Spiritual Great Awakenings are benchmark moments in faith history. Members of the Annual Conference attending a teaching time may have been surprised to be compared to such events. Sue Nilson Kibbey did just that as she concluded her presentation on what she describes as one of her most passionate learnings, “I believe the next great spiritual awakening is happening in the Missouri Conference.” Nilson Kibbey opened the Bishop’s Learning Time on Saturday morning with a prayer, asking for an extra anointing for the gathered group. “Let’s make sure we are wide open and ready for what God has for us.”
Nilson Kibbey is an ordained United Methodist Elder and the Director of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative of the West Ohio Conference. She led those gathered through an explanation of a Breakthrough Prayer Initiative. She described it as, “Not just another committee, another class, another sermon series. It is an intentional prayer movement of all ages in your church; a wide swath of people who simply pray for God to enter in new ways.”
Nilson Kibbey pointed to Oswald Chambers, a British missionary who died while ministering to the troops in Egypt during World War One. Oswald’s lectures became the basis for the book, “My Utmost For His Highest.” Nilson Kibbey quoted Oswald who said, “Just as physical food nourishes our physical body, prayer is the food that nourishes the Body of Christ.” Nilson Kibbey said, “The Body of Christ is the Church. If that’s the case, then are we snacking on prayer or are we feasting?” She continued, “When we wonder why a church is emaciated and wasting away, I’m raising the question, are we emaciated because we have been fasting on prayer instead of feasting on prayer?”
Nilson Kibbey was adamant that pastors and other church leaders lead a Breakthrough Prayer Initiative. “If we believe prayer makes a difference, we are the ones who must lead the way.” Breakthrough prayer is simple, asking God to open the door to new possibilities and to “breathe the new in the life of your church.” It can be simple, “with or without words.” Nilson Kibbey reminded her audience that “God hears our groans too deep for words. This prayer initiative is asking God to align us with where the compass of God’s Spirit dreams we could go.”
Nilson Kibbey shared three approaches to Breakthrough Prayer and video testimonies from transformed churches. ‘Threshold’ prayer is for churches that don’t know specifically what to pray about. “It simply lifts the church to God’s highest threshold of God’s highest place of miraculous grace.” Threshold prayers could involve prayer walks through a neighborhood and throughout a building, simply lifting the church to God. ‘Archer’s’ prayer is used when a church understands what they need. “It’s not a silver bullet,” Nilson Kibbey cautioned. She said that it can be powerful when used in the face of a specific obstacle or roadblock. The third approach is ‘Prevailing’ prayer, used when a church says “this is who we are and this is going to be the DNA of our church.”
Nilson Kibbey shared more details of the Breakthrough Prayer Initiative when she led a workshop on Sunday afternoon. Breakthrough Prayer is one element described in her book, “Flood Gates: Holy Momentum for a Fearless Church,” which describes her experienced-based research that helps congregations make the shift from a plateau or decline.
Nilson Kibbey cautioned leaders of smaller churches not to dismiss the practice of Breakthrough Prayer. She shared that she is often approached by pastors who say a congregation in a tiny town would never accept the model. “Don’t believe that myth,” Nilson Kibbey said. “Churches long to have leadership that is courageous in prayer. They long for it.”
Nilson Kibbey encouraged those present to turn their thoughts toward their home churches. “The real story is in you and at your church back home. God is looking for the next places and the next opportunities; the next parts of the Body of Christ that want to feast on possibilities.” As she concluded, she said, “God may be longing to speak to you. This time is your time. I believe that one of the next great spiritual awakenings of our time is happening in the Missouri Conference.”