Church on the Move | Part 2
Praying Big, Praying Bold
Big Idea: A church on the move prays big, bold prayers.
- I don’t know what comes to mind when you hear the word “church.” But odds are, it is a far cry from what first century believers thought. They didn’t think building, pews, robes, hymnals, bands, liturgy, or committees.
- The church began as a movement fueled by an event. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection changed the course of the world. It is the foundation of what we believe.
- It is something that happened, not something that was simply taught a long time ago. Indeed, it was the eyewitnesses of this event that led the movement of the church.
- Jesus was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead and instructed eyewitnesses to talk about it. And that’s exactly what they did. Literally they said, “…we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)
- And the church was launched around this good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
- that Jesus is the Son of God, and
- that at the Cross, the primary division between God and man – sin – was overcome and the penalty for our sin has been paid in full, and
- that the Resurrection makes us confidently sure of our freedom:
- freedom from the tyranny of in – FORGIVENESS,
- freedom from the sting of death – ETERNAL LIFE,
- freedom from hopelessness and fear – THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN OUR LIVES
- With this as their declaration, the church launched as a multicultural, multiplying movement with a specific mission: to make disciples (churchy word) or fully surrendered followers of Jesus.
- And from that day forward, there has always been a group that refused to let go of that ideal.
- They refused to make church a building, club, social outing.
- They refused to make church about pews, robes, hymnals, bands, liturgy, or committees.
- They submitted to the call of Christ Jesus, and the church has always been – for some – what God began it to be – a movement with the glorious Gospel of the crucified and resurrected Living Lord Jesus.
- Now, that can be said for some, but that cannot be said for all. It’s painfully clear with statistics like:
- 2016 marked 8 out of 10 years that baptisms have decreased across all 40+ thousand SB churches (-4.9%, 14,439 fewer)
- Baptisms decreased even though there were 479 new churches – which just goes to show that a church on the move is more than a name and more than a meeting place, it is a people on the move to see other people know Jesus and make Him known
- Today, across SB churches, takes 54 members to bring 1 person to Jesus
- Not a commentary on the mission field:
(Mt 9:37-38) 37 Then He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
- It is a commentary on the church (the people that make up the church)
Most churches seem to have become monuments to a long-gone fervent first love of God instead of the movement of the Gospel, Christ called them to be a part of.
Illustration: Undertow at the beach.. Me, a half mile down to another camp ground.. Kids, “Keep an eye on the flag. Stay in front of it.” … The undertow pulls you away from where you started. There is undertow acting on the church that causes it to drift from where it began.
(1.) The undertow acting on the local church is away from the UNREACHED and toward the REACHED. Insiders vs. outsiders dynamic.
- Many times this happens without the church noticing their drift.
- Urgency gets replaced with complacency and sometimes hostility.
- History shows the church becoming UNRECEPTIVE (and sometimes hostile) to outsiders.
- Christians, who attend insider-focused churches, become insensitive to outsiders. Illustration: Me trying out the Baptist church in Clemson
- Insider-focused churches become judgmental.
- Most people who leave a local church – and almost never to return to church – do not do so because of theology, but because of how they were treated.
We are not immune. We would be arrogant and self-righteous to think we are.
But how do we know?
How do we know if we are drifting toward becoming a church singing songs we like, talking about things we like to talk about, hanging out with the people we know and ignoring the rest?
Let me tell you how:
(2.) How a church PRAYS indicates if it has strayed. How you pray indicates if you have strayed.
- Think about your prayers for a moment.
- Who and what are they mostly about?
- You/family and the sick people you know.
- We pray mostly insider prayers.
- Do you know why your prayers seem like words to the ceiling? No urgency or expectancy? Just customary. Because most of them don’t really require God’s intervention or attention.
- Good night’s sleep? There’s daily habits for that.
- Safe trip home? Good day at the office? Nice weather.
- No wonder you are bored and tired. So is God.
In Acts 4, we see the first recorded prayer of the first church right after the movement began.
They have nothing but (1) a fervent love for Jesus (2) His message (3) excited expectation of what God is going to do, and (4) a whole lot of powerful people who are ready to persecute them
- On day one, over 3,000 people embraced Jesus as Messiah. There was lots of excitement in Jerusalem.
- Many of the guests in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost stuck around.
- A few days later, Peter and John went to the temple. They healed a guy who was over 40 years old and “lame from birth.” When the people gathered around them to see this miracle, they preached about the crucifixion and the resurrection and several more thousand believed. About five thousand men total (Acts 4:4).
- The temple leaders were disturbed because of the resurrection of Jesus talk and had the disciples of Jesus arrested and thrown in jail.
- The next day they brought them out for questioning. When they did, Peter preached them a little message about the crucifixion and resurrection and ended with this statement:
12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
[Now that’s bold! Politically incorrect. Narrow. But this wasn’t Peter’s claim.. No one else has ever made such claims as Jesus.]
13 Now as they [the temple leaders] observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.
[Because the miracle was clearly standing in front of them, and all the people knew it had occurred, this council of chief priests and elders knew the people would turn on them if they punished Peter and John so they didn’t.
Instead they threatened them and warned them to keep their message to themselves.]
Skip to Acts 4:18
18 …they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
And so the Temple leaders threatened some more but because they feared the people they let them go.
Peter and John rushed back to where the core group of the church – their friends – was gathered. Their friends were expecting the worst. These same powerful people – the temple leaders – had just orchestrated the crucifixion of Jesus not long before. If you were Peter and John’s friends, what would you expect to happen to them?
But what a surprise when Peter and John came walking up. Peter and John told them all that had happened. They told them about the threats. They told them that the chief priests commanded them never to speak or teach about Jesus ever again.
And do you know what they did? The whole group prayed. The church prayed.
How would you have prayed if you were them? Protection, make-it-go-away prayers… Here’s how the first century Christians prayed…]
[Here’s their request…]
29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence
[parrēsia; pah-ray-see-uh = courage, confidence, boldness, especially in those things that are risky and involve being honest and straightforward in attitude and speech.
Now look again at their prayer request…]
29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence [with all boldness], 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
1.) In contrast to our prayers, “Help me, protect me, bless me, give me.” Their prayer was DON’T HIDE ME, MAKE ME BOLD, USE ME AT ALL COSTS.
2.) We can’t help but be thankful for being Americans – for being in the land of the free. We live in one of the safest, freest countries in the world. Where most of us live, we live in the safest parts of the safest, freest country in the world, and still our prayers center around safety. For us, kids, jobs . . .
3.) We live in a culture where boldness about our faith will cost us almost nothing, and we so often lack boldness.
4.) There was a time when the church was fueled by the conviction that everybody spent eternity somewhere. That the ultimate expression of following Jesus was an unusual kind of love that compelled them to declare the gospel – lovingly, narrowly, and boldly – even if (and maybe especially if) the people they were talking to would have positioned themselves as enemies of Jesus.
5.) “If the early church had been safety-conscious and rights-conscious instead of plainly bold, the message of Jesus would have disappeared within six months of the resurrection.” (Andy Stanley)
6.) We should be thankful for being Americans – for being in the land of the free, but let’s remember our homeland is also the home of the brave.
7.) It’s time that we once again remember who has set us free – free forever – and who lives within us and can make us bold when we ask Him – and then go into our immediate mission field, be brave, be bold with the Gospel of Jesus
8.) When is the last time you prayed for boldness?
9.) When is the last time you prayed that your life would draw attention to your Savior?
10.) We pray little prayers too often. When we pray little prayers, so very little happens.
(3.) But when you pray big, bold prayers for the glory of God, BIG THINGS happen.
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. [There is that word again from v29, pah-ray-see-uh = big, boldness
In Acts 4,5, etc. Multitudes were added to the movement of the church. People could see the gospel at work. People (even people who had once despised Jesus) could see the church on the move and people from surrounding cities came to Jerusalem bringing their sick. And the apostles had healing power. People were surrendering their life to Jesus – trusting in His crucifixion and resurrection and handing over their lives to be part of His mission.
(4.) It’s time to get on the move and PRAY big, bold prayers.
1.) I don’t want us to be a church that prays small prayers.
2.) We dishonor God with little prayers. Aren’t little prayers the product of little faith?
3.) So beginning today, I want you to begin praying with big faith for big boldness, not instead of what you pray, in addition to what you pray.
4.) If praying for radical, earth shaking, Holy Spirit moving, boldness makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, perhaps it’s because your prayers have been too tame, too small, too YOU, and not enough God.
Not big enough, bold enough, brave enough, broad enough.
IT’S TIME WE PRAY BIG, BOLD PRAYERS
- Let me be bold with you: Chances are, if you pray like most Christians, if God answered all the prayers you have prayed this past year, the only difference it would have made is in your life and in the lives of your family members.
- If God answered all your prayers, and the only people who benefitted were you and your family, that’s not very big. That’s not very bold. That’s how Christians get small, insider-focused, off mission, and that’s how the church stops moving.
- Now the first church – the church on the move – their boldness is what got the message of Jesus out of the first century. And there were some side effects of their boldness and it got them into some trouble. It is not easy to be bold but it is so much better. And we will see this next week.
- But until then, I want you to begin praying bigger, bolder, GOD-glorifying, earth shaking, Holy Spirit moving, Gospel-spreading prayers.
- Because we are the church for this generation, that’s how we’ve been called to pray.
“God of heaven and earth, please give us great boldness, enable us to speak your word, use us at all costs, stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.”
“And Jesus, this morning, please give all those who are called by your name, humble boldness. Humbleness to admit to you that we have sinned, that we have rebelled against, dishonored you, and desperately need you to forgive us. And give us Holy Spirit boldness to trust in your death on the cross, to know that your death is sufficient to guarantee our forgiveness when we turn to you in faith. And give us boldness to surrender our life to you, giving you full control. And give us boldness, confess you as Savior and Lord, to publically say, “Jesus I belong to you.”