Praying in Unity

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“After Peter and John had been set free they went to their fellowship and told them what the chief priests and the Jewish elders had said to them. All who heard their story were moved, and in one mind prayed together…When they had finished, the place where they were together was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to tell God’s message fearlessly.” Acts 4:23-24, 31 (paraphrase)

Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish religious leaders. God had done a miracle through them in healing a lame man. All the people who saw were amazed and were eager to know how this could happen. Peter and John went on to preach Jesus Christ, who not only has the power to heal but to save. They were arrested for preaching Jesus Christ. Finding no way to keep them or punish them due to the public miracle they let them go.

After hearing the story the people, having one mind, began to pray. They praised God for his works, they prayed the Scriptures, they prayed about their situation, and they prayed for boldness to preach the message of the gospel, and the power to heal with signs and wonders.

We read the books of Acts in one of two ways. Either we read the book of Acts as history seeing all that God had done in the past through the apostles and disciples. We see all that happened as being in the past and “not for today.” The book of Acts is only information about what happened and not a mirror to compare our lives, or our churches, to. As a consequence, many churches remain dead and powerless.

Another way we read the book of Acts is with a longing for God to work like he did before. We sit in our pews and wonder why God is not moving like he did in the book of Acts. Why people aren’t being saved. Why we see no miracles, signs and wonders. Why we remain in disunity, faithless, and powerless. Why are our churches empty. The consequence of being “pew sitters” is the same as reading the book of Acts as history: dead and powerless churches.

Our acts don’t match the acts of the disciples in the book of Acts.
Peyton Jones said, “If we want to witness kingdom expansion like the apostles did, it’s not enough to know what they knew. We need to do what they did.” [1]

From our passage today we see a glimpse of what the disciples of the early Church did: they prayed.

Not just any type of praying, but, praying together in unity. The Scripture says, “they lifted their voices together to God…” (ESV). They prayed with one heart, one focus, and one mission. They wanted the power of God in their church, not for protection, but for power and boldness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the act, the first act, any church, or group of churches, should take in winning their community to God.

When the Church comes together in unity there is power in our prayer. Jesus promises his presence, especially when we are gathered together in his name. And when we pray as one, we shake the community, and we become bold to speak his message fearlessly.

[1] Peyton Jones, Reaching the Unreached Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art, (Zondrvan, 2017) pg. 23

A Solemn Assembly is Needed…

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Recently, a pastor friend of mine gave me a document called, “A Solemn Assembly is Needed…”. It was a list of conditions, or symptoms, of a local church that when observed, a solemn assembly of repentance and renewal needs to be called.

Inspired by such a list I’ve adapted my own for the local Christian community. These symptoms point to the need for a community-wide solemn assembly. Read this list and see if you can relate to some of this symptoms. I know I do.

A Community Solemn Assembly is Needed…

  • When we find ourselves walking by sight instead of walking by faith
  • When prayer is the last resort instead of the foundation of our community
  • When events for evangelism are preferred over one-on-one evangelism
  • When our passion to build the biggest church overshadows our passion and pursuit of God’s kingdom in the community
  • When the ministry of God in our community does not include the poor, the widows, and the fatherless
  • When there is a greater emphasis on pleasing people, looking good in the community, and having the greatest influence, than pleasing God
  • When we find ourselves being more excited about building our own church than the health of our community
  • When the pastors of our churches do all the evangelism and discipleship in our community while our people spectate from their chairs
  • When we seem to be producing “converts” instead of “disciples” in our community
  • When growing our attendance is more important than the spiritual health of the community, and the spiritual health of other churches
  • When most growth in churches today is transfer growth
  • When there is disunity among the churches or ministries in the community
  • When there is no community vision, and no cooperation to see that vision through
  • When we see the other churches as competition, instead of partners in the kingdom of God
  • When each church exists as an isolated island unto itself, and we work within the community as if we are the only church

Which symptoms resonated with you? What would you add to the list?

Stronger Together

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“Two are better than one…though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12)

It is no secret to Christians that we have an enemy. Paul exhorts us that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Satan and his minions are out to steal, kill, and destroy the kingdom of God, and all who are called by His name. And Satan would love nothing more than to divide us.

Our Lord says, “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” But our history shows we have been a kingdom divided. And one does not need to be a student of history to know we are divided. You only have to look at local churches. Each is exclusively building their own kingdoms. Some even at the expense of other churches in the form of transfer growth. Others function as if they are the only church in town. In other areas, hostility towards one another over doctrines, liturgies, or practices is prevalent. This division only weakens us; incapacitates our mission, witness, and resolve.

Imagine what we could do together. How strong would our communities be if we did come together?

First, our mission could be fulfilled more efficiently. We would reach and affect more people in our communities.

Second, our witness would be illuminated. Our Lord says our discipleship is shown to the world when we love each other.

Thirdly, our resolve will grow. When we are together, we build our confidence. We encourage one another with our works in the community. We become a stabilizing force in our world.

Churches that partner together are stronger together.

Helping Each Other

“Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Times of trouble will come. Our Lord says, “In the world, you will have many troubles” (John 16:33). Troubles are unavoidable, and many churches find themselves in it due to low attendance, city ordinances, dissension, building problems, lack of leadership, etc.

A church may have low attendance and are barely making the bills. What will such a church do if one of their own needs help?

A church may experience a fire incident that destroys their building. Where will they hold their services now? Can they rent AND pay their mortgage?

A church has a pastor, who left unexpectedly and accumulated several unpaid bills. Who would they seek assistance from to help them get back on their feet?

A new city ordinance has put pressure on a local church to bring their old building up to code, but they don’t have the finances to comply. How can they stay open if they can’t comply?

Some churches are part of a network of denominations that can help in these situations. But even if the church is part of a network, they still might not have the help needed. Many denominations now are struggling to keep other churches open and might not be able to assist during times of crisis. Also, these networks and denominations sometimes encourage a monochurch culture, seeing their assembly as the only viable and worthwhile church in a given city or area.

In each of the scenarios above, local churches can come to the aid of other local churches in order to keep the kingdom advancing. I am certain you are thinking of ways to help these churches now!

By keeping as many churches as possible open and viable, including ministering to the community, will help the locale in ways unseen by most. By allowing a church to fall, you may be closing the only soup kitchen in the area. Another may be the one ministering to and praying for schools. Others may specialize in helping single mothers get back on their feet. If these churches fall, will the other churches be able to pick up where they left off? Probably not. The community would be hugely affected.

Churches can help each other and their communities more efficiently when partnering together.



See The Kingdom Advance Further

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“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Here begins a four-part series inspired by John Maxwell’s “Partnership Principles” he highlights in his book, The Power of Partnership in the Church. His focus was on individuals. My attention will be on churches partnering together; that is, to-be co-churches in their communities.

Two are better than one. We see this in the Scriptures played out over and over again:

God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. So He created Eve.

God sent Aaron to Moses to be his right-hand man.

David had Jonathan as a close friend.

Elijah had Elisha washing his hands.

Jesus sent out His disciples two-by-two.

There are many reasons one could guess why God partnered people together. Several are given in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Verse 9 speaks of a greater reward for work. Another translation says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (NLT). When two people come together, they can do twice the work and get the job done faster, or get more return for the extra work. Also, they can strive towards the same goal and help each other succeed in that goal.

Could churches not work the same way?

If two churches come together, their work is multiplied on a huge scale. They can get more done than if they were doing it alone. The one goal every church should have is the kingdom’s advancement. If the goal is the same, why work to build the kingdom only in your own church? Why not work to build the kingdom in both churches? Outreaches and evangelism are great avenues in which churches can partner together.

For example, think about a backpack giveaway to children before school. One church may be able to buy and fill ten backpacks. Another may be able to fill fifty, but the first church wants to be exclusive in their outreach. They will miss an opportunity to not only serve more people in their community but also show the love of Christ in a new way in unity. Isn’t this how Jesus said we would show that we are His disciples: when we love each other? By partnering together, you’ll have a more significant impact in your community—both in the physical and spiritual.

Churches that partner together will see the kingdom advanced further than going alone.

Pentecostal, Baptists, Independent…We All Need Each Other

A good article from Together for the Gospel called, “Why Charismatics and Calvinists Need Each Other,” speaks of the possible unity between missional oriented Charismatics and theological depth of the Calvinists.

He begins by describing why we are so separated.

This separation has never been more apparent than the present. It’s cause for concern when Pentecostals/charismatics get together in their conferences, read their books, remain in their churches, and never get out of their sandbox… Just as concerning as it is when charismatics stay in their own sandbox, so it is with us Calvinists.

Too often we look at other traditions and believe they are “wrong”, therefore, we cannot work together, worship together, or even converse with each other. We would prefer to die upon our hill of doctrine than to understand the other tradition and see where we have similarities. When we discard whole traditions for past disagreements we can fall into error in our own understanding of the gospel.

As one of my mentors put it, “Charismatics love the fire of God’s power, but sometimes we burn things down with it.” …we Calvinists construct a beautiful fireplace, but sometimes we struggle to get the fire going.

The author is saying that both traditions can learn from each other. We both can strengthen each other’s weakness. Imagine what would happen if we did come together for the gospel?

I am thankful I am seeing more people in the Reformed camp calling themselves Reformed Charismatics.

The goal of this post is not to convince you to be Reformed or Charismatic. The goal is to show you that our traditions should not keep us from coming together as one body of Christ. We need each other! What if the different traditions represent the different body parts of the body of Christ?

Can the eye say to the hand, “I have no need of you”? Or the head to the feet say, “I have no need of you”? Can the Charismatic say to the Reformed, “I have no need of you”? Can the Reformed say to the Charismatic, “I have no need of you”?

All Things In Common

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Ac 2:44–45.

As I have said before, the passage in Acts 2:42-47 moves people today to ask the question, ““Why does the Church today look so different than the Church of Acts?”

I think verses 44 & 45 are the ones that make people believe the First Church is very different than our churches today.

Today, the only thing local churches have in common is the fact many of them have a building, with a pastor, who comes together every Sunday morning to sing songs, listen to a sermon, and then go home.

The monochurch culture has lead to many weak, poor, and ineffectual churches in our communities. Church buildings are in disrepair. Fellowships are scraping by just to pay the bills. Even within our congregations, there are people who struggle to feed their families.

This is where I believe the multichurch culture can shine.

Imagine people selling possessions to give to the needy, not just in their own church fellowship, but to help others in other churches – the homeless would have shelter, the hungry fed, the naked clothed.

Imagine if a larger church set aside resources in order to help a smaller church – buildings could be repaired, technology updated, and resources shared for the gospel.

Ask yourself, what would it look like for churches to have all things in common?

A multichurch culture involves more people, which brings together more resources, ideas, and energy than would monochurch culture.