ROCKAWAY BEACH – An Ozark region church recently started something very simple, but very effective, to provide a touch-point for the ending of their worship service. The pastor of Bridge of Faith Community Church said, “We are adopting an ‘organic ending’ to the worship service, which means that people can stay to pray as long as they like.”
Lead Pastor Jonathan McGuire said in a video announcement, “It is my desire that you would want to stay to pray.”
So beginning in February the worship service no longer has a definite “end.” The invitation is given and then people are free to leave or stay around and come to the altar to pray for their needs or for others. They can pray as long as they want.
The worship team provides some soft music and there are visuals on the screen. The pastor and church staff stay nearby to minister to people and pray with them. One designated staff member goes to the lobby to visit with those who are departing.
The pastor said, “It is counter-culture to how American church is done. People have lunch plans, Sunday activities scheduled, or a sofa calling their name after a long work week. But what if we responded to the invitation to ‘stay to pray?’”
Pastor McGuire said since they started this practice, “Usually everyone stays for about 5 minutes, silently praying, some coming to the altar. Then after about 10 or 15 minutes it begins to get a little thinner and then some stay for another 15-20 minutes.”
He said one couple recently posted on the church Facebook page they intended to stay longer to pray on most Sundays and they may even bring some sack lunches with them so they can stay longer.
The church has appointed staff and lay members to be the designated prayer-time leaders, and sometimes they will call out prayer requests for various aspects of church ministries and for prayer requests of the body. Some people gather together in small groups and pray, sometimes silently and sometimes out loud. The pastor said he encourages the congregation to go up and pray with individuals who are praying to let them know they care and will share the burdens with them.
Pastor McGuire said, “You don’t have to have a major catastrophe happen. Just come and pray at the altar.”
He said one person encouraged the church to “linger with the Lord.” He feels it is changing the culture of their church to be a more intentionally prayer-focused church.
The genesis for this practice came when McGuire read the book “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan and got to thinking, ‘How do we take what we are doing, adjust it a little to our setting, and allow God to move us in prayer?”
He said, “We’ve always struggled with how to ‘end’ a worship service. Do you say, “Hey Holy Spirit, the service is ended, so I guess we’re done?” Instead they want to “be the church,” and the church can assemble and pray as long as they need to do so.
The town of Rockaway Beach was once a thriving resort community, built around a bass-fishing lake. They are about 15 miles east of Branson.
Lake Taneycomo was created in 1913. Rockaway Beach sprang up as a tourist destination. But in 1958 a dam was built upstream in Branson to create Table Rock Lake. Water from deep in Table Rock Lake streams out to the headwaters of Lake Taneycomo and thus lowered the water temperature significantly. The beach community found that few wanted to swim in the chilly waters anymore. The kind of fishing changed from bass to trout and that, coupled with the rise in popularity of the Branson area, caused the resorts to begin to decline.
A small riot among some vacationing college students resulted in some bad publicity in 1965. Resort owners began discouraging college students to come and families stopped coming because of the press reports about the riot.
By the early 1970s many of the restaurants and motels were closing. It is now a place where lower-income people tend to live and some of the old resorts are now converted into apartments. The drug culture and poverty has made a big impact and the needs of the population are great.
In 2005 the Bridge of Faith church was planted. They have tried to be a place of refuge and have stimulated the economy by creating several micro-business opportunities to augment the church ministry.
They have a coffee house, a thrift store, a food co-op, a community garden and a greenhouse with fresh produce for sale year round. And there is a softball league for area kids. On Wednesday night they may have as many as 80 children and teens come together for recreation and discipleship activities. During the summer they ramp up their ministry plans and employ area young people to do work in the ministries and be discipled at the same time.
McGuire said they just want people to come to church and have all the time they need for prayer and ministry to each other. He asked: “If we prayed for our families, for a desire of God to consume us, (for) our church to further make disciples who make disciples, (for) unsaved people we know, for wisdom, discernment, anointing, for our nation’s struggles, for political leaders to be guided by the hand of God, for our pastors, and for our community to become a city on a hill, shining the light of Christ for the entire Ozark region, and the list goes on, will you stay to pray?”
He thinks other churches may want to adopt this simple change in worship service ending strategy. “Our goal is to produce disciples,” he added. They want to transform their community and they feel that prayer ministry is a vital part. After church at Bridge of Faith, people can stay to pray as long as they want.