Part two of our prayer time looked ahead with desire to set some specific goals for 1981. We prayed about what we should pray about. Again, without reserve people spoke out their concerns. Personal evangelism was a priority with a focus on each of us befriending, inviting and sharing with others the good news. Developing corporate prayer and the work of Manna House was highlighted and the need for young families and children to belong to the church family. Someone felt strongly about encouraging the congregation to sit nearer the front rather than hiding away at the back and several commented about deepening fellowship among us all.
As these issues were written down, one unspoken and unshaped goal seemed to hang in the air. In 1981 we all dreamed that the church would grow. Statistically it had shrunk in 1980 and the challenge about having a vision to serve on the main street when our resources in people and money were so limited loomed large. Somehow the group agreed that we should pray specifically for new members to join us. I remember my felt-tip pen hovering over the acetate sheet. How specific should we be? I searched the faces of the exuberant group. Tentatively the number 50 formed itself in my heart and even more hesitantly I mentioned it. What an appalling risk and terrible presumption to place an actual number in a prayer request! And in terms of our current size what a mountain of faith was needed.
It was an extraordinary moment. Stillness was charged with expectation. For a few seconds there was quiet before heart-felt assent. And my pen had written 50 new members in 1981. Reflecting on this I marvel how the spirit of thanksgiving seemed both to liberate and unite us that night and to nurture faith. The Holy Spirit was blessing us with a bold vision of what might be. Why 50 people I have been asked. Facetiously I have answered that maybe it was one new member for every week of the year allowing for two weeks' holiday. But I have no idea. Really. I was sharing in a spiritual reality on the threshold of a year when God could do mighty things. Even with us.