There is only one goal of the church, which is summed up in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

If we are to reach this goal, several biblical principles must be continually practiced. The first is a focused and determined mind which has visualized the results of growth. We must not allow anything or anyone to distract us from our goal. A negative friend or mindset is a fatal cancer to growth of the Kingdom. Jesus declares our success is guaranteed based on Matthew 28:19-20—when we go and teach, souls will be baptized and taught what God has commanded.

Jesus said “go,” which is defined as “moving from one place to another.” Before we can go physically, however, we must first experience a spiritual transformation—our own personal Pentecost—just as the apostles did. As leaders, we must continually be spiritually renewed. This only happens by developing our daily prayer life. Then, we must bring the names of those we lead before God and ask for wisdom and power to perform the mission, just as the high priest wore the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel upon their shoulders and breastplate.

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul cautioned against fainting, not because of what can be seen (distractions), but rather what can’t be seen (our spirit). We can’t afford to faint. Therefore, our spiritual drive and goal are to be renewed day by day.

Nehemiah, that great re-builder of the walls of Jerusalem, knew the value of preparation prior to beginning the work:

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me… So they strengthened their hands for [this] good [work]” (Nehemiah 2:18).

Prayer is what is needed to strengthen our hands to fulfill the 2017 goal of the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ. When spiritual growth happens to us, a numerical increase will automatically take place. Prayer is the prerequisite to “going,” and teaching is the prerequisite to numerical increase.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:4-7).

A praying man is contagious. A praying district board is contagious. A praying group of pastors, evangelists, and lay ministers will cause a tipping point in our churches and districts not only in North America, but around the world.

I’m asking every district leader to make prayer the highest priority in 2017. Plan for special times of prayer, such as a district-wide and sectional prayer meetings for each department. Place an emphasis on prayer. Bring men and women into your district who are prayer warriors as examples to others, so they can share their knowledge of the art of prayer. As leaders, we must follow the model the prophets of old used when they found themselves in need of revival. The prophet Joel ordered that one sound would dominate Mt. Zion:

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:” (Joel 2:15).

The blowing of the trumpet in 2017 will be our District Superintendents and other district leadership calling for, and being examples of, prayer for others to follow.

“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar” (Joel 2:16-17).

Notice with me, in verse 16, prayer is for all people—our elders, our children, and even infants should be exposed to the sights and sounds of praying people. Prayer meetings were to take priority over all other activities. This could not be business as usual. The bride was to come out of her dressing room, and the groom out of his house.

“Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God” (Joel 2:17).

Although it was the priest that blew the trumpet and called people of all ages to come gather together for prayer, the sight of praying people so moved the priest that they began to stay between the altar and the porch, crying with a loud voice in prayer.

I routinely start my prayers for the organization by praying for our Executive Board, then our General Board, and then our eight departments. My habit has been to pray for each department in a certain order of priority, beginning with World Missions. As I was praying recently, however, 1 Timothy 2:8 came into my mind:

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

Suddenly I realized I should have been praying for the Menistry Department first. Because if we want to raise up people that will go and teach, they will come from praying men. If we want to raise up missionaries, they will come from praying men. If we want to start new churches, they will come from praying men. If men will hear the call to evangelize, it will come through praying men. No doubt the Apostolic Crusaders Department could experience unprecedented growth if fathers pray! All the departments could and should flourish because of praying men! Praying men will grow our churches, evangelize our communities, and ultimately change our world! In 2017 may prayer dominate all the churches in the ALJC, and our personality will mirror what Jesus said as He “cleaned out” the temple:

“And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer…” (Matthew 21:13).

The blowing of the trumpet and calling for prayer in Joel 2 produced an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the people.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:” (Joel 2:28).

When God’s Spirit is upon the people the results are dreams, visions, and prophecies. Dreams of what God wants for our lives, visions of what God wants for the world, and prophecies of what God wants for the church.

With prayer firmly fixed in our lives in 2017 we can then move toward numerical growth. An important key to church growth is the more people we can get involved with our goal of prayer and numerical growth, the more we will grow. The key word is “involved.” When someone becomes involved with a local church or an organization, they become connected, producing a sense of ownership. I would like to issue a challenge to all District Superintendents to push and press for 100% participation. Create opportunities for training and renewal. Plan to meet with your district team members. Plan your work, and work your plan.

There is no doubt that we believe in the power of prayer. But, faith without works is dead. Great teams are developed through great practice. May the beginning of this new year find us in the practice of prayer. As a team, let us dedicate the 31 days of January to consecrated prayer. And in turn, prayer will change us and draw us into a closer relationship to God, giving us the ability to clearly teach and preach the Gospel to others.