A number of breakout sessions were included as part of the Revive Summit at Hope Community Church in Birmingham Sept. 12–13.
Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International in Jonesboro, Georgia, spoke about increasing your fruitfulness.
“I think all believers agree that our most important calling is to bring honor to God,” he said. “As we approach Dec. 31, we begin to pray that we’d honor God more in the new year than we did in the past year. But what does this mean?”
Blackaby pointed to Jesus’ words in John 15:8: “My Father is glorified by this, that you produce much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”
Blackaby noted that producing fruit doesn’t deal with salvation because our salvation isn’t driven by works, but Christians are to be fruitful in God’s work.
“A fruitless Christian is of no value to God,” he said.
“The problem is, I believe, we often substitute faithfulness for fruitfulness. We say a teacher has been faithful, or another leader has been faithful, but these believers may not be producing fruit. They might be terrible teachers or terrible leaders! Sometimes we get stuck in a rut when we hide behind faithfulness instead of seeking fruitfulness.”
Blackaby noted that, in the same passage, Jesus said that the Father prunes the branches so that they may produce more fruit.
“Pruning means that God takes away the hindrances to our fruitfulness,” he said. “These hindrances could be fear, insecurity or any other kind of incumbrance. Our prayer should be that Christ remove these hindrances, pruning us, as it were, to make us more fruitful.”
Blackaby said loving to do certain things does not necessarily mean that Christians are fruitful.
“I heard a lady teaching an auditorium Bible class and it was awful,” he said with a laugh. “She read from the book — even the subheadings that said ‘Discussion Prompts.’ The pastor told me she’d killed the class and only two members remained, but she insisted she loved teaching. This is the wrong metric for fruitfulness.”
Blackaby said it’s sometimes painful for pastors and teachers to view their livestreams or listen to their own podcasts.
Learning while doing
“It should be against the Geneva Conventions to make us do this,” he said with a laugh. “But a few tweaks can help pastors be more fruitful.”
Blackaby told about a pastor who was a good preacher but saw very little fruit from his pulpit ministry.
“He asked a denominational friend to come and listen to his message and he preached a great sermon,” Blackaby said. “But his friend pointed to his stance during the invitation where his body language didn’t communicate encouragement or welcome. He made some simple adjustments and began to see more fruit.”
Blackaby said another “tweak” is his suggestion that pastors not use an “escape clause” in gospel invitations and say, “If God has spoken to you, please come.”
“Of course God has spoken!” he said. “You’ve shared His Word and He has spoken. What you must communicate is the invitation of Christ to people to humble themselves and pray and seek the face of God. There’s no question about God speaking; the question is our response.”
Blackaby said no Christians should be satisfied with the fruit they have but should always seek more, inviting God to prune away the things that hinder being useful in His work.
Practice of prayer
Rick Fisher, vice president of Blackaby Ministries International, directed a breakout session titled “Powerful Praying Church.”
Fisher said he believes the Church has suffered a loss of proper theology and a loss in the practice of prayer.
“Often, we’re fixated on the darkness of society when we pray,” he said. “I believe prayer should be focused on what is on God’s mind, not on pagan culture. King Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20 is a great model: ‘We are powerless. … We do not know what to do, but we look to you.’”
Fisher said prayer is often included in worship as a “fill-in” when ushers come forward or worship leaders move to the pulpit.
“Henry Blackaby used to define prayer as ‘an unhurried time with God,’” Fisher said. “I think we need to assign greater importance to the prayer time in public worship.”
Fisher made several suggestions to pastors and other worship leaders.
“We need to pray first about everything,” he said. “Prayer is never a last resort. We must pray God’s blessing on every activity and every event in our churches, inviting Him to be honored in what we do.”
Fisher said worship leaders should help attendees pray in worship with what he called “prayer prompts.”
“We do this most often with confession when we prompt people to confess their sins in a moment of silence, but I believe we can do other prompts too, such as, ‘Pray for the pastor as he brings God’s Word’ or, ‘Pray for those today who need Christ.’ These prompts can help guide worshippers to be people of prayer.”
Fisher said a culture of prayer in worship can be a good encouragement for church members to pray privately.
“If we make much of prayer when we gather, we can encourage church members to continue in the spirit of prayer and pray at home,” he said.
Fisher also suggested that worshippers “celebrate God’s response.”
“Another encouragement for people to pray is to publicly celebrate God’s work and His answers to our prayers,” he said. “We too often overlook this step. We should constantly celebrate the activity of God and remember that He is faithful.”