Psalm 8. Yet they did not know Jesus, but had quoted directly from Scripture.
  • The prayer bunker was a place and a space where they were based from, and our vision to plant churches grew.

Personal Prayer is Critical 

  • The church prayer book, an idea we used to have, where the community would come to write personal prayers and we'd pray for them, was critical.
  • We prayed on the streets for personal problems people wanted God to restore, knocking on doors, praying for neighbours.  
  • The world tells us people aren't interested in prayer, but experience shows that time and time again when we asked people they would write in the book or on a postcard what they wanted us to pray for. 
  • Prayer walking was an important way we prayed personally.
  • We were once praying along one of the roads, and the Holy Spirit made clear that we should pray into a local situation we didn't know about. In the newspapers at the end of the week, the headline read that a number of raids had been carried out and an issue had been dealt with.
  • When Christians walk the streets and pray for them, the Spirit blesses those streets.
  • The message we hold is that we are here, believing in the God of hope, and the God who transforms, because of our devotion to prayer. Prayer and mission are intrinsically linked. 

Prayer Partners are Key

  • We need to understand that we stand on God's promises - it's better when two or three agree together.
  • Prayer partners are a vital part of church planting strategy.
  • Satan does not want people empowered by the Spirit, and our prayers transform communities.
  • Many church planters underestimate the spiritual battleground, that this is serious front line mission. Prayer is therefore to be a priority of the church planter.
  • We are to build family and be devoted in prayer to each other, we should therefore actively recruit spiritual and prayer partners, those who are passionate about prayer.
  • We need to recruit those to stand with church planters, to cover planters in prayer.
  • We need to establish a culture of prayer, not for the few but for the many. 

Don't Forget To Pray For People

  • Pray for God to bring the people to you who you need - the gifts and the skills. 
  • Pray for our friends, neighbours, work colleagues and contacts. Pray people into the Kingdom of God. 
  • With all our plans and strategies, pray them into the church. 
  • By having a clear strategy to pray not only from our base but for people, we pray people into the Kingdom of God by praying blessing. In a world that pulls down and condemns, we need to pray in order to bless. 

We Need to Come Away From the Busyness and Be Still 

  • Jesus went to a quiet place, the church planter needs to go to quiet places, to listen to God. 
  • When the disciples sat at the feet of Jesus, and said these words: 'Lord, teach us how to pray', the people who were to start the building of church knew that they had to be in the presence of God in order to bless communities. 
  • Prayer is birthed out of the presence of God, in a devoted relationship, and in a God whom we trust. 

Q&A

1. What are the churches you're involved in?

  • Andrew works for the Salvation Army, a conservative evangelical tradition.
  • He heads up church planting for the Salvation Army in the UK. 
  • They've partnered with organisations like Forge UK and Fresh Expressions.
  • They are planting churches into many multi-cultural places in the UK. 
  • They are rediscovering the pioneer DNA of the Salvation Army. 

2. Would you have all churches set up a prayer base location?

  • It's important that we don't see prayer as a building based experience.
  • Prayer is to do with life and community.
  • There was something significant in God giving them a place in the midst of a context where we were in the meeting. 
  • Rhythms such as grace and community are very important. There are certain places where the street is the best place to pray, or the countryside, the quiet places. It has to be determined by the place and context where we are. 

3. What have you got corporately for the church planting movement, and how are you praying for that?

  • Twenty-eight years ago Andrew felt God gave him a direct prophecy for the Salvation Army, that like John the Baptist went before Jesus, we were to prepare the way before the next generation who are to be like Joshua. Interestingly, in the first 25 years of the Salvation Army most of the new church plants were birthed by 17-25 year old predominantly girls. Our strategy has been to recruit young adults, due to their faith and energy. 
  • We support and coach young leaders and church planters. 
  • We need to get out of our denominational traps - Andrew has learnt more from my non-Salvation Army friends than many of my Salvation Army friends. Why wouldn't I want to celebrate the unity of Christ?

4. What would be the journey you put in place for a young potential church planter?

  • He would place them in a church plant, and they'd be like an apprentice alongside more experienced leaders and teams.
  • They go down the route of experiential rather than academia in order to learn.
  • The young person would be placed aside coaches, and put into training and gatherings. Eventually given a critique assessment process to look at their giftedness and character to inspire growth. 

5. What are some of the ways you'd go about recruiting prayer partners?

  • Create a culture where prayer partners are the norm in church.
  • They would usually have the younger of the two lead the older, this usually teaches the adults more. Their prayers seem more thankful and strong in faith.
  • They would do social activities together, gatherings are geared around prayer partners to build up that culture. 
  • They didn't operate a Sunday-only mindset, but simply spend time together.
  • There was a commitment to that prayer partner, a covenant before God.

6. Would those who are sent off to lead a new work have partners?

  • People sent out would have many different ways of being supported, including being prayed for and inducted on the street they are being sent to.
  • Through emails, blogs and written correspondence the support and coaching would be there.
  • They have started coaching groups for pioneering. These people would join  national gatherings, and they'd be within their pioneer groups and partners.

7. When we're planting something new, how do we pray with balance?

  • We can wrestle with that prayer dynamic when building something new, and so we must have people to hold us accountable. 
  • We can learn a lot from non-Christian friends when they also hold us accountable in ways Christians wouldn't do. They ask different questions like 'have you sold out yet to what you believe?'

8. Can you give some examples of things you've prayed for and how God's answered them?

  • A lady had died and collapsed in a church service, she had a new convert sat beside her who was a GP and on her other side a community nurse. Andrew's wife said why don't we pray? They did, and 10 minutes later she came back round. Some may say she had just fainted but we had a GP there who had the flat line. He has no doubt God answered their prayer, and through that her sons were reconciled back to her. 
  • There are situations where he has been praying for people for years. His wife had chronic fatigue for a number of years, and ministers advised me to pray for her healing, and he'd respond that I'm doing that daily! This waiting taught them that we are to be persistent in prayer. 
  • We have to trust God with the answer to why He seems to answer some prayers and not others.

9. What advice would you give to part-time church planters in their rhythm of prayer?

  • A rhythm is key, our week-time jobs are part of our ministry. 
  • The key to rhythms of prayer is having a partner that journeys with you. It's always good to have someone in relationship with you and who you are accountable to.
  • We need the questions of: what have you wrestled with this week? How has your prayer life been this week? What new insights have you had? That is the conversational piece to keep reality. 
  • Build in quiet time. 

10. How do you build excitement in communal prayer?

  • Expectancy is crucial. We pray to a God who is intimately close. 
  • People sharing prayers and asking for God's blessing in situations and to ask them if they have seen breakthrough.
  • Time prayer meetings right. Do things a bit differently, provide a sense of not knowing what's coming.