Returning To Our Roots
What is your passion in life?
I had many opportunities to hire brilliant scientists while I was the Laboratory Director at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory. The hiring process we developed at the Laboratory was intense…our goal was to hire the best people could to round out our research team.
Invariably I would always ask one question that seemed difficult for most to answer. I would ask them, “What is your passion?” I didn’t explain the question or coach them for a particular answer. I wanted to see what was most important to them.
I believe this is a question you should think about. What is most important to you? When you have spare time, how do you use it? What is it that would make you clear your busy schedule? What would make you stay up late at night or get up early in the morning? What is most important to you?
My passion in life is to be a faithful servant of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now that I say that, it may look somewhat trite. So, what do I mean by this?
I believe the church in U.S. has fallen greatly and we need to return to our roots—the roots we find in the book of Acts.
The Acts of the Apostles
The Book of Acts has intrigued me for many years. The two themes I find most interesting from this book are 1) the unfolding of the church and 2) the idea of “adding to their number.”
The unfolding of the Church
Acts 1:8 includes Christ’s instruction regarding the worldwide expansion of His church. The passage tells us that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message will be made available to those in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel, then to Samaria, and ultimately to the entirety of mankind throughout the world. Peter was the primarily leader of the early mission to bring the gospel message to the Jews (Acts 1-12). The gospel spreading through Jerusalem is told in Acts 1-4. The message then went to Judea and Samaria in Acts 6-8. Eventually, Paul was called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles and the gospel went to the ends of the earth (Acts 13-28). Yet, the actual leading figure in all of Acts is the Spirit of God.
I find it very important that we renew our desire to rely upon the power of God to accomplish His kingdom program and that we consider ourselves as His servants (His eyes, voice, feet, hands).
Adding to their number
Luke provides nine summary statements regarding the progress of the gospel and the growth of the church.
- The first summary is in Acts 2:41; it records some 3000 gladly received His word and were baptized on one day.
- Just a few verses later (Acts 2:47), Luke reports that as those in the church continued daily with one accord in prayer and praising God that the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
- This pattern is repeated in Acts 5:14 and 6:7, when Luke reports that a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
- Acts 9:31 records that the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and the churches were edified. This is an important point in the life of the church since the early Christians were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit while they were multiplied.
- Acts 11:24 and 16:5 recorded how the numbers in the church in both the Jewish and Gentile sectors increased in number daily.
- Finally, Luke tells us in Acts 12:24 and 19:20 that the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
I believe that Luke is clear in his declaration that reason there was so much success in the spread of the Gospel was the dedication of the early Church to prayer.
The importance of prayer in the spread of the gospel
Prayer was a fundamental component of the early church. The early church was wholeheartedly committed to prayer as a part of their regular and their spiritual lives. This action brought unity to the believers so they could (and did) pray “in one accord” (Acts 1:14; 4:24) as they gathered together. It became so much a part of their lives that they prayed continuously (Acts 6:4). Even during hard times, they constantly offered prayers to God (Acts 7:5-6; 12:5). Therefore, prayer was a regular part of their lives and it was natural for them to pray (Acts 16:13, 16; 21:5). Prayer was corporate (Acts 1:14; 12:12), individual (Acts 9:11; 10:9), and in smaller groups (Acts 3:1). Prayer was conducted in a variety of venues (Act 3:1; 10:9; 16:3; 22:17).
Acts 4:24-31 is the pivotal and representative passage depicting the power, nature, and intent of prayer within the Book of Acts.
“So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Emphasis added, NKJV)
In response to the testimony of how God was working in the church, the believers “raised their voice to God with one accord.” Their prayer was initiated with praise and adoration of God, the creator of everything. They subsequently acknowledge that God was at work throughout history and that His predetermined plan would be accomplished in spite of those gathered against Him. Thus, even though people worked against the anointed and holy Servant Jesus, God would complete His plan.
In light of this great showing of power and authority, His people asked God, even under the threats of the world leaders, to give them determination to speak His word with boldness. They also asked that God give them the ability to perform signs and wonders (such as healing) so that His word would spread (that the church would be presented to the world). After this prayer, the assembly was shaken as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, they spoke the word of God with boldness.
This prayer shows how, through the unifying power of prayer, an environment of awareness of the awesome power of God is created within the church. It is through this condition that numbers are added to the church (Acts 2:41; 2:47; 5:14; 11:24).
Principles regarding prayer from the Book of Acts
There are several principles I would like to emphasize from Acts.
- Prayer is essential throughout the process of identifying and selecting leadership within the church.
- A prayerful relationship with God in the church leads to boldness to speak His word to the world, i.e. prayer leads to evangelism.
- Prayer is important for trusting God for the future especially in the face of sorrow that sometimes comes from following God.
- Prayer should be used to commission leaders and missionaries.
- Prayer directed toward the salvation of others is appropriate.
- Prayer for healing is exemplified in Acts and appears normative for the church today.
- Prayer is a normal and necessary activity within the church.
- Prayer is used in cooperation with other acts of worship including supplication, teaching and fellowship, giving, and fasting to bring those in the church closer to God.
- Prayer is humbly approaching God in worship and praise to present our petitions and supplications to Him.
Back to our roots
My heart’s desire and prayer is that we return to this form of ministry. We need to return to God in prayer; this will bring unity to the church so that we can approach God in one accord as the body of Christ; and, the result—we will boldly share the word of truth with those of our community. Only then will we see the word of the Lord grow mightily and prevail. Then we will see growth in the church, not by transfer, but by conversion.
Please pray, right now, this prayer with me:
Lord, You alone are God. You created the world and all that is in it. You designed and implemented Your plan for all of humankind. Throughout our history, You have chosen people to boldly speak out concerning You. Because of your great love for the world, You sent your Son on our behalf. You demonstrated Your love by sending your Son even when we were separated from You by sin. Lord God, I thank you for choosing me to be adopted into Your family. Now Lord, help me to have opportunity to speak Your Word to those who do not know You. Help me to stand up under the certain persecution that will come as I serve as Your minister. Dear Father, give me the words to speak and place in my hear the same love for others that You have for them and for me. In the same way, I pray that you move within our local church to become united so that with one accord we can share Your love and Your Word with those outside our church walls. Give us a collective desire to serve you and to bring your gospel to those who have not yet met You. Also, give us the desire and ability to minister to those within our congregation who are hurting and who are currently separated from You because of their pain. Lord God, help us to work diligently for the progress of Your will and give us the strength to leave the results in Your hand as we rely upon Your power. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Now, what is your passion?