How to Pray Corporately

Let me begin by saying there are many styles of prayer to God, in the name of Jesus. Utmost priority should be given to prayer in the various manners. Specifically, I will address corporate prayer as it is displayed to us in Acts 4.

Acts 4:23-37, NKJV
And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 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. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

1. The occasion of their corporate prayer

Peter and John had been arrested, imprisoned, and questioned about their ministry and the healing of the lame man. At the start of the New Testament church, and continued on to today, people despise supernatural ministry that proclaims Christ. Upon their release from prison, Peter and John gathered together with other believers to engage in corporate prayer. The urgency of the hour had gripped their souls. Reality of the government’s opposition was upon them. A great revival was sweeping the land, but it came with a great price. Intercession was the birthing place to this revival, and it was what would carry the work of God onward.

2. They raised their voice to God

Passion and urgency in the dimension of faith result in a heart ablaze for God. Out of the abundance of a heart on fire, does the mouth pour forth prayers and worship with great fervency. The believers in Acts 4 were not praying weak or half-hearted prayers, but corporately, a passionately vocal prayer that increased their faith and set them on a path towards breakthrough. Even as their mouth proclaimed the excellency and power of God, their path was being laid out before them. There are times in which we silently wait corporately in the presence of God, but often God uses the passionate vocalizations of the innermost desires and meditations of our heart to work out His plans and purposes, as well as reveal to us the depths of what He has deposited in us.

3. In harmony

Truly, unity of many people is a work of the Holy Spirit. Even unity of two in marriage takes divine enabling and determination. To watch this corporate prayer meeting in Acts 4 unfold, is watching the divine communicator and orchestrator supernaturally move and lead people to a place of unified, passionately vocalized prayer. Psalms 133 tells us commanded blessings flow on those who operate in unity. Unified prayer and passion was not unfamiliar to this early church. This had been the context of the outpouring on the Day of Pentecost, and would be the atmosphere of subsequent outpourings in the days ahead. It was the attitude of supernatural fellowship and partnership that permeated every aspect of their lives; and thus, a time of corporate prayer would display the same attribute. Someone walking in unity with God cannot cause strife in God’s church.

4. The context of their corporate prayer

It is interesting that Luke recorded the prayer of the believers at this gathering. Notice they began by declaring who God is. They honored him in His creative power and His ability to vindicate His people. They prayed according to what they had seen and experienced. They spoke of God’s sovereign hand and the signs and wonders He had performed. They prayed the Scriptures. Many times our prayers remind us of whom God is, as much as they honor Him as we pray. The ingredients of a Spirit-led, passionate prayer include a mixture of acknowledging who God is, our experiences, and the Word of God. This model of prayer reminds of Jesus’ prayer as He taught the disciples how to pray: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.”

5. The result

Notice, God did not take away the persecution. As a matter of fact, it’s only days later that the persecution greatly intensifies. The conflicts generated with an influx of believers did not go away either. Again, just a chapter over we find the difficulties increasing with the rapid growth. What was God’s response? “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” The Holy Spirit, our Helper, is the best answer to any prayer. David placed a priority on the presence of God when He said, “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” We would oftentimes love for the environment or people around us to change; however, God many times sends the Helper to walk and wrestle with us through the situation. The Holy Spirit always proclaims the Word of God. He reminds us of all God has said. In our weakness, Paul says in Romans 8, the Holy Spirit works on our behalf. No matter the circumstance, He causes us to meditate on and speak those things of the Word, which have been deposited into us. The result of corporate prayer time: A body that flows together in unity under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the Word of God with boldness and demonstration of power, and together, they live generous lives.

How to Receive Correction

Exodus 18:17-24, NKJV

So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

  1. Humble yourself & avoid the prideful responses.

Moses was “called” of God to lead the Israelites; “surely he knew best how to shepherd them” (sarcasm added). Many times our pride will lead us quickly down a path of destruction (Prov 16:18) that in actuality we really do not want to journey down. It is amazing how quickly we can allow ourselves to be caught in the cycle of justification, deflection, excuses, lying, and simply, pure conflict due to our pride.

Moses listened and responded graciously. “So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.” Moses did not try to “save face” or cover up the reality; he simply humbled himself to receive wisdom. The wisdom he received bore witness with him and the leading of God in his life, and the process of implementation began.

Protection comes from submission to the appropriate, God-appointed leadership in your life; even if you “feel” absolutely correct in your own judgment, God may have something else for you to learn and grow into. Moses would not continue in leadership successfully had he not learned this valuable lesson from a timely rebuke.

  1. Follow the Lord’s direction.

Moses truly had a calling from God to lead the Israelites. Moses met with God face to face. God could have revealed this great leadership truth in their alone time together; however, God chose to use Moses’ father-in-law to speak truth in a timely manner. God given correction will reflect to you the purposes of God’s calling and refine you for continued fulfillment of this calling. Moses recognized he was running thin on energy and carrying an emotional and spiritual load he was not intended to carry; he simply needed godly wisdom and direction from a third party. Imagine Moses’s new-found effectiveness after implementing his father-in-law’s advice.

  1. Obedience to correction is a gift to others.

As a result of Moses submitting to and honoring God by honoring his father-in-law, the Israelites were blessed. New leaders were born; the people learned to self-govern; Moses was refreshed; the new leaders grew in maturity and discernment—and so are the results of the blessing of correction. Often times we can also learn from other’s corrections and mistakes. When walking in humility we learn to extend grace to others, from the same grace of which we have received.

 

  1. Honor those with a different vantage point.

Correction can be difficult to receive. Our pride and ambition can get the best of us. Once placed in check and humility begins to lead us, we must honor those who come with correction.

Moses did not leave the meeting with his father-in-law and begin to share personal frustrations and “family only” drama. He honored his father-in-law by heeding his advice, and utilizing his father-in-law for wisdom for implementation. Exodus 18:27, states that, “Moses let his father-in-law depart” after implementation. In other words, Moses honored the correction, and followed through by seeking his father-in-law’s continued assistance until the corrective action was carried out.

This place of humility and honor brings the Lord’s blessing and peace to everyone involved. Long-term relationships can be continued from a place of honor. Neglect of this honor can cause tension and future factions unnecessarily.

 

 

 

Leadership Commandment #1: Faithful

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:5, ESV

Have you ever been to a restaurant and had poor service? I can think of a few instances that I became quite annoyed. Let me recount briefly of one in particular that comes to mind. My wife and I were taking an out-of-town friend of ours to dinner following a service one night. We had just had a great time at church, but oh how quickly we were jolted back into our flesh (funny how that happens). When we entered the restaurant we asked the hostess if we were okay on time before they were to close. We realized it was getting late. The hostess said there was no problem and sat us. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the waiter finally made his way to our table and began to bad mouth the hostess for seating us so close to closing time. He then proceeded to tell us we had to place our orders right then in order to get our meal. He then started cutting us off mid sentence while we were explaining our order. The night just took a quick nose dive. I even tried talking to the manager about how horrible of service we received that night. He wouldn’t hear it. He wasn’t even apologetic. I vowed to never eat at that restaurant again. Not surprising, but that restaurant is not in business any more.

What separates the faint of heart from the conquering leaders? It’s not great skill or even great achievements. It all comes down to faithfulness. Had the waiter in this example just been faithful to fulfill the duties of his job, we would have been happy customers. Had the manager been faithful to his leaders, the restaurant more than likely would still be open. Is skill and sophistication important? Absolutely! But faithfulness will lead to advancement in skill and knowledge.

People never just “arrive” at success in ministry. The amazing altar calls that our church experiences monthly at Beyond The Grave don’t “just happen.” We can all agree there is a supernatural conviction and response that happens at every altar call. But in order for 4-500 people to be born again, there must be 4-500 people present at the performance. That requires faithfulness on the part of the cast, the crew, the altar workers, the prop team, the promotion team, and so on. Everyone being committed to fulfill their ministry results in the opportunity for lives to be changed.

We must be sober-minded, endure affliction, do the work of the evangelist–all with the end in mind. We know that our vigilance in faithfulness results in opportunity for God to use us for His glory. Only yielded vessels, or vessels committed and open to Him through faithfulness, are able to be used greatly for His kingdom.

What has God called you to do? Maybe it’s as simple as ministering to your neighbor or coworker. Maybe God has called you to international ministry. Either way, faithfulness is the key to fulfilling your ministry.

The term Paul uses here for “ministry” is the greek word “diakonos.” This is where we get the word “deacon.” The idea here is originally expressed in Acts 6. It describes a servant that would wait on tables and serve food. Paul essentially was telling Timothy to be faithful to serve. He didn’t tell Timothy to strive to have his name in lights. He wasn’t instructing Timothy on what top of the line clothes he should be wearing, car to be driving, or expensive jewelry to wear. The basis of Paul and Timothy’s ministry was found in their faithfulness to God’s call.

Today, you have the opportunity to launch out into the great things that God has for you, or like the restaurant I spoke of earlier, you can find yourself “closed for business.” As Paul instructed Timothy, let’s not shipwreck our faith (1 Tim 1:19), but be faithful to serve!

The Art of Disciple Making

Go therefore and make disciples. . .

Matthew 28:19, ESV

I once read in a leadership book that the most introverted person will influence 1,400 people in his or her lifetime. When teaching discipleship and leadership classes, I often use these terms “leadership” and “discipleship” interchangeably. Most definitions of leadership revolve around “influence.” I would say that discipleship is also centered around “influence.”  Some definitions of “discipleship” involve the passing on of values, teachings, and traditions. Leadership essentially is the same concept.

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives insight to disciple-making: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Here are some quick thoughts about leadership and discipleship (Again, I use the term “leadership” and “discipleship” interchangeably):

1. For a leader to raise up other leaders, there must be a clear vision and common goal

Jesus said we are to “baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There must first be a recognition of the disciple’s part that he or she must first want to be a part of God’s Kingdom. Salvation or having a born again experience is the beginning of this journey in discipleship. If you are looking to disciple someone or raise up a leader, the first question to ask: “Are they bearing fruit of salvation?” or “Are they on board with the vision?” Many times, as the saying goes, we try to fit square pegs through round holes. We must first find the person that is bearing fruit of genuine desire for God.

Not only are they on board, but are they headed in the same direction? I’ll never forget a water baptism service I was conducting on a public beach in Pensacola, Florida. My wife and I baptized about 25 teenagers at the end of a youth retreat. It was quite an awesome experience–especially since I have a great distaste for water. It was amazing to watch the beach area clear as we began baptizing these students. By the end of the water baptism service, even though we had done our best to not make a scene, everyone cleared out. The story even gets better. One of the teenagers on the retreat had been set free from a homosexual lifestyle. The student returned home to share the great news with the family and how they had experienced salvation followed by water baptism. The family rebuked the student for the decision. It was as if the family could cope easier with a lifestyle of homosexuality versus a radical Christian teenager.

The point Jesus is making here with water baptism is this: People can say a lot of things, but when it comes time to draw the line in the sand and make a public declaration, will they really live out the talk? When raising up other leaders and making disciples, is the person committed and are they bearing genuine fruit? Another great passage of scripture for this is John 15.

2. Then Jesus gives instruction as to what baptism: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

My point here is to not focus on doctrinal views of how we baptize (even though this is pretty clear directive), but rather notice the next crucial point for raising up other leaders. First, they have to be on board and bearing genuine fruit. Next, they must understand spiritual authority. As a leader, we are all submitted to God’s authority. He’s one God, expressed in three persons. Just as unique as each person of the Godhead is, this same authority is delegated within church leadership. Disciples or leaders that cannot submit to pastors and church leaders, will never submit to God.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17).”

Throughout my experience in ministry, I’ve encountered those who had trouble with this verse. Most people say things like, “I submit to God, but not to man.” Throughout Scripture, God gives clear instruction about His delegated authority.

Look for those who are willing to submit to God and fall in love with the unique persons of the Godhead, but also those who bear Christ’s calling as delegated authority. Even Christ made this point clear in Matthew 28, when He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go…” He delegated His authority to His disciples.

3. When raising up leaders, look for those who are teachable.

“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Disciples must be teachable and willing to learn and grow. John Maxwell talks about the Law of the Lid. In summary, a leader’s effectiveness will be limited by his or her leadership ability. In order to expand in effectiveness, he or she must grow as a leader or surround themselves with leaders with a greater leadership ability. The same is true as a disciple. Disciples must grow daily through Bible reading, worship, prayer, fellowship with other believers, etc. Disciples must also be committed to fellowship in a community of believers that will challenge and stir them on to growth in God. Those who desire to grow in leadership and grow in God must be teachable.

Another interesting point about this statement, is that Jesus was commanding the disciples to share with others what they had been commanded. Leaders must learn the art of communicating truths they have learned themselves. An even greater task is to be able to communicate these truths to people who actually want to hear them. This again goes back to finding people who are teachable.

Will every potential leader or disciple want to hear what I have to say? I would be kidding myself to think that would be the case. But I will find those who are around me that want to know the truths I have learned, who are teachable, and we will run together.

Jesus found the 12 who were willing to leave everything to hear His teachings and experience life with Him. If you can find 12 who will do likewise with you and God, the possibilities are limitless. I once read a quote that applies here. “People who don’t believe in their leader can be hindered by anything. People who believe in their leader cannot be stopped by anything.”

4. Don’t leave anything out.

Jesus said “all that I have commanded you.” Whatever you do, do it with someone. If you are raising up leaders or disciples, take them with you. Lead a small group together. Do hospital visits together. Pray for the sick together. Evangelize together. Baptize other converts together. Teach together. Worship together. Give opportunity for those you are raising up to experience all that you have received.

Many times people feel inferior when challenged to make disciples. Lack of education, lack of experience, fear of rejection…there are so many hinderances. If the most introverted person can influence 1,400 people in a lifetime, surely you can find someone to make an eternal investment into!

Blessings in your journey!

Celebrating Success

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord…”

Exodus 15:1, ESV

What a day that must have been!! All they had ever known was slavery and bondage. All they had ever known was the back-breaking labor, tyranny, and the master’s whip. But God!! Then they were chased out of Egypt and “stranded” at the Red Sea. But God!!

Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will praise him…”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

What victories has God enabled you to enjoy? What has God empowered you to accomplish? Of course, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground is a major success. Seeing your enemy destroyed is a major success.

But, what about overcoming your fear to tell someone about Christ? What about stepping out in faith and interviewing for the job you are in need of? What about turning your eyes and not looking lustfully at someone? What about offering a gentle response instead of spite and anger when someone upsets you? All of these are major victories that God has empowered you to achieve as well!

I believe we have more to celebrate today! Instead of looking at hardships, look for opportunities to celebrate!