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a publication of Life Action Ministries

Reframing Christian Unity Why Getting Together Isn’t Enough Fall 2014 Volume 45, Issue 2 www.LifeAction.org/revive


CONTENTS

FEATURES

4 Conversations About Unity Life Action Ministries

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Flying in Formation Bob Bakke 12 An Appeal for United Intercession

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Bill Elliff

16 A Call for Theological Triage Albert Mohler

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Battling Doctrine with Brotherly Love

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12

16

20

Brad Bush

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How a Newspaper Ad Started a Prayer Meeting

Mark Vroegop

COLUMNS 3

Spirit of Revival

What If We Worked Together?

Byron Paulus

26 Conversations

Destination Matters

Del Fehsenfeld III

31 Next Step

Getting More Done

Dan Jarvis

PERSPECTIVES 22

Hard Questions What Kind of Unity Was Jesus Describing?

28

ViewPoint Marketplace Missionaries

30

Making It Personal Apply principles discussed in this issue.

Executive Director: Byron Paulus Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Assistant Editors: Kim Gwin, Creative Director: Aaron Paulus Elissa Thompson Art Director: Tim Ritter Photography: Liza Hartman, Graphic Designers: Ben Cabe, Katie Bollinger, Liza Hartman, Thomas A. Jones, istockphoto.com: Joseph Wilson LightStock.com: Volume 45, Issue 2 Copyright © 2014 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved. Revive magazine is published as God provides, and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the prompting of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free of charge, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. To purchase additional copies of this issue, be placed on our free mailing list, or contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations.

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SPIRIT OF REVIVAL

What If We Worked Together?

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s a kid growing up on a dairy farm, we harvested and then stored the necessary food for our cattle in a towering silo. When the pasture grew thin, my dad would start the “unloader” to distribute the silage for our cows. I’ll never forget how they would come running as soon as they heard the sounds, driven by their hunger. When God fills a believer or a church with His necessary power and presence, we call that revival (the fresh infusion of God’s work in His people). For more than forty years, Life Action Ministries has been creating contexts for believers to experience this “exceeding abundant” life from God. Sadly, there have been cases where people chose to keep the work of God to themselves, “locking the silo” and neglecting to share God’s blessings with others. On the other hand, we’ve seen remarkable examples of people who got it right—and following a reviving experience with God, they sought to display His glory to the world around them. A few examples: Liza, a young professional who met with God, moved into an inner-city neighborhood to shine the light of Jesus to children in a dark place. Eric led his prominent church through a process of repentance for the church’s racist policies back in the 1960s. And Brent, despite debilitating physical problems, is developing a coalition of pastors across ethnic and denominational lines to pray and work together for the glory of Christ and the good of the city in Reno, Nevada. Every time the Spirit moves in people’s lives, there is an opportunity to spread joy, power, and truth to others. And as much as that is true personally, it is even more effective corporately. When God works among us, filling our “silos” with revival, imagine how many people the church could serve if they were unified in both passion and mission! One of Life Action’s ministry teams got to be part of this process at Candies Creek Baptist Church in Charleston, Tennessee. The work of God was so powerful in this church that what began as a scheduled 11-day revival summit turned into more than six weeks of daily gatherings. But even more remarkable than what happened during those days is what God is doing through this church since. The following ministries, led by passionate followers of Jesus Christ, are examples of what was birthed in the first thirty-six months after the revival meetings: • ministry of adoption and orphan care • ministry to those struggling with same-sex attraction • ministry to those under the age of 30

• • • • •

multiplication of discipleship groups worship academy for students house-to-house dinner groups church-planting institute K–12 school for the community

I suppose there’s no way to know if these initiatives are a direct result of the revival meetings at Candies Creek (in part because God works in our lives in more ways than we realize), but we do know this: The spiritual momentum of the church changed in that special season, and since then, ministry continues to increase. The silos were filled, and today, the blessings are being shared. The power of this par ticular situation in Tennessee is that the mission now underway is not in the hands of just a few committed members or a single visionary staff person. Instead, there is a sense of unity—churchwide—around fulfilling the purposes of God. And teams of laypeople began being invited to share in other area churches about what God is doing and can do through fresh infusions of His presence and power. This issue of Revive takes a fresh look at why unifying around Jesus and bringing His power, presence, and provision to our communities is so important. We’re exploring how movements of revival are really translated into movements of spiritual awakening (out in a community instead of just in a church) when God’s people unite together, as Jesus prayed in John 17. What if revival and unity are meant to go hand in hand, where God fills the silo not of one person at a time, but of a whole church, or even of the churches in a whole city? That sets the stage for His presence and power to be released and shared, and even more people experience His grace. As long as our motives remain pure and we stay focused on the mission together, great blessing can result—sharing the gospel, serving those in need. In fact, the lost will come running after the reality of Jesus they see in a unified church. Perhaps this Spirit-enabled, unified approach could start with you?v

What if revival and unity are meant to go hand in hand?

Byron Paulus Executive Director Twitter: @ByronPaulus

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conversations about unity

SHOULD WE DO A UNITY ISSUE?

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Revive editors Del Fehsenfeld and Dan Jarvis discuss, “How does Christian unity matter practically?”

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DAN:

In preparing to release an issue of Revive on Christian unity, I’ve been worried that we won’t hit the right notes, or that if we do, it won’t make much difference in the lives of our readers. Obviously, we both believe strongly in John 17 and in the vision Jesus projects there (more of an implied command, I suppose) that His followers would have unity of love and purpose, centered on God Himself. Where I struggle with this is in how we can present a magazine that challenges believers and their pastors to a new level of unity—beyond the formal expressions that it seems so many believe in, but few work hard at fostering. Let me give you an example from my own life, as a pastor who has served in three churches. At every one of my ministry posts, I and the other staff members were willing and interested in “majoring on the majors” so that we could set aside our differences with neighboring churches and work together for the gospel, pray together at community events, and develop interpersonal friendships. In years of doing that, I did find some great camaraderie with area pastors, and it was reassuring to realize that Christ’s kingdom was far bigger than my own church. However, I never really sensed that we were a “team,” in the most strategic sense of the word. We weren’t operating with any comprehensive strategy to reach our region for Christ. We each had our distinctive styles and approaches, and we each were going about the ministry work differently. I love the idea of partnering with all who wish to declare Jesus as Lord, and then really praying, working, serving, and sharing together. But, practically, I didn’t see that happening to a large extent, and sometimes, honestly, I’m not sure I would have signed up for it. Our church had plenty of goals of its own. So what, in your view, are we setting out to accomplish in this Revive? Are we trying to encourage believers to unite for prayer meetings with people from other denominations? Are we asking them to work together in some tangible way, in community service and evangelism? And if so, are these things really necessary to be effective for Christ? I want to say “Yes!” but I think there are pitfalls.

DEL: Dan, I feel your angst about upping the rhetoric about

unity, if more talk is the only result. I know I have attended (many) rallies or conferences for unity that left me scratching my head. Often, I’ve left those contexts feeling like we wasted our time because there was no clear action step. Or worse, I’ve left more discouraged because I felt like I was being asked to associate with agendas I didn’t relate to or that were self-serving for a particular church or organization. However, the main reason I think we’ve got to keep bringing up the subject of unity is, ironically, not about our togetherness. Unity is about the world God loves. While we are focusing on the health and growth of our individual church congregations or denominations, who is focusing on Jesus being recognized and honored as Lord in the places where we live? Who is taking spiritual responsibility for schools, workplaces, healthcare systems, and social services in our towns and cities? Who “pastors” the mayor, the school board, or the local gangs? In short, who wakes up and goes to bed relentlessly committed to establishing the good reign of Jesus Christ in every corner of our communities? Aiming for the big target of bringing the kingdom of God to a place is what makes it impossible to ignore Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

It’s not only going to take all of us to get the job done—it’s going to take all of us working together in self-giving love. The goal of this Revive is not to spark more rhetoric about unity. Instead, we are proposing that all believers should recalibrate around the question, “What will it take for Jesus to be followed as Lord in my city?” This question moves us away from a rigid insistence that everyone drink from the same well. Instead, many streams of the body of Christ can begin to flow into the same river. Intercessors find a unifying principle for their prayers. Churches, although distinct expressions of the body of Christ, share a common vision. And Christian professionals mobilize to use their talents and influence to see every aspect of society touched by Christ’s gospel and wisdom for living.

In short, who wakes up and goes to bed relentlessly committed to establishing the good reign of Jesus Christ in every corner of our communities? Could that be why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? It’s more than talk; it’s a mission!

DAN: I love the premise, and I agree. I’d love for Jesus to be Lord here, there, and all over. Of course, technically, He already is Lord, but we’re talking about the advancement of His kingdom purposes on earth in a practical sense. Because He is Lord, He should be treated as such by everyone, everywhere. And I can see the real point of getting together with other believers being to establish His kingdom purposes in my region.

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My family could unite around that. My church could. All the Christians in my city could. You and I were recently at a luncheon where we heard from Doug Small, a man committed to mobilizing prayer among God’s people, and he presented things in a way I hadn’t considered before. He proposes that “Christian professionals” must mobilize to see their society touched by the gospel, and to tackle citywide needs in a strategic way. I remember Doug specifically mentioning that business leaders have skillsets that many pastors don’t, and that we should be conversing with them about these needs more intentionally. (See Doug's article on p. 28.) Immediately, some faces came to mind of men and women in my hometown who have obvious leadership and organizational gifting, but who, as of today, haven’t really been presented with the opportunity to utilize those gifts for kingdom purposes. I suspect they’ve been tagged by church leaders to assist in the leadership of church activities or even church growth (which are important too), but what if we asked people like this to pray together, then help generate a real vision for a community, and

a strategic plan for meeting the broad needs you were noting above (like taking responsibility for schools, workplaces, criminal justice, poverty, etc.)? That would jump far past church building programs or ministry goals. It would be a paradigm shift. I would imagine that if Christians were going to tackle the big issues of our communities, we’d quickly realize we need each other. And unity wouldn’t be so much about “your church” working with “my church,” it would be about executing a Christ-centered vision for our city, and all believers could be uniting around that vision. Church would become a means, instead of an end, toward purposes far larger than any one of us. Doug explained that pastors are like Ezras, and they have a critical part to play; but to do the kingdom work, we also need Nehemiahs to step up to leadership. Imagine a partnership of business leaders and pastors, praying and seeking God together, addressing the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of their entire communities. That would bring a whole new meaning to “let’s pray together”! It would also take our attempts at unity beyond just “joint ventures” in community outreach; it would really become a vision for our whole city, that every believer could be a part of.

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Our prayers would be less formal and more urgent, and we’d be asking God for His power and His plan as we attempt great things for Him. How do you think activity like this would begin? There would have to be some significant mindset shifting.

I would imagine that if Christians were going to tackle the issues of our community, we would quickly realize we need each other. DEL: I love the motto, “Think globally, start locally.” Before

something can happen widely, it has to start with someone’s immediate circle of influence. It’s the same here; before we will see a paradigm shift among believers in a city, a shift will have to take place with the basic unit of society—the family or household. Think of it this way: Before a reservoir can flow, the dam has to be opened. And the wall damming up the kingdom potential of every believing family is a focus on themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just talking about blatant narcissism. It might be as simple as the subtle presumption that “our family’s comfort and well-being is our ultimate priority.” In contrast, the shape of the kingdom of God always points beyond self to whole-hearted love for God and others. The focus is flipped outward toward others, and suddenly Jesus has room to operate. The family that is organizing their resources around self-giving love has found a purpose greater than themselves and is suddenly aligned with God’s heart. As a result, their resources, relationships, and involvements will begin to make Jesus known. It’s not simply what they do, but the direction in which their lives flow. This fundamental shift from inward to outward opens up a world of creative, Jesus-saturated action. And when believers all over a city begin to unify with this kind of focus, the superstructure for Jesus to be seen as Lord in the larger community is in place.

DAN: Okay, Del, I’m in. Let’s try it. But let’s ask our Revive

readers for additional wisdom. This really is a different way to approach the subject, and I freely admit I don’t have as much experience as I’d like in actually applying these principles.v

SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK: What would you like to add to the conversation with Del and Dan? Have you experienced Christian unity at its best (or at its worst)? Would you be willing to share the lessons you learned? E-mail your thoughts to revive@LifeAction.org.


WHAT GOD SAYS ___________________________________________________________________________

un-commentated, un-nuanceD, un-apologized-for

vision of Christian unity

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My prayer is not for [these disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

1.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

2.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

3.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)

4.

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

5.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

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n o i t a m or F n

i g n i y l F

LINES D A E H AND S E O R E NING OND H E Y K E A B W G A UAL T MOVIN I R I P S N WORLD WAR I, AIRPLANES WERE NG I U S R U new and glamorous. Squadrons of planes IN P akke B by Bob

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would take off together and fly in formation . . . until they encountered enemy planes. Then pilots would dissipate in every direction to engage in aerial “dogfights.” These sky duals became legendary, covered by newspapers and garnering fame for the most skilled pilots, with a scorecard of “kills” to their record. But ironically, after World War I, the United States military almost concluded that the air force, as a strategy for war, was ineffective. Careful analysis revealed that while individual dogfighting was great for producing heroes and headlines, in terms of actually advancing the cause on the battlefield, it simply didn’t work.


The problem was only remedied when a decision was made to bring the air corps under military discipline that said, “We’re going to fly in formation, and we’re going to predetermine one target to hit, and we’re not going to divide up or turn back until that mission has been accomplished.” This simple shift in strategy turned air power into a deadly force. While no longer nearly as sensational, trading individual accolades for concerted action was well worth the gains on the field. The same shif t is desperately needed in Christian ministry today. Despite repeated pledges to work together as the body of Christ, ministry leaders scatter in hundreds of directions to do thousands of different things. Of course, many make headlines, millions of dollars are raised, great edifices and organizations are built, and a select group of heroes emerges. But on a strategic macro level, the kingdom of Christ is losing rather than taking ground in our culture. This is where we can learn a great deal from the Second Great Awakening (1800), arguably the most important

religious movement in our nation’s history. Many of us know of the dramatic advances of the gospel during this great season of wide-scale revival that swept entire regions for more than thirty years, but few know the story of the key friendships and core commitments that made these awakenings possible. First, there was a group of ministers who shared friendship around a common cause. They came out of the Carolinas as friends. They called each other to great purposes, and strove together in the same direction. Their fellowship fueled their shared passion and became a platform for concerted action. In fact, the men most responsible for sparking the awakening came out of the same school—the Log College, founded by David Caldwell of Greenville, their mentor. Second, the men used to spark the Second Great Awakening were united in a common understanding of how to pursue revival. In other words, they were trained in a model of how to seek a great work of the Spirit of God that included four main elements:

The same shift is needed in Christian ministry today.

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Covenants of Prayer They entered into covenants of prayer, leading their churches to set aside specific days of prayer and specific times to pray. In particular, they asked believers to pray at sundown on Saturday evenings and at sunrise on Sunday mornings for the outpouring of God’s Spirit on the preaching of His Word at Sunday services, and for the salvation of the lost. They also set aside days to fast once a month, to unite as believers in a town or area for corporate prayer for an extraordinary work of the Spirit. In addition, large annual “camp meetings” were held lasting three to four days. At first these annual meetings revolved around the taking of communion, preaching, examination, prayer, and celebration.

Catalytic Gatherings The annual or semi-annual camp meetings encouraged thousands of believers in a region to gather for days of focused fellowship, preaching, and prayer. Day after day, they were under the preaching of the Word, and these events cultivated holy expectation. There was a sense of excitement about being together with other believers and hearing Scripture throughout the gathering. This pattern of annually setting aside long periods of being under the examination of the Scriptures and focused prayer proved to be a lightning rod for revival and the outpourings of the Spirit that came.

Gospel Proclamation The men who were at the heart of these revivals were eager to preach the gospel everywhere there was need. They were consumed with reaching the lost in their cities and regions. And they mobilized their congregations to pray earnestly for the salvation of their countrymen. They were on a passionate mission to spread the gospel, and this passion organized their lives, their efforts, and their prayers. As these groups of friends went out to plant churches and pastor their congregations, they all did these same things in their churches. And as they persevered in them, flying together in formation with a common target and mission, the Holy Spirit began a great revival.

United Vision In Matthew 18:19, Jesus said that prayers in agreement are prayers His Father will answer (see Acts 1:14). Well, from the mid-1700s to the early 1900s­—a season in which many revivals as well as three massive awakenings and the modern missionary movement were recorded—Evangelicals embraced a post-millennial view of history. That is, they believed the kingdom

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of God would grow and grow throughout the generations until their neighborhoods, their nation, and the world would be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.” They could also define what a transformed community looked like, how commerce would behave, and how governments would serve. They agreed because they knew. Their agreements produced breathtaking fruit. Today is another story. The diversity of convictions among Christians in our day is a challenge to a united vision. For years I led large citywide prayer meetings in which I asked people to answer a simple question: “What would your city look like if Jesus reigned over it?” I asked for specifics. It was remarkable how much they already knew. We could easily accumulate a hundred one-word answers on a screen in the course of ten minutes. After a little editing, I would then tell them they had the beginnings of a vision for their city which they could use as a guide to pray regularly, with clarity and focus, and for which they could collaborate for years to come. I also challenged them that the items written down should be reflected in the annual budgets and ministry plans of every church in attendance. In other words, they could fly in formation. What would your city look like if Jesus reigned over it? Can you answer this simple question? If you can, you have the foundation for covenants of prayer, strategies for catalytic events, and seasons where the gospel is not only proclaimed by preachers but demonstrated by neighbor serving neighbor. It also attracts the power of the Spirit.v Bob Bakke is the senior pastor of Hillside Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. He produces occasional broadcast events that afford millions of people the opportunity to pray simultaneously.


WHERE WILL YOU LEAD YOUR CHURCH IN THE NEXT 18 MONTHS?

The vision of any church is best accomplished when the power and presence of God are evident in the lives of people—when families are strong, worship is alive, sin is confessed, and God’s kingdom is first priority. For more than 40 years, Life Action has partnered with thousands of church leaders, helping lead their congregations toward spiritual renewal. We provide innovative events designed with the whole family in mind—praying, singing, preaching, and serving for God’s glory—believing God’s reviving power in the church is the greatest need of this generation.

To learn more about our 4-, 8-, or 15-day event options, or to discuss scheduling a Life Action team at your church next year, contact Life Action:

269-697-8600 or www.LifeAction.org ©2013 Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved.


An appeal for

UNITED

INTERCESSION by Bill Elliff

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CAN REMEMBER A TIME IN MY CHILDHOOD when every street and highway in America was lined with trash. It was the common and accepted practice in the ’50s to throw your trash out your car window. But a campaign was begun in 1953 by a consortium of business and nonprofit groups to change the nation’s collective conscience on this issue. It took several years, but soon we began to see the effects of the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. In my elementary school, we made “Don’t Be a Litterbug” posters. Amazingly, the nation became unified on this idea, and an entire country’s thinking was changed. Every day in America, we live with the illustration of what can happen when people are united. The united Triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—made us in Their image. When men are united, either for good or evil, there is an inherent power in our unity. There can be a negative power, as seen in the united disbelief and rebellion of the Israelites that caused their entire nation to wander and die for forty years in the wilderness. But there is a greater, redeeming aspect of unity. When God’s people are authentically and practically in oneness with

I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me (John 17:20–23 nasb).

UNITED WITH CHRIST The church is the body of Christ. When we are in sync with the Head, the life, power, and direction of Christ can flow through us in superhuman dimensions. God can be clearly seen. It is one thing to see this in an individual life, but think of what would happen if a whole group of believers were genuinely and practically united with Christ and each other!

T

here has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality   that did not begin in united prayer. A. T. Pierson

Him, they will automatically move toward oneness with other believers. It is important to note that this is not just “unity for unity’s sake.” It is also not simply uniting around some manmade agenda (even if it sounds spiritual). It is the organic unity that occurs when believers are in unity with Christ. In this unity, divine power is unleashed for God’s kingdom. And no one knew this better than Christ.

JESUS’ FINAL PRAYER We can know a person’s heart by what they pray. Thankfully, we are treated to the extraordinary privilege of hearing Christ’s greatest prayer for us before His death. His one great burden? For the church to walk in oneness!

Imagine the picture that would be created and the power unleashed if the whole church in a city or nation would cooperate out of this oneness. Jonathan Edwards understood this theologically and practically, and he wrote a famous call to the church prior to the First Great Awakening. “An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth” had a long title and a short purpose: to unite the church in prayer for revival. This call was one of the most significant tools God used to ignite united prayer among God’s people that led to the First Great Awakening. Edwards’s endgame was not united prayer for the sake of united prayer, nor even revival for revival’s sake. He longed for united prayer that would lead to the reviving

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of the church, so there would follow the rapid expansion of the kingdom, and increased worship of Christ. A revived church, marching in sync with the Master, opens the door for great spiritual awakening among those without Him. Edwards was biblically convinced that this must begin in a united cry. He understood what would happen if the church would agree together in prayer. And the First Great Awakening that followed validated his theology.

ONE CRY I can find no biblical illustration—not one—of God’s people crying out together in humble, desperate, repentant oneness where God did not answer their prayers! This indicates to us a pattern and a prescription. It seems that if we will unite in one cry, God will hear and give us what we so desperately need. Again, we cannot manipulate God, but doesn’t this biblical pattern teach us that the very first step we must take is to cry out together to the only One who can bring deliverance? There is a reason we are joining together in one cry across America. It is based in clear theology and verified by historical illustration. It is the same call that was the precursor to the First Great Awakening. It is a plea for united intercession for the only thing that will save us in this desperate hour: a mighty visitation from God. What would happen if thirty churches in your city asked their people to cry out every week for God to send revival? If every month, on a selected day, each church covenanted to gather as a church body for prayer for revival? If you could go throughout the city on the first Monday of the month, for instance, to any of the thirty churches, and find them praying? What if they committed to join together once a quarter, and they all came together to pray? What if the entire body of Christ in America agreed together about our need for repentance? What would occur if we turned together toward

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Him in humility and fervency? . . . if we interceded together for His mercy and grace?

ONE LORD Could it be that the reason God waits on our united cry is that He longs for and demands of His creatures that they all look to one God? Wasn’t His first commandment that we should have “no other gods” before Him (Exo. 20:3)? Didn’t Jesus say the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mark 12:30)? Hasn’t God warned us that destruction begins when God reveals Himself, but we worship and serve the creature “rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25)? When His people rebel against this foundational allegiance, God waits, till we join together in desperation and dependency on Him. He will meet any individual who comes to Him; but He sends revival and awakening to nations when the whole church cries out. He is merciful to meet us in reviving power as His people humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways (2 Chron. 7:14). As God manifests Himself in response to our united cry, the message of Christ will be on everyone’s lips, the power of God will be everywhere evident, the provisions of God will flow in stunning generosity, and the glory of God will be revealed! . . . all flowing from a people who became desperate and were “continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). This is the amazing power of one cry.v Bill Elliff is the senior teaching pastor at The Summit Church in N. Little Rock, Arkansas. He also serves on the leadership team of OneCry.

can find no biblical illustration— not one—of God’s people crying out together in humble, desperate, repentant oneness that God did not answer their prayers!

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AN EXPERIENCE FOR

YOUR ENTIRE CHURCH What if your entire church set aside time to seek God for revival? The OneCry Experience was designed to help your church embark on an extraordinary journey together—a journey to revival! Inspire your people to unite in repentance, fervent prayer for revival, and seeking an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit. The OneCry Experience offers companion resources to turn the OneCry book into a church-wide theme.

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A Call for

THEOLOGICAL TRIAGE

The theological priorities and issues found in most church doctrinal debates today have been sorted into three tiers to help us as believers rise to the challenge of Christian maturity.

by Albert Mohler

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N EVERY GENERATION, the church is commanded

to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude v. 3). That is no easy task, and it is complicated by the multiple attacks on Christian truth that mark our contemporary age. Assaults on the Christian faith are no longer directed only at isolated doctrines. The entire structure of Christian truth is now under attack by those who would subvert Christianity’s theological integrity. Today’s Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context. This applies both to the public defense of Christianity in the face of the secular challenge, and the internal responsibility of dealing with doctrinal disagreements. Neither is an easy task, but theological seriousness and maturity demand that we consider doctrinal issues in terms of their relative importance. God’s truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis. A trip to the local hospital Emergency Room some years ago alerted me to an intellectual tool that is most helpful in fulfilling our theological responsibility. In recent years, emergency medical personnel have practiced a discipline known as triage—a process that allows trained personnel to make a quick evaluation of relative medical urgency. Given the chaos of an Emergency Room reception area, someone must be armed with the medical expertise to make an immediate determination of medical priority. Which patients should be rushed into surgery? Which patients can wait for a less urgent examination? Medical personnel cannot flinch from asking these questions, and from taking responsibility to give the patients with the most critical needs top priority in terms of treatment. The word triage comes from the French word trier, which means “to sort.” Thus, the triage officer in the medical context is the frontline agent for deciding which patients need the most urgent treatment. Without such a process, the scraped knee would receive the same urgency of consideration as a gunshot wound to the chest. The same discipline that brings order to the hectic arena of the Emergency Room can also offer great assistance to Christians defending truth in the present age. A discipline of theological triage would require Christians to determine a scale of theological urgency that would correspond to the medical world’s framework for medical priority. With this in mind, I would suggest three different levels of theological urgency, each corresponding to a set of issues and theological priorities found in current doctrinal debates.

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FIRST-LEVEL

FIRST-LEVEL THEOLOGICAL ISSUES would include those

doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. In the earliest centuries of the Christian movement, heretics directed their most dangerous attacks upon the church’s understanding of who Jesus is, and in what sense He is the very Son of God. Other crucial debates concerned the question of how the Son is related to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The earliest creeds and councils of the church were, in essence, emergency measures taken to protect the central core of Christian doctrine. At historic turning points such as the councils at Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, orthodoxy was vindicated and heresy was condemned—and these councils dealt with doctrines of unquestionable first-order importance. Christianity stands or falls on the affirmation that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. The church quickly moved to affirm that the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ are absolutely necessary to the Christian faith. Any denial of what has become known as Nicaean-Chalcedonian Christology is, by definition, condemned as a heresy. The essential truths of the incarnation include the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who deny these revealed truths are, by definition, not Christians. The same is true with the doctrine of the Trinity. The early church clarified and codified its understanding of the one true and living God by affirming the full deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—while insisting that the Bible reveals one God in three persons. In addition to the Christological and Trinitarian doctrines, the doctrine of justification by faith must also be included among these first-order truths. Without this doctrine, we are left with a denial of the Gospel itself, and salvation is transformed into some structure of human righteousness. The truthfulness and authority of the Holy Scriptures must also rank as a first-order doctrine, for without an affirmation of the Bible as the very Word of God, we are left without any adequate authority for distinguishing truth from error. These first-order doctrines represent the most fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and a denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself. The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant

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boundaries between believers. When Christians organize themselves into congregations and denominational forms, these boundaries become evident.

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SECOND-LEVEL

SECOND-LEVEL ISSUES would include the meaning and mode

of baptism. Baptists and Presbyterians, for example, fervently disagree over the most basic understanding of Christian baptism. The practice of infant baptism is inconceivable to the Baptist mind, while Presbyterians trace infant baptism to their most basic understanding of the covenant. Standing together on the first-order doctrines, Baptists and Presbyterians eagerly recognize each other as believing Christians, but recognize that disagreement on issues of this importance will prevent fellowship within the same congregation or denomination. Christians across a vast denominational range can stand together on the first-order doctrines and recognize each other as authentic Christians, while understanding that the existence of second-order disagreements prevents the closeness of fellowship we would otherwise enjoy. A church either will recognize infant baptism, or it will not. That choice immediately creates a second-order conflict with those who take the other position by conviction. In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue. Again, a church or denomination either will ordain women to the pastorate, or it will not. Second-order issues resist easy settlement by those who would prefer an either/or approach. Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second-order level, for these issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God.

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THIRD-LEVEL

THIRD-LEVEL ISSUES are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most of the debates over eschatology, for example, in this category. Christians who affirm the bodily, historical, and victorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ may differ over timetable and sequence without rupturing the fellowship of the church. Christians may find themselves in disagreement over any number of issues related to the interpretation of difficult texts or the understanding of matters of common disagreement. Nevertheless, standing together on issues of more urgent importance, believers are able to accept one another without compromise when third-order issues are in question.

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A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness. We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.

Christians across a vast denominational range can stand together on the first-order doctrines and recognize each other as authentic Christians. This structure of theological triage may also help to explain how confusion can often occur in the midst of doctrinal debate. If the relative urgency of these truths is not taken into account, the debate can quickly become unhelpful. The error of theological liberalism is evident in a basic disrespect for biblical authority and the church’s treasury of truth. The mark of true liberalism is the refusal to admit that firstorder theological issues even exist. Liberals treat first-order doctrines as if they were merely third-order in importance, and doctrinal ambiguity is the inevitable result. Fundamentalism, on the other hand, tends toward the opposite error. The misjudgment of true fundamentalism is the belief that all disagreements concern first-order doctrines. Thus, third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided. Living in an age of widespread doctrinal denial and intense theological confusion, thinking Christians must rise to the challenge of Christian maturity, even in the midst of a theological emergency. We must sort the issues with a trained mind and a humble heart, in order to protect what the Apostle Paul called the “treasure� that has been entrusted to us. Given the urgency of this challenge, a lesson from the Emergency Room just might help.v This article by Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, originally appeared at www.AlbertMohler.com.


The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter.

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF THEOLOGICAL ISSUES CAN FALL WITHIN FOUR CATEGORIES:

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ABSOLUTES define the core beliefs of the Christian faith

CONVICTIONS

OPINIONS ?

may have significant impact on the are less-clear issues that generally health and effectiveness of the church are not worth dividing over

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QUESTIONS are currently unsettled issues

? These categories can be best visualized as concentric circles, similar to those on a dart board, with the absolutes as the “bull’s eye.”

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least five considerations:

BIBLICAL CLARITY RELEVANCE TO THE CHARACTER OF GOD RELEVANCE TO THE ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL BIBLICAL FREQUENCY AND SIGNIFICANCE

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(how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places on it)

EFFECT ON OTHER DOCTRINES

by Erik Thoennes in Life’s Biggest Questions


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though r deeply, e th t o h c ea the mids en loved tters. In m a s e m l d re a n th in ie tr old fr is, these r tain doc ar, dear ” e l. d u o y The truth ehemently on ce s m n “ te of my ow v ro s d a e w e re v ld s g e a s lo a itefi Dw t su still they dis d a hear ngst, Wh Wesley, whom I ISAGREE a a D h “ Y is e E n th L h o f S t g o tha WE rles . I have chin of all hitefield LD AND and Cha iendship the prea W IE n fr F h d m r E o d t n J o e IT . re ie d fr H e n fr rs g v in eli EW old st te hing par Mess E WH E R n, stemm d it and d aid of his enerous and mo as the distinguis s h e c n h u rg o la J HE ISSU ctrine of electio emently oppose (m w ” ch e most g do e Grace ll others, veh per, of su r ts of over the tible of th ght that this, of a wn a kind of tem n on “Fre vered that his eld. John p o fi ea e e h c rm it t e h a s W th thou this h his ct by disco e kno y g y m v je tl u b ld o a b n e h fr y u ro e eget fi ll s n u w e a th e o q it fe ip e d w th fr princ lt, Wh ut love b c blo r. How to Lon t u b li s o te d b g n c e u re in p it ra rn a t a th s tu s s y h a an athed .W e) . A he re the fir of his c ffections knit to him? Can d continually bre d in of Georg iminished when a g in d a in p te w p o e m , an nd one to th and fl atly d they atte drawn a ery countenance esley also menti ty had gre America. lved. Atlantic, rs were o v W e v e t to the is .” c in th th populari h e o t te s in p o a in s s r g v le re acro g tou hone ther, or pri ib e s in s c c y ro li s h n is a b c o b e h w p a u T ’s d a p ll n n re ? s a h o r in ap love corresp J o h n wa arles, Jo h to show , whethe six Through dif ferences. Ch Lo n d o n, s the conflic t is words lace I wis an.” h p in y in r d ade just e e v iv e ir s r ment, m ld a r e the od m discu al, “In o ta to g s rn g u d te n n jo ri d a n g is t to resolv , w h e n Wh ite fi e s in London to a h t grea ournin st will a m la th y a a f tl . is w o s e n h s v y w e r re e a in k to n rt, o le al vie Appa Charl memo field’s pa te, “I als Wesley, in tion, e theologic rather so only ro it s ir h e w l, e rl W e to a th r h s h o , ri fy C F c I ath in B to clari John and nd Christian affe lar s would re his de c e. nd tried nds Rev. a and time e melted any cu ths befo t ie s ti r n u r fr a o o a r face to fa ept and prayed a e m p a h th e e d n in t som g, “Te them d and ld hav u n r, u o h re ti e o b it o y e a w n w e tion, They w ra t o a It p n m n h . r in e my dgm , afte of the iends le unio enom g ju b fr d in id r lu p in a ld e o e s v o s e e c y te is ld w n a d m Whitefie r differe of my in m, of wh y and me ar t with nding ou cerity!”v ith all the es Wesle d than p rrd, in sin otwithsta trine. Grace be w have die e heard Mr. Charl ht be prevented.” eeting. Both pa o n L n o m m doc hav ach mig itefield m the m us our co heart to points of le the bre did not arise fro y as a result, Wh dist Lord Jes ib r s u s o o p e v o if ll lo a ty th that that ded clari as in error. Par ti ection of the Me Th e n e e reach p dir rw e e to th th s o e h e rl it ved th m Cha rned w ties belie reasingly conce d an invitation fro orfields. c e in iv r e e nea Mo e rec bec am t Chapel ven so, h is E d t. o n th e e m move new M ing in the one even

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t you trea How do : r S u R o O y IT is at E ED ROM TH o n s? Wh ? Would F ti a S N in m IO QUEST er deno churches cribe fro m oth uccess of other still des p e o p le s e with you ard th e w to re g e a d is u em? lly d attit doctrina toward th o ” s h u w ro e e s tho gen ving and you as “lo

munity idge Com ctor R le p a M e dire stor of na, and th is the pa ia h d s u In B , e d tt ye Bra West Lafa stitute. Church in ational Revival In rn of the Inte

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? ? ?

Hard Questions

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What Kind of Unity Was Jesus Describing? Dr. Richard Fisher

In John 17, Jesus envisioned a time when we who believe in Him would experience true unity with God and each other.

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HE UNITY JESUS PRAYED FOR US is one that will fulfill our destiny—we were created to walk with God. This unity is also designed to let the whole world know about His love—we were also created to walk with each other. • Unity is one of the first goals mentioned in the Bible. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). • Unity is the sweet nectar of life. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133). • Unity helps us along the trails of life. “Two are better than one . . .” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). • Unity is the first priority for a life that is worthy of our calling. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-6). • Jesus’ prayer in John 17 called for unity. • The Epistles emphasize unity among the followers of Christ through the many “one another” passages (e.g. Romans 12:10, 16).

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Here’s the problem I see in this regard, and why unity is so difficult for us to experience: We have forgotten that we are all indwelled by the same Spirit. We have forgotten that we don’t create the unity; it exists because we are together as one in Christ. We have listened to the world, and we have begun to doubt God and His Word. We have followed our selfish agendas, trying to build our own kingdoms under the guise of spirituality. We have forgotten that unity is about joining God, not joining each other. The debate can grow so contentious that churches end up separating over unity itself! But this does raise a question: What kind of unity was Jesus talking about? How far “away from center” are we allowed to go, doctrinally, stylistically, and culturally? Let’s evaluate John 17 with that question in mind. 1. Unity is not all-inclusive. Jesus restricts unity with Him to those who believe in Him as the Savior sent from God. Our unity with Jesus is meant to serve as a sign of love and as a message to the world. “The world” is a group antagonistic toward God, unified under the deception of the Evil One (17:6-8, 20).


2. Unity is a group experience that develops around common interests. Only those who follow the Truth and have experienced God’s love can unify with Jesus (17:17, 23). Let’s call this group “Christians” (Acts 11:26) or people of “the Way” (Acts 9:2). The more we have in common, the tighter the bond of unity. Unity is a vision of walking the journey of life together. Amos 3:3 addresses this concept: “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (nlt). Without common goals, belief system, and activities, there is only the display, not the reality, of unity. 3. The unity Jesus calls for is based on the unity He experienced with God the Father (17:10). Anyone who has spent quality time with their earthly family begins to understand what Jesus is talking about. As a boy, I remember cleaning out the flooded basement of our church with my family. I remember sitting on the beach talking through growing pains, and then riding the waves in laughter. I remember praying each night with my family, facing hardships together, and experiencing victory with God’s help. I remember the lessons on integrity, responsibility, purity. My parents loved me without reserve; they would have died for me . . . and I for them. That’s the kind of loving, experiential unity we can have in God’s family! 4. Unity focuses on the leader of the group and his vision (17:13ff; Hebrews 12:1-3). As Christians, we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Captain of our salvation. Our unity is centered on Jesus and His vision, not any other person. 5. Maintaining unity is hard work (17:15). One of the practical reasons for unity is the presence of powerful

The unity Jesus calls for is based on the unity He experienced with God the Father. enemies that would destroy us. Like a roaring lion, the Evil One roams about seeking whom he may devour. He looks for stragglers that have separated themselves from the group. Paul wrote a letter to Timothy explaining what it takes to maintain unity (2 Timothy 2:3-7). It requires endurance and long-term commitment . . . as a soldier who endures hardship to fulfill the vision of his commander; as an athlete who trains and runs with a submissive heart (“according to the rules”); as a farmer who, patiently waiting, works hard for the harvest. 6. Christian unity leads to redemption and changed lives (17:23). My encouragement? As you wrestle with the practical implications of unity in your own life and ministry, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Without Jesus there is no group to join, no worthy leader to follow, no dream around which to unify. This whole conversation has always been, and must always be, about Jesus.v Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.

Challenge Questions I LEAN TOWARD SEPARATION: “I only work with people who are very similar to me doctrinally.” • Will your whole community hear the gospel from your church “brand”? • If people in another denomination are saved, do you feel any obligation to actively love them in Christ? • Would the global Great Commission be accomplished if every believer acted as you do? I LEAN TOWARD ECUMENISM: “I gladly work with anyone who says they are a Christian.” • How do you apply New Testament warnings about heresy and false teaching? • By not addressing doctrinal issues specifically, do you leave the door open for confusion and deception? • Jesus warned that multitudes will cry to Him, “Lord, Lord,” and still not be saved. How are you warning people of this danger?

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HOW A NEWSPAPER AD STARTED A PRAYER MEETING All it took was one newspaper ad and a repentent church to bring a community together in seeking revival and awakening.

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The story of one community coming together with the purpose of seeking God for revival in their churches and awakening in their community

­­—HOLLAND, Michigan­­—

N APRIL 30, 2005, THE HOLLAND SENTINEL FEATURED A FULL-PAGE CONFESSION FROM A LOCAL CHURCH. Faith Christian Center had pur-

chased an entire right-hand page, and it featured the words “Please forgive us” in bright red letters. The honesty and vulnerability of the ad were striking: To those pastors and churches we offended . . . To those we have given the perception that we are more spiritual or we have imposed our convictions on you . . . To those we have viewed as competitors instead of fellow warriors of the faith . . . Please forgive us. To those we have hurt, we want you to know we have repented before God. He is changing our hearts. For the lack of love we have walked in . . . For being dull of hearing . . . For religious pride and hypocrisy (the very things we preach against) . . . Please forgive us. The ad struck a chord among the pastors and churches of Holland, Michigan. There was a community-wide recognition that these sins were present in all of our churches, which created an awareness of our desperate need for repentance and renewal. It was as if God was drawing our hearts in the same direction: toward revival. Conversations about the ad and about revival led to a weekly prayer meeting among pastors in Holland, starting with a handful and quickly swelling to 58 pastors from 39 churches and

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By Mark Vroegop Senior Pastor, College Park Church

5 denominations. The purpose was to seek God for revival in our churches and an awakening in our community. For two years, these weekly prayer gatherings served as a spiritual rallying point for pastors in our community. The rhythm of weekly prayer, pastor to pastor, yielded some amazing and surprising fruit. We found that the first steps of renewal in our community were forged in our own hearts as we prayed together. A natural, God-ordained connection grew between us, and wonderful things began to spring up in our churches and then in the community. WE LEARNED TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Jesus’ statement in John 13:35 is compelling and convicting: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love for each other is supposed to be the defining mark of Jesus’ followers. It was true when He said it; it is true now. Praying together created a love between pastors and churches that we never dreamed possible. It gave us the opportunity to hear one another’s hearts and passions. I witnessed pastors weeping over their own sins, pleading for their congregations, and crying out to God for revival. This fostered a powerful love among us.


After the first year, a church in another community experienced a painful split. The result was that two different denominations were vying for control over the direction of the church. The situation was quickly moving from bad to worse. Two pastors from our prayer gathering, belonging to the two denominations, heard about the situation. Together, they decided to request a meeting with all the parties involved. They met with the church factions, the denominational leaders, and the staff. They recounted their own story and how God had brought them together through prayer. They talked about their renewed love for one another. Sitting next to each other in a powerful display of unity, they implored the parties to reconcile. They spoke with one voice—the voice of love. The church and denominational leaders were so moved that they agreed to start a process of reconciliation. Prayer gets love out front, where it should be (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Jesus said that this kind of love would speak volumes to the world. We saw how it does.

grabbed my feet. I cannot describe the power in that combination of vulnerability about my fears and the physical presence and comfort of my fellow pastors. After I finished praying, this band of brothers began to pray for me. I listened as they pleaded for our unborn baby and my hurting wife. They called on God to uphold my faith and give me grace. They prayed with earnestness and compassion. I left that prayer meeting a different man. I carried the same burden, but I no longer carried it alone. Six months later, my wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The day she was born, her birth was announced at our weekly prayer meeting. The pastors stood and cheered! They had borne a burden for us, and they shared in our joy. WE LEARNED TO CONSIDER OTHERS. Paul said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Unfortunately, a subtle but real sense of competition and rivalry exists between many pastors. Those in Holland were no exception, nor was I. Praying together, however, changed that. Through prayer, we learned to appreciate, value, and learn from each other. Once, for example, I remember listening to a fellow pastor pray. I was so moved by the passage he was praying that I opened my eyes to see where it was from. I was shocked to see that his eyes were closed; he was quoting it from memory. This inspired me to begin memorizing Scripture again. Praying with other pastors also broadened my exposure to how other pastors and churches seek God’s face. I brought many of those experiences back to the prayer meetings at our church. As a result, we became a bit freer with our prayer postures. We learned to sing a cappella as part of our prayer time. And we discovered the joy of gathering quarterly with other churches to seek the Lord together. As we learned to consider others, we came to realize that the kingdom of Christ is much bigger than our church. We learned to work with other churches for the common cause of Christ in people’s lives. When a family joined our church as a transfer from another congregation, I called the pastor from that church to be sure we had his blessing. The tone of the call was marked by mutual respect and love. As I hung up the phone, I thought, Things sure are different in Holland! The competitive, isolationist spirit that had previously marked our community had started to change.

Praying together created a love between pastors and churches that we never dreamed possible. It gave us the opportunity to hear one another’s hearts and passions. WE LEARNED TO CARRY EACH OTHER’S BURDENS. We were not meant to walk alone. Paul said that we fulfill the law of Christ when we carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Praying together helped us not only learn what each other’s burdens were, but also bear them. This was particularly meaningful to me personally. About a year before I joined the pastors’ prayer group, my wife and I experienced the tragedy of a stillbirth. Dealing with the loss of our daughter was very hard, but the fears associated with the next pregnancy felt unbearable. Throughout that next pregnancy, the pastors helped me bear the burden of my faith-shaking fear. I remember one time in particular, during our annual pastors’ prayer summit. In front of the others, I began to pour out my heart to God about my fears. As I prayed, four fellow pastors circled around me and laid their hands on me. One dear brother even lay down on the floor and

WE SAW RENEWAL IN PROGRESS. God did something unique in Holland, Michigan. Thirty-nine churches, five denominations, and fifty-eight praying pastors attested to that. And several things became clear: Our community changed. Our churches changed. And I changed. All because of pastors praying, together.v Mark Vroegop is currently the senior pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis and serves on the Board of Directors for Life Action Ministries.

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CONVERSATIONS

Destination Matters

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live off of Liberty Street. But if you’re ever coming for a visit, you might be interested in a point of clarification. That would be Liberty Street in Buchanan, Michigan . . . not Petaluma, California! Confusion about the destination could take you off course by 2,200 miles. Destination determines direction. The same is true in our work for the gospel. If the goal of Christians is to plant and grow churches, then heading for that destination sparks and shapes a certain kind of thinking and activity. I recently attended a conference where a speaker from Africa made the observation that Christian leaders in the West emphasize three expressions of the church. First, local churches are emphasized. Second, when local churches become affiliated and begin to work as a group, another expression of the church is created in the form of denominations or church-planting movements. And occasionally, a third expression of the church emerges as local churches and denominations become “missional” and seek to organize themselves around the worthy task of outreach and global evangelism. However, there is one expression of the church that is rarely emphasized in the West. Let’s call it the regional church. We see an example of this kind of church in Acts 20. Before his departure to Rome, Paul invited all the believers in the city together to give them a final charge about how to advance the kingdom of God in their region. The purpose Paul had in mind as he spoke to them was explicitly about what it was going to take for these believers to make that happen, and the directions he gave were intended to help them reach this destination. The rule and reign of Christ was the vision that was to unite, animate, and shape them collectively. Why does this matter 2,000 years later? The natural progression of a local church or a denominational or churchplanting movement is to assume that once there is a vibrant church of that stripe in a place, then the main objective is to plant another church of their stripe in the next town (or the next state or country or continent). This thinking is very helpful for spreading the breadth of gospel witness. But it can actually unintentionally diffuse the primary purpose of Christians in each locality by taking attention off the depth of the task at hand: for Jesus to be voluntarily embraced as Lord in that place. I am in no way critiquing the value of denominations or church-planting movements. Both have done much to spread the gospel.

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My point is, it’s not okay for a local church to be satisfied when they grow numerically if Jesus is not yet Lord of that place. Likewise, it’s not okay for a denomination or church-planting movement to be satisfied when churches of the same affiliation are planted in other cities, or even around the world, if Jesus is not yet Lord of those places. Again, why does this matter? When we add to our road maps the destination for Jesus to functionally become Lord in a place, we quickly realize how much further we have to travel. We are humbled at the enormity of the task and cast on God for His power to do the seemingly impossible. And we are overwhelmed at the pervasiveness of the darkness to be dispelled, and therefore cast upon every other believer in that place to help accomplish what is otherwise undoable alone. Clarifying the intended destination of the church unifies the direction of the church. My father used to comment that it takes a pack of grown men to turn a vehicle around when the car is in park. But put the vehicle in motion, and it can be directed with only one finger on the steering wheel. The same is just as true for the people of God. Disunity wrongly thrives—it’s tolerated and even justified—when the destination is erroneously defined in terms of what we can achieve independently of all the other believers in a place. But Jesus knew better and therefore taught us to pray, Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth, just like it is in heaven. The question that will begin to unite every believer in a place is simply this: “What will it take for Jesus to become recognized and worshiped as Lord here?” That’s the destination that ultimately matters.v

The rule and reign of Christ was the vision that was to unite, animate, and shape them.

Del Fehsenfeld III

Senior Editor


IMAGINE YOUR CHURCH DISPLAYING THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST AND SPREADING THE GOSPEL THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

A 4-DAY CONFERENCE FOR YOUR ENTIRE CHURCH The OneCry conference is an opportunity for your church to step inside the circle and cry out for the manifest presence of God. OneCry is a worshipful, prayerful, challenging event that calls people to TURN, PRAY, and UNITE for spiritual awakening.

NOW scheduling for fall of 2015 . . .

This conference includes elements for the whole church family. It features creative environments for children, high-impact worship, cutting-edge media, and practical application of biblical truths for adults and youth.

Visit www.LifeAction.org/OneCry or call Lane Gordon for available dates: 574-276-1677. revive 27


ViewPoint Marketplace Missionaries Doug Small An army of ordinary Christians must emerge to see their workplace and their neighborhood as a mission field.

The A   Scenario

NCIENT CULTURES WERE ETHNICALLY TRIBAL and difficult to evangelize. Missionaries learned the importance of access, of getting on the inside—of mastering the language, culture, and customs, of adopting I’m the pastor of, well, I’ll admit it, a church that is stuck. the dress and understanding the rituals. I don’t think my people are in rebellion or intentionally Our cultural structure is by professional tribes—educaholding back God’s work, but I just don’t see anything tion, medical, business/finance, arts/entertainment, and supernatural here. more. These tribes each have their own language, uniforms, badges, ranks, credentials, privileges, duties, training instituThe leaders in mydiscipline church aren’t really on board with tions, and even boards. needed changes, and thereinisalla these vocal minority in thetribes—they conChristians are found professional gregation that seems to oppose anything I do. Sometimes know the language, they have the passcodes, they underIstand see new in the door, thefamilies culture walking and customs. They and are although insiders. I greetHowever, them warmly, I think to myself, “They probably Christian professionals largely have never seen won’t come back.” themselves as missionaries. They have not discerned the sovereign hand of God in their work placement, or considered Ithat didn’t get toathis overnight; used tothey havework, a lot they are among fewplace hundred soulsI where more vision and excitement I know aca- see. Like the brightest light of Christabout thosethings. people regularly demically is still but personally I’mplacement just Nehemiahthat andGod Esther, likeworking, Moses and Daniel, their not seeing much. I’d love to have an “Ephesians 3:20” is no accident. moment church, butfor I don’t know getprofession of It is in notour uncommon pastors tohow see to the there from here. laypersons as virtually irrelevant to mission outside of the work of the church. As a result, a great deal of the talents, From the editors: If you feel like this about your church, take heart! God is working today, in unexpected and amazing ways. Here are some recent testimonies from Life Action events across North America.

28 LifeAction.org/revive

resources, time, and energy of lay professionals are commandeered for the specific mission of the congregation itself. Meanwhile, the divide between the church and daily secular culture is now so severe that the pastor is not readily admitted to the table in most secular dimensions of our society. To reach the 27% of Americans who no longer identify themselves as a Christian, and an additional 50% who are functionally unchurched, an army of ordinary Christians must emerge to see their workplace and their neighborhood as a mission field. But what if we could assemble Christians from the various professional tribes (medical, educational, social services, finance, etc.)? Christians in a specific vocational sector have not convened en masse for the cause of Christ. They have not been challenged to be salt and light to a specific professional tribe, to positively impact their vocational peers and the community. Imagine Christians from diverse organizations and professional disciplines at the same table, consistently and relentlessly asking, “How can we impact our city and live out the implications of Christ’s life in the marketplace?” Imagine lay leaders from the various professional tribes praying together for wisdom and receiving direction from God about


renewal in their professional tribe. Imagine embedded intercessors in every segment of society—prayer missionaries to every professional and vocational tribe. Imagine the “Church of the City” actively engaged in prayer and witness, every day of the week. Imagine triads and quads of believers, huddled together under the radar screen, in small weekly prayer groups at their workplace, to hold one another gently accountable to live with integrity before unbelievers. Imagine incense rising regularly from every vocational sector in the city, virtually every block and building. Imagine prayer teams that adopted the mayor, the fire and safety personnel, community leaders, schools, and police for prayer. Imagine a youth and children’s prayer movement for your city. Imagine intercessors informed with accurate research on the city, on its pain and promise, praying for the destiny of your town. What if in every professional tribe and every marketplace sector of the city, small groups of Christians would find one another? Quietly, they would pray at their workplace and remind and encourage each other to be salt and light, to live the truth in love before their unchurched peers, to yield to the Holy Spirit, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What if Christians would see work not only as a means of income, but also as a place for sacred mission, a place to fulfill a calling? What if they would see themselves as a missionary force? And what if Christian leaders in the various professionalvocational tribes in any given city or county were to come together, sit in the same room, pray, and own responsibility to evangelize and disciple their unchurched and unengaged friends with the gospel as a lay-led movement? What if they could envision how faith might impact the values of their workplace sector—of what salt and light look like in the marketplace? The typical pastor or church, despite their best efforts, cannot complete the mission with our current model. The culture is out of reach of the campus-bound church. The gap, the divide, the barriers are too great. There are places that pastors cannot right now go as pastors. The platform for witness is not available to them. There are entire cultural sectors only accessible by insiders. This is the moment we must ask ourselves the question Mordecai asked Esther: “If you keep quiet at a time like this . . . you and your relatives will die; what’s more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 tlb). Our times are perilous. New strategies are needed. And the next great awakening may take place in the marketplace,

The next Great Awakening may take place in the marketplace. as believers huddle together in small groups and invite God to their workplace, to places in the city where He has never been appropriately honored and reverently welcomed. And He comes where He is invited. Indeed, as we cultivate a kind of positive peer reinforcement that encourages us to flesh out our faith daily, we honor Christ. The power of our saltiness intensifies, as does the brightness of our light. As leaders of the marketplace, what does it mean to be a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, a banker, or a baker rooted in Christian principle and informing the workplace? I believe that asking and answering these questions is key to the next great spiritual awakening! v Doug Small is President of Alive Ministries and Initiative Coordinator for the Prayer-Connect Community Leadership Network to connect, envision, resource, and mobilize prayer for a definitive geographic area (town or city). To learn more, visit www.PC2LN.org.

revive 29


Making It Do We Really Love One Another? Jesus prayed that His future followers would enjoy the kind of unity that defined His own relationship with His Father, and that this unity of love, vision, and fellowship would stand as a bold testimony, “so that the world may believe” (John 17:20-23). This kind of unity begins in our own hearts as we respond in obedience to the “one another” commands of Scripture. Walk through the following exercise, rating your own level of obeying each “one another” command in reference to the areas described. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 being “disobedient/unengaged” and 5 being “fully obedient.”

Be kind to one another Ephesians 4:32

MY FAMILY 1 2 3 4 5

MY CHURCH 1 2 3 4 5

Pray for one another James 5:16

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Do not speak against one another James 4:11

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Do not judge one another Romans 14:13

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Serve one another lovingly Galatians 5:13

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Speak truth to one another Ephesians 4:25

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Forgive one another as Christ forgives 1 2 3 4 5 Colossians 3:13

1 2 3 4 5

Encourage one another daily Hebrews 3:13

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Be hospitable to one another 1 Peter 4:9

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

On any of the above, if you circled a 1 or a 2, pray about that area and write down one way you can practice that commandment in the next week: If you are a pastor or church leader, walk back through this exercise in reference to other pastors in your community and other denominational groups. Check your heart attitudes and behaviors toward them against these “one another” commands from Jesus.


NEXT STEP

M  

Getting More Done

y working definition for marriage goes

something like this: “Working together with the person you love to accomplish more for God than you ever could on your own.” There’s more to it than that, I admit. Obviously, marriage is also about commitment, companionship, and fulfillment. But there is a practical side to the equation, one that I wish more young couples would think about before they tie the knot. My purpose in life is to love and serve God. The reason to get married, then, is to love and serve God even more. The person I marry shouldn’t just agree with that statement, they should help me accomplish it. If marriage is really a team effort through which we can expand our service to God, then I should be able to look at my potential spouse and say, “We will do more for God together than we will if we stay single!” I had that conversation with my wife when we got engaged back in 2003. Yes, I loved her. Yes, I wanted to be with her. Yes, all the mushy stuff. But also, yes, as a team, we would serve the kingdom of God. If I wasn’t sure of that fact, I would have pushed pause on our relationship, as painful as that would have been. Why? Because I don’t want to just say, “I have a great marriage,” or, “My wife makes me really happy.” I want to be able to report (at least to Jesus, on Judgment Day) that my marriage accomplished something for eternity. “Lord, You gave me one life to live. I spent a majority of it with my wife, because together we were better able to demonstrate Your love, disciple Your children, serve Your people, and complete Your mission.” Sometimes when I hear about Christian unity, I have a check of skepticism in my heart. (You know, when churches call for joint prayer meetings or special observances?) “What will this really accomplish? What are we going to do together? Is this just for show? What if some groups show up that I can’t really endorse?” Authors throughout this issue of Revive have made the case that unity isn’t just a show, and that it is more than pragmatic. The unity we can (and should) experience with any other Christ follower should be akin to what the first disciples experienced 2,000 years ago. Their mission was not merely to host grand fellowships and resist the apparently inevitable slide into denominationalism. Their mission was not just to eat, travel, pray, and study the finer points of doctrine together. Jesus told them to preach the gospel! And fostering a worldwide movement of new disciples isn’t a one-man show. They would need each other in order to complete the Great

Commission. In simple terms, they would be able to accomplish more for God together than they ever could apart. In light of this, let me suggest two questions: 1. Who am I working with to serve God’s kingdom? 2. Who could I work with to serve God’s kingdom? Now let me suggest three answers. 1. Believers in my household. The first place we can demonstrate Christian unity, and the best team through which we can accomplish the purposes of God, might be the people God has already put closest to us. If you have a Christian spouse, you might begin by asking, “What does God want us to do for Him with our time and resources, together?”

The unity we can experience should

2. Fellow churchgoers. As long as you are attending a Jesus-exalting church, you probably have plenty of opportunity to join friends there in prayer, missions, serving, and evangelism. But unity of heart won’t happen automatically, just because you show up. You have to engage!

be akin to what the first disciples experienced.

3. Anyone who is a fellow Christian in my community. There are probably others nearby who, though perhaps from a different church, still hold the name of Jesus high, and still represent His kingdom’s advance. Why not look for opportunities to pray with, share with, and work alongside these brothers and sisters, in His name? If we sought the kind of loving, selfless, mission-focused, patient, joyful, forgiving, and heartfelt unity the Bible calls for, with any willing believer in our home, church, or city, what would change about our lives? Would we get more done for God’s kingdom? v

Daniel W. Jarvis

Managing Editor

revive 31


P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 269-697-8600 • www.LifeAction.org

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Life Action Ministries

Igniting Movements of Authentic Christianity Life Action Ministries exists to mobilize believers across America to seek God for another great spiritual awakening, and to help them experience God’s power and presence. Our family of outreaches is igniting movements of Christ-centered revival among God’s people in innovative, life-changing ways.

www.LifeAction.org

Reframing Christian Unity  

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