Ever since I first read Neil Cole’s Organic Church the alarm on my phone has gone off at 10:02 every morning, Monday-Saturday. It reminds me of Jesus’ command to his disciples in Luke 10:2b that they pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into his harvest fields. That alarm just went off. I offered up my cursory prayer and then looked up at my computer to continue my reading in With Christ in the School of Prayer. It just so happened to be on chapter 9, “Pray the Lord of the harvest.” Murray asks the obvious question, “Why would God who knows the need and wants people saved need us to pray for him to send out workers?” The answer: “that His compassion may stream into us, and His Spirit be able to assure us that our prayer avails.”
The question is often posed Christian circles, “Does prayer change outcomes or does it change us?” The answer according to Murray is that we are changed when we pray with certainty that our prayer will change the outcome. So, as Murray goes on to say:
Let us set apart time and give ourselves to this part of our intercessory work. It will lead us into the fellowship of that compassionate heart of His that led Him to call for our prayers. It will elevate us to the insight of our regal position, as those whose will counts for something with the great God in the advancement of His Kingdom. It will make us feel how really we are God's fellow-workers on earth, to whom a share in His work has in downright earnest been entrusted. It will make us partakers in the soul travail, but also in the soul satisfaction of Jesus, as we know how, in answer to our prayer, blessing has been given that otherwise would not have come.
As a missional movement, we’re constantly aware that without God’s provision, we will burnout, fail or burnout and then fail if not for the provision of God through prayer. Our leadership team is reading through the book that Richard Foster calls the best book ever written on the subject of prayer, Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer. I first read this work nearly fifteen years ago. I’ve still not gotten over it. As I read through it for what must at least be the fifth time, the insights continue to strike my forehead with same dizzying force as when I first read it. I’d like to share some of them with you through this blog.
I’m currently in chapter 7 of the book so you’ll have to read it for yourself to get insights from chapters 1-6, I suppose. Here is a quote from Murray’s exposition of the “Friend at Midnight” story from Luke 11:
When I come to God in prayer, He always looks to what the aim is of my petition. If it be merely for my own comfort or joy I seek His grace, I do not receive. But if I can say that it is that He may be glorified in my dispensing His blessings to others, I shall not ask in vain. Or if I ask for others, but want to wait until God has made me so rich, that it is no sacrifice or act of faith to aid them, I shall not obtain. But if I can say that I have already undertaken for my needy friend, that in my poverty I have already begun the work of love, because I know I had a friend Who would help me, my prayer will be heard. Oh, we know not how much the plea avails: the friendship of earth looking in its need to the friendship of heaven: He will give him as much as he needeth.'
This tool, based on Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Groups, is designed to facilitate a one on one/one on two discipleship process. As with LTG’s, participants gather for one hour per week to ask and answer the accountability questions. At the meeting they agree upon a passage of Scripture to read on their own through the week. Unlike LTG’s, Growth Groups require participants to make weekly commitments to pray, join Christ in his mission and to obey his Word through Scripture. Because of this dynamic approach, we needed a means to update commitments on a weekly basis. So, we created this online form. Give it a try and see where it grows.
I believe many who would identify themselves as non-Christians have not rejected Jesus at all. They’ve rejected someone I’m calling “Geezus” – the parody of Christ co-authored by misguided church people and cynics. Open to Matthew and start reading.
So, I can’t stop thinking about the Phil Robertson thing not because I watch Duck Dynasty (I’ve seen season 1) but because I believe this event like so many others in the past two years is a watershed moment for our society. Just for the record, his anatomical statements were meant to highlight the inherent unnatural nature of gay sex aside from biblical prohibitions. He was right on that point. He included homosexual behavior in a list with bestiality which Leviticus 18 does as well along with incest. And finally, he almost perfectly paraphrased 1 Cor. 6:9-11. These are his offenses. In our society, your choices currently are as follows: 1. “Get in line” (direct quote from gay rights activist speaking on CNN), 2. Be persecuted for accepting the Bible as the inspired Word of God. I pick #2.
I’ve had several conversations with atheists and agnostics regarding the existence of the God of the Bible. After all is said and very little done, their objections almost always come down to disbelief in a character who would create moral beings knowing they would sin and then cause them to suffer eternally for sinning. They say something like, “If such a being exists, he doesn’t deserve my allegiance let alone my love.” I have to admit they have a point.
That being said, I am a believer in the God of the Bible. I will never apologize for the Being presented within the pages of Scripture. I will in no way minimize his severity or avoid a discussion of his judgments. I’m “all in” with God as revealed in holy writ. Any other god does not deserve my allegiance let alone my love.
It’s safe to say that more than half the people on this planet feel that church sucks. They see it as an institution – one that is intolerant, irrelevant, hypocritical and completely out of touch with culture.
It’s also safe to say that the other half of this planet have no official opinion of church because they’ve never formulated an opinion. They’ve grown up their entire lives unchurched in cultures that have no experience with the institution let alone with the person of Jesus.
So why do we plant churches when people just think they suck or don’t care for them? Why do we missionaries, church planters, pastors and Jesus followers devote our entire lives to the pursuit of building the church?