Advance Magazine
Spring 2023

A Different Kind of Missions Conference

When considering Matthew 9:38, Pastor Craig Johnson was struck by how Jesus didn’t ask us to pray for laborers, he instructed us to pray for them.

Not an option, a command. When Pastor Johnson’s church, Calvary Baptist of Grinnell, Iowa, was unable to hold a missions conference they had planned, God gave them a new idea to promote and support missions: a month-long, church-wide effort to pray for laborers using Baptist Mid-Missions’ PRAY938 booklet.

The idea formed in the mind of Jeanne Hanson, who leads the church’s missions committee. As she read through the 30-day prayer guide, she realized that it broke down the Matthew 9:38 prayer into bite-sized portions. It covered all aspects of prayer for laborers, starting with stirring families and churches toward missions, leading to prayer for specific fields and missionary replacements. When Jeanne introduced the booklet to Pastor Johnson and the missions committee, everyone was on board. The Matthew 9:38 emphasis fit the church’s burden for prayer, and the booklet gave them a good tool to set it in motion.

Teaming with Deb Lombard and others on the missions committee, Jeanne set out to work. A few months earlier, in August, Jeanne set a goal to pray for 21 days prior to their church’s VBS. She thought she had a pretty good prayer life, but maintaining prayer consistency over that time proved challenging. So when she and the committee prepared for October’s missions emphasis, they sought ways to make it easier for church members to develop their own prayer habits.

Jeanne and Deb parsed the month of October 2022 into five segments and developed “Time to Pray” handouts for each week’s emphasis. During Week One, each church member obtained a copy of PRAY938 along with a list of missionaries and agencies that Calvary Baptist supports. For Week Two, Deb developed the idea of cottage prayer groups. This included women meeting in homes during the day, deacons praying together at church, and evening prayer teams. On Week Three, church members were challenged to choose prayer partners to pray through that week’s section of the booklet. Week Four’s “Time to Pray” cards emphasized “Bringing in the Sheaves,” and Barbara LaPlaunt set up that week’s display. Church members selected one or more cards and applied the booklet’s prayer prompters to the specific missionaries and ministries their church supports. October 2022 had five Sundays, so Week Five’s “Time to Pray” card thanked people for praying, and it encouraged them to repeat the cycle and keep up the habit.

During her VBS prayer, Jeanne had utilized Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney, and that book formed an excellent complement as Pastor Johnson tailored his Sunday morning messages around it. PRAY938 helped people know what to pray for, and Praying the Bible kept them focused on Scripture in their prayer.

Pastor Johnson, Jeanne, and the rest of the missions committee were pleased with how the booklet’s emphasis accomplished their church’s goal to be more deliberate and consistent in prayer. People especially liked Week Four’s bulletin inserts personalizing the booklet for their own missionaries. Jeanne noted that the inserts’ information wasn’t any different from what the church highlights in their Missionary of the Month slides, but it was a fresh idea that stirred them to pray.

The experience was eye-opening in many ways. It made the church realize they don’t always praise and thank God after seeing His answers to prayer. PRAY938 unveiled specific needs that mission agencies like BMM understand but ones that church members don’t always realize: things like prayer for specific fields needing missionaries or missionary replacements to maintain continuity in existing ministries. The booklet broadened Calvary Baptist’s prayer efforts beyond their own missionaries to the world as a whole. 

The far-reaching impact of their PRAY938 missions month will only be seen in the long term, but it’s the church’s desire that God stirs their own youth, college students, and adult church members to consider missions. Jeanne added, “Hopefully by having that booklet in their hands—whether they’re a new Christian or seasoned—that tool will be there to bring them back to praying for missionaries and asking the Lord of the harvest for laborers. It made us realize that maybe we should be laboring.”

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