I am tired of reading books about missional church. I have found that there is very little new under the sun when it comes to missional church practitioners. The context, appearance, or credentials might change, but most of the ideas are the same. It is most often cotton candy talk with a corny dog call to do.
Sometimes there original ideas that shake the foundation of what I have heard or something that gives me the vocabulary to speak of the world I have encountered. By my nature of being dense or the fact I live in a bubble this has rarely happened to me with the exception of three books, Carol Howard Merritt’s, Tribal Church. Walter Bruggemann’s, The Prophetic Imagination, and Dave Eggars, You Shall Know Our Velocity.
I will add another book to my toolbox of faithful exploration into the spiritual realm of churchy chuchish matters: Prayer Encounters by Paul M. Burns is a book that has the ability to transform your ministry.
I was skeptical when I started to read this book. I began with hostile hopes that this book would be another attempt at a figure-four leg lock of the crowded Christian book market. I read it on a flight to California. Then I read it again on the flight back to Oklahoma. I was captivated by its simplistic power and call.
Pray. Pray with someone. Pray alone. Pray. Pray. Pray. That is the evangelistic tool the author, Paul M. Burns, proposes to connect the church to the world. This is not a cheesy evangelical, charismatic “go save folks and pray for their sin” kind of prayer. This is not a call to pray walk the communities we live in. This is a call to evangelism in relationship with the neighbors God has set us in as we prayer for and with our neighbors.
I love the simple, easy to follow format. Every chapter begins with scripture and a prayer encounter is shared that speaks to the power of prayer as experienced by the author. A reflection is offered that digs deeper in to the running question, “Why pray?” Each chapter concludes with a few questions to consider, a prayer challenge, and then a short prayer.
I cannot imagine what would happen to our churches if they all got this book and practiced it in their local communities. If our churches received this challenge and answered it faithful in prayer, seeking to understand the Other and hearing the story of our neighbors, what a beautiful vision for the church to aspire to.
I feel that too many churches are mired in unwinnable rhetorical battles with clearly defined sides and could benefit from mutual work and prayer that this book could offer. I do not think it is the answer to all of our dysfunction as the church. I do believe that this book could go a long way in building bridges out of a fractured church and into a broken and hurting world. For that alone I pray many folks check out this book and encounter prayer together.