Praying for your church

Many have observed this defect of human nature: we would rather talk about other people than talk to them, especially if we would like to voice a negative opinion.  The old rule of thumb that you should always speak of the absent as though they are present is timeless advice.

That begs the following question:  how do you talk about your congregation?  How do you characterize it to your family and friends?  To your fellow members?  Is there really no better place on earth to be, or is the congregation a dysfunctional mess, unsupportive, with a bleak future?  A useful way to evaluate where you fall on the spectrum is to review your prayers.

In our Epistle lesson for this Sunday, Paul is not speaking about the Colossians.  He is speaking to them.  As he does, he tells them candidly how he speaks about them in his prayers - and it is glowingly positive.  Paul counts the blessings of God, commends the faith of the congregation and acknowledges the abundant fruit their faith is bearing.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-- 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:3-8).

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary professor John Brenner told a story at district convention one year about his days as dean at Michigan Lutheran Seminary.  He was on a trip with a group of students, and they stopped at a mall.  The chaperones were naturally concerned that the teenagers would represent the school well, and were hyper-vigilant.  Before they left, a security guard stopped Dean Brenner and said, “I’ve never witnessed a better behaved group of young men and women.  You should be proud.”  Brenner’s lesson?  There is more good going on than we are sometimes willing to acknowledge.  Others see it before we do.

God is good.  His Word works.  The Gospel that bore fruit from the first day in Colosse is bearing fruit all over WELS and Christendom.  We’ve got more to be thankful for locally and collectively than we realize.  Rather than count our problems, this text encourages us to count blessings, and thereby glorify God.


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