Many years ago, the US government made a concerted effort among young people to combat drug abuse. Nancy Reagan led the charge with the exhortation that, when offered illicit drugs, “Just say no!” That’s short and to the point—and, at a certain level, helpful. “Just say no” has become a catchphrase that is intended as a simple response to the obvious—a means to forego unnecessary deliberation.
Playing on this, I want to suggest another catchphrase, which I trust will become a well-practised response among our church members. When someone from BBC offers you to “pray along” with the church, then “just say yes”! Or, when you receive a message asking for prayer requests, for a brief bio, or a request to share a testimony—please—“just say yes” and follow through.
Here’s why: As a congregation, we are working hard at respecting, affirming and encouraging the outworking of the priesthood of the believer. This is the biblical concept, recaptured by the sixteenth-century Reformers, recognising that there is no hierarchy when it comes to a Christian’s equal access to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We recognise the biblical teaching that every believing church member is a priest of God (1 Peter 2:5, 9), living with equal access to our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14–16). We recognise that each church member is equally important to the household of faith (Ephesians 2:18–22) and that each of us has gifts that are to be invested in this local expression of the wider body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Every believing church member can pray directly to God, can acceptably worship God, and can fruitfully serve God. And we recognise that we do so primarily through participating in the life of our local church.
It is because of these biblical convictions that we are intentionally transitioning our Sunday evening service into a more congregationally inclusive gathering. Our time of prayer is deliberately being structured to be more corporate in nature. One way we are doing this is by asking several church members to share in praying for specific requests. This is then being followed up the next day with an email intended as a kind of prayer list for the week ahead.
We are also using Sunday evenings to “acquaint” the congregation with our fellow church members. In preparation for this, we contact the two members/families that the church will be praying for that week. We ask them for information that will help the church to know something about who they are. We also ask for any specific matters for which we can pray.
But for this to be productive, we need each member’s participation. When asked to pray, or when asked to please respond to our requests for matters of prayer and for a very brief bio, please just say yes!
I am very aware that there are some church members that would need emergency services if they were to be put on the spot and asked to pray. Because of this, we send a message during the week asking particular members if they will pray publicly Sunday evening. We generally don’t ask those who have made it known to us in the past that they are extremely uncomfortable doing so. And, by the way, in many cases that is quite okay.
However, may I gently ask that, if you are asked to participate, consider the request and be prepared to just say yes.
You need not pray long. In fact, we would probably all appreciate an economy of words. Two minutes max is probably sufficient. Leave the preaching to the one scheduled that night!
Perhaps some do not yet realise the incredible blessing it is to hear various voices of church members sharing in this time of prayer, week after week. And may I remind you that we are family, and family members talk to their Father. Or, at least, they should. So, don’t worry about being impressive with your words. Jesus, in fact, taught that we are not heard because of our fancy and/or many words (Matthew 6:7). We are heard because we are accepted in the Beloved and because our Father loves us in him (Ephesians 1:6).
Finally, please, when you receive a request for information on yourself and your family, just say yes! Take the few minutes required and respond. If we all do our part, then we will increasingly share in the blessings of tighter familial bonds of Christian fellowship. If we will increasingly become a compelling community, then, please, just say yes—for the joy of us all, for the glory of Christ.