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A Missional Prayer Partnership: A Pastor’s Story

This Spring, FXUS’s own Gannon Sims was able to sit down with our FXUS Prayer Coordinator, Cheryl McCarthy, and Canon Thomas Herrick to discuss the relationship between a pastor and his intercessors. This is what Tom had to say about his involvement with Fresh Expressions US. 

As a Fresh Expressions US Pioneer you are learning to listen to a community.

You’re learning to hear what matters to them and how you can connect with them. It’s the same process you go through in prayer. You learn how to do that with God first and then He teaches you how to do that with others.

It was an immediate thing for me, when I heard about Fresh Expressions I said, “‘Oh, yeah, this is something I want to be doing.'”

It has given me a whole new insight into Jesus’s ministry and how he did the things he did. It connects you to people in a different way.

Leaning into Prayer

The Lord impressed upon me early on as a pastor of Christ the Redeemer, a new congregation in Virginia, the need to have people pray for you—to have intercessors that can join you in prayer, to join you in the ministry that God calls you to.

By gathering people that cared about me and cared about the calling God had placed on my life,  and by sharing with them what was happening in my life, all the joys, struggles and challenges, it became much easier to do ministry. There’s a way that God kind of goes before you. He clears the path and you kind of follow where He leads.

So, during those early years as a new church planter, around 1993, I became aware of people who had a discipline of praying and had a gift to pray.

When I got to know Cheryl McCarthy, who was on the original core team of Christ the Redeemer, Jesus showed me that he had given her a serious gift of intercessory prayer. There are those that have the discipline and those who have the gift and then there are those that have both, and Cheryl had both.

One of the things I noticed about her was her heart, that she had an incredible heart and the Lord told me, “You need to shape this in her.” As her pastor I began to do that. She was very willing and she wanted to come into that kind of relationship with God. She wanted to use that gift, not just for me, but for others.

We began to pray together and she would come to me with words and pictures that God had given to her. She thinks and prays in pictures. She would give a picture or she would give a word and sometimes I knew exactly what it meant. I would be like, “Whoa! That is amazing.”

Other times I would have to pray into it and say, ‘Lord, what are you trying to say to me.’ Sometimes I would have to wait and then I would get words from other intercessors and it would be like a puzzle. And because each of them were faithful to give their part then it completed the whole picture.

When it came into focus it, again, would be one of those, ‘Whoa!’ experiences and I could never have made this up. God really is speaking here. That’s the kind of experience I have with Cheryl. She has been a dear friend, and a faithful intercessor for a long time and someone who really understands me. She was my Head Intercessor with The Titus Institute for 5 years before starting with Fresh Expressions US.

A Word to Pastors

That’s something I would say to pastors. Sometimes pastors can be very guarded because the ministry can be a difficult experience. It’s easy to put on the pastor face. That just doesn’t work. You need people, especially your intercessors, that know you. They know your strengths and they know your weaknesses, they know your challenges.

When they know you they know how to pray for you. They can pray for you in a way that you can’t even pray for yourself. And when you have intercessors that have known you for many years they remember words that God has given to them for you. It’s wonderful to have people who remind you and keep God’s word to you fresh and keep what He is saying to you alive.

The pace of ministry and the pressures of ministry can wear you down. So, Gannon, when you asked me who would be the person who had the Gift of Intercession and the discipline to come on board with Fresh Expressions US, Cheryl was the first one to come to my mind. Cheryl still is one of the main people in my life who intercedes for me and for many people I know and love.

Canon Thomas Herrick is a Fresh Expressions Mission Strategist, who leads Vision Days and also coaches MSM/Pioneer Learning Community participants. He also serves as the Canon for Mission in the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic and Executive Director of the Titus Institute for Church Planting. Tom is a frequent conference speaker whose passion is to spread the vision for Great Commission Church Multiplication. Tom and Carol have been happily married for 35 years and live in Clifton, VA. They share life with their two adult children, Angela and Nick, and daughter-in-law, Marie.


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