Inner~View #59: Practical & Personal Insights on Solemn Assemblies

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Pastor Keeney Dickenson

Practical & Personal Insights on Solemn Assemblies

Keeney Dickenson is the founder and director of Prayeridigm Ministries. He is a pastor, writer, consultant and conference speaker with a passion for prayer and revival. Dickenson is a graduate of Wayland Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has pastored churches in Missouri, New Mexico, and has served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Crockett, Texas since 2003. He and his wife D’Ann have two sons, Jarryn and Koby.

Phil ~ Keeney, most pastors have an interest in prayer and revival but you seem driven toward them. How did that develop in your life and ministry?

Keeney ~ My passion for prayer and revival grows out of a call from God which I received in college. Early in my ministry I became aware of my desperate dependence upon God. There has also been a constant awareness of the need for divine power to fulfill the mission of the church. I have spent the last twenty-five years of pastoral ministry seeking the heart of God in fulfilling His call to become an instrument of revival within the Body of Christ through the combination of pastoral ministry within the local church, the development of resources, and itinerant ministry across our nation. My burden for prayer and revival has intensified with the obvious increase of rampant prayerlessness and the tragic absence of genuine biblical revival.

Phil ~ What are your observations about the prayer life of the typical pastor? What do you recommend for those who want to grow closer to Christ in prayer?

Keeney ~ I have never met a pastor who is completely satisfied with his prayer life. Most of the pastors I have come in contact with, have expressed a deep need for more depth and consistency in the area of prayer. Personally, I have found that modeling my life of prayer after the life of prayer which Jesus lived to be the key. The two major focuses of Jesus’ life of prayer were: (1) intimacy, and (2) intercession. However, He seemed to invest the most priority time in intimacy with the Father, which overflowed in timely intercession. The majority of the pastor’s time of prayer can easily become consumed with intercession for church members, conflicts, issues, and ministries. I have found that passionately pursuing intimacy with the Father on a daily basis creates a powerful strategic overflow of intercession and ministry.

Phil ~ Your work came to my attention when a trusted colleague emailed me your work on Solemn Assemblies. . .

Keeney ~ “Blow the Trumpet in Zion” is something the Father prompted me to write as a practical sourcebook for pastors who long to lead their congregation toward the heart of God through the solemn assembly process.

What is a Solemn Assembly? Its purpose? - The solemn assembly is a divinely-initiated process through which the local church is confronted with the awesome reality of corporate and individual sin against our holy God through an extensive time of prayer, which culminates in an extended worship service of specific corporate confession and repentance. The basic purpose of the solemn assembly is fivefold:

(1) To reconnect the people of God with the Word of God;

(2) To reorient the people of God to the ways of God;

(3) To redirect the people of God toward the will of God;

(4) To reawaken the people of God to the worship of God;

(5) To rejuvenate the people of God in the work of God.

What would you say to a pastor who considers a solemn assembly too threatening for his congregation? - To simply schedule a solemn assembly service apart from a season of prayer, fasting and spiritual preparation could not only be threatening, but also detrimental in the life of a congregation. One of the reasons for this, is a blatant disorientation to the ways of God among His people. Sadly, we live in a day in which church life is driven by an excessive focus on innovation and technology. Therefore, in many cases, speaking in terms of the ways of God to a congregation can be like speaking a foreign language. This makes guiding the people toward a biblical understanding of the ways of God in the solemn assembly process of utmost necessity. The key for the pastor, is waiting patiently upon the timing and leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Should a pastor expect his church to jump right into an extended time of reflection and repentance or should he build up to that point? - The beginning point for the pastor is to solemnly seek the face of God personally, and then lead his congregation through the overflow as the Holy Spirit directs him. Pastoral leadership is a major key to the solemn assembly process. It involves guiding the congregation through the recognition of specific corporate sins; preaching messages that focus on the nature of corporate sin and the necessity of corporate repentance; and bathing the entire process in an extended season of prayer and fasting.

In your opinion, is it best for the pastor to facilitate the prayer meeting or is an outside leader less threatening to the members' sharing? - Each congregation is unique. However, it has been my experience that a pastor-led solemn assembly is most effective because of the continuity of preparation and follow-up involved in the process. On the other hand, an outside leader could possibly be more objective and less threatening in assisting the church through the initial phases of preparation as a spiritual guide or consultant. Also, unless properly utilized, outside leadership can create the perception that the solemn assembly is simply another isolated church event on the church calendar.

Assuming a congregation experiences a genuine cleansing work of the Spirit, where does the pastor lead them from that point? - For me personally, I have found it very important to allow the perspective of the solemn assembly to saturate the life and ministry of our congregation. Examples of this would be: specific prayer focuses in the prayer meeting; celebrating the activity of God among us as a direct result of the solemn assembly process; and identifying areas of victory resulting through lifestyles of individual and corporate repentance which began in the solemn assembly process.

Phil ~ I've heard it said "Every church prays but not every church is a praying church." How does a pastor build his congregation into a house of prayer?

Keeney ~ Many churches refer to their “prayer ministry”. In most cases, this is confined to a small room, with limited participation by a small number of people who are frustrated with the majority of the congregation who have no desire to frequent that room with them. I realize there are rare occurrences in which this is not the case. However, I prefer to focus on developing a “ministry of prayer” which is woven into the fabric of the church, rather than a “prayer ministry” that is relegated to the fringe of congregational life. I recently led a regional seminar on this topic, and discovered at least 30 different ways in which we are doing this in our church. Due to space, I will offer a few examples:
• Enlisting an army of intercession on behalf of the pastor and spouse, and providing them with specific daily prayer focuses.
• Reclaiming the prayer meeting.
• Monthly church staff days of prayer.
• Periodic Sunday School prayer guides.
• Strategic prayer focuses in Sunday morning worship services which focus on revival, missions, evangelism, etc.
• Guiding members to write specific prayer cards for church events assuring guest leaders and participants of our intercession.
• Developing the mindset, that if you are a member of this church, you are expected to pray.
• Incorporating church staff and leadership accountability questions that emphasize the necessity of a consistent life of prayer.
• Challenging committees and ministry teams to devote their initial meeting solely to prayer, rather than simply praying a brief prayer as a prelude to a predictable horizontal focus of planning apart from the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
• Preaching messages that focus on the basics of prayer.
• Hosting annual prayer conferences, seminars, workshops, etc.

Phil ~ You speak on "The Weakly Prayer Meeting" ...

Keeney ~ One of our basic problems in the local church is what I call, programitis; we overestimate the power of programs and we underestimate the power of prayer. Therefore, I am convinced that the local church needs to either reclaim or rename their prayer meeting. Strategic biblical corporate prayer promotes strategic biblical private prayer. I have found that the average church member prays privately about the things they hear their leadership pray about publicly. In most cases this is limited to people who are sick, bereaved, and/or facing a crisis. About eighteen years ago, I began guiding the congregation I pastored to reclaim the prayer meeting by refocusing prayer toward intimacy with the Father, revival, missions and evangelism. Initially, models and resources were very limited. As the overflow of this process, we have developed a sourcebook entitled, “The Prayer Meeting First Aid Kit” which contains over 350 corporate prayer exercises that were developed in the local church setting. The Father has used this resource to give pastors practical assistance in moving away from the weakly prayer meeting.

Phil ~ How does a pastor begin to operate with a new "prayeridigm?"

Keeney ~ “Prayeridigm” is a term we have coined to describe the nature of our prayer ministry. It implies a new paradigm or understanding of prayer. I believe that the beginning point of this new understanding involves thinking in terms of a “life of prayer” as opposed to a “prayer life.” Pastors can view prayer as nothing more than a ministerial duty, and a means to an end. However, Jesus’ “prayeridigm” was to live and minister in the discipline and atmosphere of unceasing prayerfulness. Pastors tend to pray in the context of life and ministry, but Jesus lived and ministered in the context of prayer. For Jesus, prayerfulness centered on intimacy with the Father, which overflowed in timely intercession and powerful ministry.

Phil ~ Request based praying is reactive; focusing on current and immediate needs and problems. Proactive praying declares the glory of God across the globe. Help a pastor who wants to move into outward focused praying for lost people, for communities and even countries to hear the gospel.

Keeney ~ Again, I believe the beginning point is the Son of God and the Word of God. Begin by asking yourself, “What would Jesus pray?” Our goal is Christlikeness in all areas, especially prayer. In order to live as Jesus lived, we must pray as Jesus prayed. The prayers of Jesus were guided and shaped by the will and glory of the Father. I would also encourage pastors to study the prayers of people in the Bible such as Elijah (1 KIngs 18), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1), Daniel (Daniel 9), Isaiah (Isaiah 64), Paul (Ephesians 1:15-21; 3:14-21), the Psalms, etc. Much of our praying is need-centered and self-centered. But the majority of the prayers in the Bible were God-centered and God-sized. Our goal should be to develop an army of global intercessors with a Father-focused vision of changing the world through prayer.

Phil ~ Keeney, please write a prayer you hope each reader will pray with you in agreement...

Keeney ~ Father, we stand in need of a fresh outpouring of Your Holy Spirit upon Your people! Please forgive us for treating prayer as one of many ministerial duties, when it is our spiritual lifeline. Oh Father, create within us a holy hunger and passion for intimacy with You. We are well acquainted with what we can do for You. However, we know that You work through those who wait on You! Oh, how we long to see what You can do through us. We agree with the Apostle Paul, that You are “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to Your power that works in us.” Please deliver us from giving everything else the priority that prayer alone deserves. May we truly have ministries that originate in Your heart, and which You orchestrate by Your hand! Oh Father, please make anything less than this empty and repulsive to us. Please enable us to rediscover our identity as the house of prayer. Oh Lord, teach us to pray. This is the cry of our hearts, in the precious and powerful name of Jesus. Amen.
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