What is the greatest challenge facing the church today?

[T]he greatest challenge facing the church of Jesus Christ today, and therefore every local congregation, is motivating the people of God to engage in sincere, honest, fervent prayer. . . . we must not only pray. We must also reflect on the nature and the working of prayer. As we do so, we discover that ultimately all prayer is a cry for the kingdom. When we come to comprehend this basic truth regarding prayer, we are better equipped to become effective pray-ers for the sake of the kingdom of God.

— Stanley J. Grenz. Prayer: The Cry For The Kingdom. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans: 2005, 1, 7.
Agree/disagree? How does this apply to your walk with God personally and corporately (as part of a campus fellowship, a local congregation, the kingdom of God)?
Note: first post in a quote series based on readings for Theology & The Practice of Prayer — 2012 summer class taught by Laurie Mellinger, PhD, at Evangelical Seminary (Myerstown, PA). Personally, I am very much interested in your responses as they’ll not only provide helpful material for my contribution to classroom discussion as a student, but also as a Culture Maker with the Emerging Scholars Network and the Penn State Hershey Christian Medical Society (CMS)/CMDA.
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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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4 Comments

  • Laurie Mellinger commented on July 2, 2012 Reply

    I agree with Grenz . . . to a point. Some reading this blog may be familiar with Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart, in which he argues that the most important challenge the church faces is that of producing disciples who are actively being conformed to the image of Christ. We have tended to produce converts to a particular system of belief, rather than converts to a style of life and thought. I tend to agree with Willard, despite some flaws in his overall project. However, I think Grenz would agree that if the church were to be producing Christlike disciples, those disciples would be strongly drawn to pray, as their Savior taught them, “Thy kingdom come”–and that would satisfy Grenz as well.

    Grenz also notes, with a touch of sadness that is not mere melancholy, that Wednesday evening prayer meetings, where they still survive in the Church today, have become Bible studies. Studying the Bible is important; so is hearing the Word preached as we gather on Sundays. Singing our lives to God, rejoicing together and thanking God for His goodness and graciousness in our lives, is also important. Getting outside the church building and serving our fellow human beings who are in need is just as important. But if prayer does not accompany each of these–if prayer does not undergird our study and ground our singing and empower our service–then I begin to wonder whether Christians don’t really believe in prayer any more.

  • Tom Grosh IV commented on July 2, 2012 Reply

    Thank-you Laurie!

    Note: If you try to post a comment and it does not “take,” email it to me via the form at http://www.intervarsity.org/contact/1445.

  • jbw7@comcast.net'
    jbw4u commented on July 3, 2012 Reply

    Laurie, excellent. We have a mid week prayer meeting. Church of about 500 regulars but only 15-25 for prayer but it is pretty decent quality and age and other diversities. Do you suppose getting people to consider praying Scripture could help? Knowing God more is so important. I think many see prayer, as other parts of impoverished discipleship, in more me-centered ways; my requests, my therapy, my job, my ease, my hopes for others, my good feeling with God… I fall prey to such from time to time as well. Is praying Scripture still going on in some quarters?

  • everbovszky@gmail.com'
    The Kayaking Church commented on July 10, 2012 Reply

    Hey Tom – thanks for posing the question. I am a seminarian as well and am about to finish my M.Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary, and am an alum of Dickinson College’s InterVarsity chapter. I agree to an extant, and disagree. I find that the people in my local congregation have very active prayer lives, which is great! Nonetheless it is something we can always strengthen as we grow in holiness. However, if we are going to pose the question about the biggest threat to Christianity today, in my opinion it would be both a resurgence of characteristics of gnosticism, which downplays the goodness of God’s creation, discourages the final resurrection and new creation, and severely limits the ultimate hope we have of being made new through Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit, and fundamentalism, which paralyzes the living and interactive aspect of scripture.

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