‘iPray” – by James D. Buckman – “A simple Prayer book for- Ministry, Mercy and Multiplication” SHOULD be a best seller, but it’s not. This review will tell you WHO should purchase this book, WHY, and WHAT to do once the work is purchased and read.
First, while the book is available via Kindle, there are complaints about the formatting. This isn’t unusual with Kindle books, especially self-published ones. There’s a reason it may be an ongoing problem for this book however… iPray is perfectly laid out for an 8.5″x11″ workbook. That doesn’t translate well to a small hand held device… unless your Kindle is 8.5″by11″!
So do yourself a favor and get the paperback version of iPray instead of the Kindle version at this point!
But back to the real question at hand:
WHO should buy iPray?
Here’s why Jim Buckman’s little book on the power of prayer should be a best seller: look at every traditional church in America still “struggling by”. Let’s call them by a name a friend gave me… a “Legacy Church”. What do you see? In most cases it’s a church that was started for a good reason, often still believes good things, often wants to “serve God” and often is woefully unable – it seems – to do that!
Due to shortages of people power and finances and fancy programming, they feel unable to “compete”. If this were a sandlot baseball game, that might be ok. But because these are churches, their sense of being “unable to compete” means they feel “unable to serve God any longer”. That is simply a shame and should be unacceptable to us!
As Pastor Jim rightly points out in “iPray” as long as these churches claim to love and serve Jesus, however small, however dilapidated, however weak they sense themselves to be, they still have something otherworldly and powerful to bring into their battle for survival and battle to serve their community! What do they have? They still have the power of prayer.
Buckman’s book speaks to just these churches – whether healthy, plateaued, or supposedly “dying” – and while they have the power of prayer and while intercessory prayer is still an option (that is, till our last breath) this book promises a WAY FORWARD from their present situation to a more faithful and effective ministry.
Because there are so many churches that meet this definition… existing, traditional, and often plateaued congregations, there is a huge market for this book. Each one of these congregations SHOULD buy and – as the well known prayer book “collect” says about the Bible – they should “read, mark, and inwardly digest” what Pastor Jim has to say. As the old saying goes “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda”… Many will never hear of this book I fear… But still this book SHOULD be a best seller. Virtually every church NEEDS IT for the most part.
WHY this book on the power of prayer is exceptional?
While most “outreach” books focus on reaching out BEYOND the confines of the church, Buckman’s book is unique (and pastorally wise) because it begins INSIDE THE CHURCH, well within our comfort zones!
Why is that a brilliant pastoral strategy for prayer? When plateaued churches call a pastor they universally say they want to “grow” … at least enough to keep the doors open. They say they want to do “outreach”. The pastor is being called to lead in outreach. But here’s what they never say out loud:
If outreach and new people dominate the new pastor’s time too much, the present flock feels neglected and and starts to RESENT the outreach they claim to want.
Buckman’s strategy of beginning among the church members to be sure they are adequately served through intercessory prayer is, then, sheer genius, reflecting street smart pastoral wisdom.
Picture concentric circles of prayer… it begins with covering the prayer needs of the existing congregation first, then the plan moves the church outward gradually in easy steps.
One of the biggest problems implementing ANY change in a congregation involves everyone’s hatred of change. The “secret” to implementing change is to make is so gradual that it is basically imperceptible.
Another secret in introducing change is to begin where everyone agrees. Basically if people are coming to church, they all agree in respecting the power of prayer.
By focusing on what everyone supposedly agrees on… the power of prayer and the need for members to be taken care of while outreach expands the church’s number, Buckman’s strategy for multiplying ministry gives itself the best possible chance for success.
Now a word about sound doctrine and church growth.
Ever noticed how many “church growth strategies” seem to UNDERMINE the traditional or confessional church? They attribute the ability of a church to grow or reach out based on things like cell groups, different worship styles, different music, different structures, new programs, and most notably “attractional events”.
As an example of the latter, just the other day a nearby church was offering free helicopter rides to draw people to their location hoping they’d make the trip back next Sunday. It’s not clear what operating two helicopters offering free rides like that costs, but not only do many churches NOT have that kind of money, that kind of activity should raise the question: “What does offering free helicopter rides (or insert other similar attractional activity) have to do with BEING CHURCH?”
Buckman’s “iPray” delivers us from the “attractional trap”… or at least helps us turn attractional events like Easter Egg Hunts, Christmas cantatas, Youth Dinner Theaters, etc. into events that can turn hearts and minds toward God through prayer.
So if you’re Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran (like Pr. Buckman), Reformed or other church tired of the gimmicks and total overhaul of your church demanded by most popular “church growth strategies”, the book “iPray” is going to be a wonderful breath of fresh air.
It let’s you start within one’s comfort zones doctrinally and practically and gradually move to significant outreach and multiplication.
WHAT this change will require?
“iPray” is going to require that a church build up the church’s prayer life. Whether that means reinvigorating the prayer circle, putting a prayer request form in the pews or going “high tech” and taking a prayer request online… this manual is about turning “Prayer Couch Potatoes” into “Prayer Warriors”. Don’t let that “charismatic” phrase “Prayer Warrior” frighten you. All Christians believe in prayer. All Christians believe in intercessory prayer and prayers for healing. All Christians have no problem receiving prayer requests. With a bit of training perhaps, all Christians feel comfortable asking family, friends, neighbors and even strangers if THEY have a prayer request! Pastor Buckman’s strategy merely involves calling Christians to do what all Christians do… pray.
When people think of “churches that believe in the power of prayer” they rightly think of prayer powerhouses like Brooklyn Tabernacle. Here’s a link to the Brooklyn Tabernacle online prayer center. It’s obviously impressive. People can visit there to pray. At the bottom of the page they can submit a prayer request online through an electronic prayer request form and their free prayer request will be prayed for “in house” by their team of Christians trained to offer intercessory prayer for 30 days. People visiting the page who wish to pray will be praying for these requests too.
Rest assured, this book and strategy DO NOT REQUIRE THAT level of sophistication! Pastor Buckman offers access to the online prayer tool iprayu.org/ and the related Android and iOS apps he has created, but their use isn’t mandatory. And if a congregation chooses to use the service, participation is currently free.
It’s likely that – to start – 99% of participating congregations will simply start taking prayer requests by pen and paper, send them out through an email prayer chain, and possibly never have to worry about being so “fancy”.
The “iPray” book offers many suggestions for pen and paper tools or free internet tools like online spreadsheets and forms for beginning this unique intercessory prayer ministry as a platform for church renewal and growth.
But here’s the best part- your prayer ministry in some ways can have more impact than a big church’s. Really? Yes.
HOW does iPray work?
The reader may be wondering how intercessory prayer translates into member care and outreach? The key is through MERCY MINISTRY resulting in RELATIONSHIP.
While we value anyone’s prayers – it’s virtually impossible for a big, distant church to develop a relationship with people individually.
Ideally member prayer requests and prayer requests gathered from visitors and community members will be connected with contact information. Pastor Buckman’s strategy involves FOLLOWING UP prayer by CONNECTING people to the practical help they need. This builds relationships whereby people can see Christ displayed and then proclaimed! Ultimately it results in a the revitalization of the church and church growth through intercessory prayer not relatively useless special events.
That’s how the power of prayer works to multiply the outreach of the church – through long term relationships, not anonymous prayer requests online and miles away!
WHAT iPray by Jim Buckman ISN’T…
Finally “iPray” ISN’T another book on “the latest gimmicks in prayer”. Prayer isn’t a PROGRAM… the power of prayer isn’t found in magic or saying the RIGHT FORMULA.
Effective prayer happens not because of our works, but happens whenever Christians are addressing the loving heavenly Father through the faithful Mediator and Savior Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s bringing our prayer requests before the One who loves us and the world enough to enter it with His kingdom to reclaim it all.
Don’t expect some self-appointed prophet to reveal his latest visions in this book… don’t expect a curriculum company to use this book to sell an idea for which they conveniently provide the curriculum!
WHY Believe James Buckman?
James Buckman is a rare combination… having grown up on the mission field he has evangelical zeal. Having served in the US Special Forces, he is uniquely equipped for thinking strategically. As a pastor and church planter trying to revitalize churches, he has been “in the trenches” most pastors serve. As a confessional Lutheran, he is sensitive to the ways so many “church growth strategies” call us to compromise our deeply held beliefs. His unique experience allows this book to answer… “how do I help renew God’s often lazy people in ways that are theologically sound and ministerially appropriate for church member and unchurched person alike?”
If you’ve read this far, you need to break down and read this book and put it into practice. You won’t regret it!