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?

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.