Editor's note:

Next Sunday, June 4th, is Pentecost Sunday—a day many worshipping communities set aside to celebrate not only the coming of the Holy Spirit (as if that weren’t enough!), but also, the birthday of the Church. Here at renovare.org, we’ll be celebrating the Church’s birthday this week with a few posts that focus on what it means to be the Church—on both local and universal levels.

Today, we begin with an eminently practical passage from James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful Community. It reminds us that our local congregations are part of a larger whole, and that they exist not only for themselves, but for the world.

—Carolyn Arends
Director of Education, Renovaré

Excerpt from The Good and Beautiful Community

I was once with Dallas Willard, speaking at a conference in California. I opened the evening session with a talk about God’s grace in human transformation. After a break, Dallas got up to speak. He opened with these attention-catching words: “I am going to tell you what is the single most important task of a Christian, especially those who are in church leadership.” There was a moment of silence as we waited to hear what he believed was the most important task of a Christian. My mind raced for a moment—what could it be? I have heard Dallas teach for hundreds of hours. I thought he might say “Scripture memorization,” because I know he believes it is very transforming. He leaned in to the microphone and said, “The most important task we have, especially for those in church leadership, is to pray for the success of our neighboring churches.”

I was stunned. The most important task? I could easily come up with a dozen things I would assume were far more important for Christians, especially pastors. What about caring for the poor? What about spending quality time with God in solitude and prayer? What about sharing our faith with nonbelievers? No, according to Dallas, the most important thing we can do is to pray for the success and well-being of the other churches in our area. I pressed Dallas later to explain what he meant. He said that when we pray, genuinely pray, for the success of the churches that are in our proximity, we are breaking the narrative of selfishness and entering into the mind of God, who is also praying for the success of those churches. The practice, he said, puts us in sync with the kingdom of God.

He encouraged not only pastors but entire churches to do this. Recently I was preaching at Highland Park Community Church in Casper, Wyoming, and the pastor did just that. He listed a few churches in the area and asked God to bless the work of their hands. He named the churches and even mentioned some of the ministries within those churches. It was a beautiful thing. It changed the atmosphere of worship; it connected us to something larger than ourselves; it helped us see the beauty and power of the kingdom of God. I asked one of the pastors about this practice, and he told me they do it every Sunday. I told him about what Dallas had said.

I said, “You all are doing it! Keep it up.” He blushed a little bit, but I wanted to affirm what he was doing and what it was communicating to the people.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Excerpted from The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith (IVP Books, 2010).