One Consequence of a Bad Worldview

Sometimes it is necessary to step back and take a broader view of the world and how it is changing. One of the courses we plan to teach students during the !mpact courses involves one’s “worldview.” Below is a portion of a paper (in Italics) presented by a former Vice Chairman of the CIA addressing some massive changes taking place in Western culture from what I would attribute directly to a secularized worldview. When God’s point of view is replaced by others’, destruction soon follows. Following is just one of many consequences of ignoring the counsel of Scripture about life.

 

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

 

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING FOR CEO’s By HERBERT MEYER This is a paper presented several weeks ago by Herb Meyer at a Davos, Switzerland meeting which was attended by most of the CEO’s from all the major international corporations — a very good summary of today’s key trends and a perspective one seldom sees. Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. In these positions, he managed production of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates and other top- secret projections for the President and his national security advisers. Meyer is widely credited with being the first senior U.S. Government official to forecast the Soviet Union’s collapse, for which he later was awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community’s highest honor. Formerly an associate editor of FORTUNE, he is also the author of several books.  WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON? A GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING FOR CEO’s By HERBERT MEYER FOUR MAJOR TRANSFORMATIONS

(The following is point number 3 from a paper submitted by Mr. Meyer which addresses a major shift in population demographics resulting from low birthrates of Western nations.)

3. Shifting Demographics of Western Civilization. Most countries in the Western world have stopped breeding.  For a civilization obsessed with sex, this is remarkable.  Maintaining a steady population requires a birthrate of 2.1.   In Western Europe, the birthrate currently stands at 1.5, or 30 percent below replacement.  In30 years there will be 70 to 80 million fewer Europeans than there are today.  The current birthrate in Germany is 1.3. Italy and Spain are even lower at 1.2.  At that rate, the working age population declines by30 percent in 20 years, which has a huge impact on the economy.  When you don’t have the young workers to replace the older ones, you have to import them. The European countries are currently importing Moslems.  Today, the Moslems comprise 10 percent of France and Germany, and the percentage is rising rapidly because they have higher birthrates. However, the Moslem populations are not being integrated into the cultures of their host countries, which is a political catastrophe.  One reason Germany and France don’t support the Iraq war is they fear their Moslem populations will explode on them.  By 2020, more than half of all births in the Netherlands will be non-European. The huge design flaw in the post-modern secular state is that you need a traditional religious society birthrate to sustain it.  The Europeans simply don’t wish to have children, so they are dying.  In Japan, the birthrate is 1.3.  As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people over the next 30 years.  Because Japan has a very different society than Europe, they refuse to import workers.  Instead, they are just shutting down.  Japan has already closed 2,000 schools, and is closing them down at the rate of 300 per year.  Japan is also aging very rapidly by 2020; one out of every five Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any idea about how to run an economy with those demographics. Europe and Japan, which comprise two of the world’s major economic engines, aren’t merely in recession, they’re shutting down.  This will have a huge impact on the world economy, and it is already beginning to happen.  Why are the birthrates so low?  There is a direct correlation between abandonment of traditional religious society and a drop in birthrate and Christianity in Europe is becoming irrelevant. The second reason is economic – when the birthrate drops below replacement, the population ages.  With fewer working people to support more retired people, it puts a crushing tax burden on the smaller group of working age people.  As a result, young people delay marriage and having a family.  Once this trend starts, the downward spiral only gets worse.  These countries have abandoned all the traditions they formerly held in regard to having families and raising children. The U.S. birthrate is 2.0, just below replacement. & nabs; we have an increase in population because of immigration.  When broken down by ethnicity, the Anglo birthrate is 1.6 (same as France) while the Hispanic birthrate is 2.7.  In the U.S., the baby boomers are starting to retire in massive numbers.  This will push the elder dependency ratio from 19 to 38 over the next 10 to 15 years.  This is not as bad as Europe, but still represents the same kind of trend. Western civilization seems to have forgotten what every primitive society understands-you need kids to have a healthy society.  Children are huge consumers.  Then they grow up to become taxpayers.  That’s how a society works, but the postmodern secular state seems to have forgotten that.  If U.S. birthrates of the past 20 to 30 years had been the same as post-World War II, there would be no Social Security or Medicare problems. The world’s most effective birth control device is money.  As society creates a middle class and women move into the workforce, birthrates drop.  Having large families is incompatible with middle class living. The quickest way to drop the birthrate is through rapid economic development.  After World War II, the U.S. instituted a $600 tax credit per child.  The idea was to enable mom and dad to have four children without being troubled by taxes.  This led to a baby boom of 22 million kids, which was a huge consumer market. That turned into a huge tax base.  However, to match that incentive in today’s dollars would cost $12,000 per child.

Oh the Psalms!

EPH 5:18  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

20  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These two verses speak volumes to our times. So much of the wisdom of God can be found here. One thing I would point out is the reference to “psalms.”  During my personal devotions, I read and listen to the Bible. I have been doing this for many years. For me, hearing and seeing the Word has a really cool affect. For past few days I have been in the Psalms. Oh the Psalms! That they would be upon our lips in everyday conversation and in our hearts as we face life’s challenges. Subjectively speaking, I know of no other book in the Bible that better helps one find context in life. I say “subjectively” because all of the Bible does the same thing as the Holy Spirit ministers to those reading it. However, for “all-in-one” impact of encouragement, hope, understanding and eternal perspective, my vote for today is the Psalms. I just love God’s Word!

From Outcast to Orthodox

Image

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. Here Paul is writing to Timothy (2Ti. 3:1) to take special note of the times. Times that have arrived and those still ahead. As Barnes notes (no pun intended), “times of danger, or persecution, and of trial.” I have heard others teach that such reference can be described as “tight times”… as in times where evil seems to have us in a corner… pressing, overwhelming, suffocating. In spite of this, Paul tells us to “continue in what” we have learned. It’s as if he says, “Look at how I have handled this and do likewise (v. 10).” This is easier said than done. To know the times we live in and not give in to the temptation to be reconciled to defeat is hard.

I have been assisting with teaching a bible study attended by mostly elderly folks for about twenty years. I take turns with other pastors from various denominations along with other lay persons in presenting teachings each Tuesday morning. At one point, most of those attending were my seniors by twenty-plus years. My time with these men (and a few women) has been a great blessing. I have learned so much from them just listening to their life experiences. Most are from the “greatest generation.” Joe (now passed) was thirty-eight when WWII started, the “old man” on his Navy destroyer. Sam was a teenager when captured by the Germans after his bomber was shot down over Germany on his very first mission. Orbie was wounded twice in the Battle of the Bulge. I could almost feel his joy when Jack described the troop train he was on in Germany stopping and the officers announcing the end of the war in Europe. These are just a few of the many “stories” I have had the honor of spending time with on most Tuesday mornings. And not only the “war stories.” Dan has shared many of the highs and lows of pastoring in the UMC while Earl has lent insight into his life growing up in Chattanooga, his time in the dairy business and so on.  I mention these men because I have seen them often shake their heads in sadness over the times we are now living in. They have witnessed first-hand the stunning transformation of a society. Indeed they have seen the outcast become orthodox.

Outcast: One that has been excluded from a society or system, a pariah.

Orthodox: adhering to what is commonly accepted

All of us who are Christians were outcasts. We were excluded from fellowship with God because of sin. Once excluded but now included by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. God has always hated what kept us separated from Him… sin. One reason God hates sin is that it damages fellowship with His highest and most precious creation… us. Sin destroys life and God is all about life. God really hates sin.

Another way to look at sin is that it is behavior that ultimately destroys. God knows this but we sometimes too easily forget.  God hates what destroys us. There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end therein is death (Pr. 14:12; 16:25). The bible teaches us that we should hate what God hates. To fear the Lord is to hate evil (Pr. 8:13a). Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil (Ro. 12:9a). Hate is a word easily understood. There is little variation in its meaning or application. Hate is extreme, defined in the NT as “to utterly despise.” One can’t hate a little bit. To utterly despise, however, can’t even begin to capture how much God hates sin. Just as nothing in our inventory of expression or experience can truly describe God’s love for us. His emotions are so far beyond us.

If God so hates sin and wants us, as much as we are able, to hate sin, we truly find ourselves in “tight times.” In the span of less than four decades, we have seen behavior that has historically been outcast become orthodox. What has universally been unacceptable become not only acceptable but celebrated. Indeed, many “call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). It is easy to understand how those who have witnessed such a massive shift in national character could become downcast. Not only are they witnesses to this incredible moral decay, they are subjected to ridicule and isolation should they not “go along.” In more and more cases, those that hate sin have become the “haters.”

Although there are many issues that illustrate the outcast becoming orthodox, here are three. Each one represents fruit from the same tree, immorality.

From Outcast to Orthodox

Fornication: Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is now not only “accepted” in our society, it is the preferred approach to pre-married behavior. The most recent Gallup poll reports 60% of Americans approve of pre-marital sex. In 1969, the number was 33%.  Only 28% of those over 65 approve (imagine what the % would be for those over 80!). It would be difficult to find a television show or movie that does not present fornication as normal and acceptable. Indeed, we have reached the place where, “everyone’s doing it.”

1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral (fornicators) nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

Abortion: What do we do with all these “unwanted” babies! Duke Nukem was ahead of his time when he said, “Kill’em all!” 55,000,000 and counting. A heretofore unknown Texas politician recently became the darling of the national media after making an extended, impassioned speech before the Texas statehouse in favor of unrestricted abortion. Though a tidal wave of medical/scientific understanding has reinforced the notion that life in the womb should be protected, the 1973 opinion of seven ill-advised Supreme Court justices still holds sway.

PRO 6:16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

PRO 24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

Homosexuality: Just this week, Disney announced contributions to The Boy Scouts of America would be suspended due to their disallowance of homosexual men as leaders within scouting. The simple quotation of 1 Co. 6:9 resulted in an extremely popular TV show being suspended until the backlash from the network’s customers forced its reinstatement. The President has for some time refused to allow the enforcement by the Federal Government of any law regarding the non-recognition of same-sex marriage. As I write this, it is fair to say that virtually every institution in American society (Education, Government, Business, Media, Entertainment, etc.) supports the proposition that homosexual behavior is acceptable.  Much of the momentum for the advancement of the homosexual agenda is found in America’s clergy. A recent poll of Millennials (under age 34) found that a third of those who had abandoned their Christian faith did so due to the negative teaching in the Church regarding homosexuality. Indeed, to contend that homosexual behavior is sinful today is to be way outside of the mainstream.

These are just three examples of how society has changed in “the blink of an eye.” The havoc such changes have brought to our culture become more evident with each passing day, month and year. Behavior that a very short time ago was “outcast” has become “orthodox.” But again, the Apostle Paul gives good advice. Keep praying, preaching, teaching, witnessing and believing God that there is still hope.

Prophetic Protection

My devotion this morning had me contemplating the connection between the Presence of God evidenced by the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the Church service and the need to resist the temptation to fall away from one’s faith in Christ. On the whole, the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament is an appeal perseverance in the faith. It is a majestic description of the priestly ministry of Christ saturated with quite a few “warnings” to stay the course. With this is mind, I was struck with the protection against falling away afforded by a robust prophetic environment in the Church. In reviewing the synopsis of our most recent Sunday morning service, I was so encouraged by the prophecies, visions, and new songs. The Apostle Paul makes at least two appeals concerning the “depreciation” of prophetic utterance… in 1 Th. 5 and 1Co. 14. I use the term “depreciation” in echoing A.T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament) because it captures the challenge we face in allowing an erosion of appreciation for the prophetic in our services.
Depreciated: To be reduced in value over time.
Our temptation is to de-appreciate the value of prophecy over time. As Pastor Joseph so accurately shared in his message, the urgency and distractions of the “temporal” can easily crowd out “eternal” things. Prophetic utterances during a church service deal with eternal/divine issues as they bring heavenly perspectives to our lives. This is one way we are protected from being consumed with the “temporal.” None of us are immune from arriving at church loaded down with tugs and pulls of temporal. Prophecies and other speaking and knowledge gifts remind us of the fact that Jesus is truly in our midst corporately (Mt. 18:20; 1Co. 5:4; 14:25), thus protecting us from becoming stale. The forth-telling aspect of prophecy brings the divinely inspired, timeless Word of God to us in a fresh presentation. I believe this is one reason that Paul exhorts us to “eagerly” desire prophecy. In closing, I want to list a number of renderings from 1 Th. 5:20:
NIV- do not treat prophecies with contempt
NASB- do not despise prophetic utterances
NLT- do not scoff a prophecies
MSG- and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master
KJV- Despise not prophesying
CJB- don’t despise inspired messages
Darby- do not lightly esteem prophesies
GWT- Don’t despise what God has revealed
TLB- Do not scoff at those who prophesy
NCV- Do not treat prophecy as if it were unimportant
NTiMS (Weymouth) – Do not think meanly of utterances of prophecy
Young’s LT- prophesyings despise not (Yoda?)
Prophesying, along with other gifts of the Holy Spirit, provides protection against growing cold in our expectation of God showing up in our meetings. No wonder the Apostle Paul likens it to FIRE.
Note: On February 21-22, 2014, CCC will host a seminar on establishing and maintaining a prophetic church culture. This seminar will go a long way in affirming and refreshing everyone’s commitment to keeping the flame of God’s Presence alive in the Church. (Click here for Seminar Info)

Family Sunday… A Really Good Feeling

Family Sunday… A Really Good Feeling
Author and founder of Prayer Point ministry, Dr. Terry Teykl, once said that the happiest day in a pastor’s year is the Monday following Easter. Of course, this is a reference to the fact that Easter is often the most highly attended Sunday of the year. The underlying assumption is that what makes most pastors feel good about their ministry are the “the 3 ‘b’s… buildings, bank accounts and be-hinds in the seats.” Years ago, when CCC began the journey of becoming a Presence-based church, Dr. Teykl’s teaching on the subject served to be wonderful encouragement. The paradigm shift from consumer-based, program oriented church to Presence-based is easier said than done. Transactional Christianity (What’s in it for me- What program do you have for this, that and the other-How long do your services last- Do you have a good children’s, singles, youth, senior, etc. program) often crowds out the conscious and unconscious desires of most Christians to encounter God’s Presence on Sunday morning. Of course, programs rightly situated in priority can be very important as long as they don’t become the thing at the expense of the Presence. At CCC, we are committed to the proposition that the most satisfying report anyone can give upon visiting on Sunday or any other time is that they felt and experienced the Presence of God. This brings me to this past Family Sunday.
By this past Sunday afternoon, after all had gone home, I can honestly say that how many people came to church; how much money was in the church bank account; or how many buildings we occupied did not cross my mind. That is not to say my mind was not occupied. I was occupied, no, actually I was struck, with an overwhelming sense of peace and thanksgiving at what had transpired at church that day. The worship, praise and the operation of many gifts of the Holy Spirit again left me shaking my head at the goodness of God. He really does show up when we make room for Him. The sharing by the ladies with regard to their recent trip to India not only brought tears to my eyes but so inspired me to follow their lead in my faith and practice of Christianity. I wanted to be like them! The service was what the author of Hebrews 10:24 was getting at… provoked/inspired to love and service. The day was capped by a fellowship meal. This is an expression of body-life that is so important… the church family sharing a simple meal together. During the meal I could not help but notice the on-going laughter, conversations and good fellowship taking place. And the meal was not the only fellowship occurring. The cleaning, breaking down of tables, and general straightening up afterwards provided more time for healthy connections.
At the end of the day, I was a happy camper. Does this mean we have arrived? No way. We still have many holes in our nets and need big helpings of God’s grace. But our sails are set to catch the wind of God’s Spirit and God has set a course for us that will surely be a great adventure. Thanks to all of you for what you do for King Jesus and His Church!

Praying Outside Our Box

This past Sunday I read my sermon for the first time in twenty-five years of preaching. I wanted to revisit the path our church has taken concerning corporate prayer. It has, as I wrote/spoke, been a path of repentance. It is difficult sometimes to find the balance between forging ahead and holding on to what is behind. I am comforted in realizing that a good bit, if not most, of the Bible addresses the need for reminding. When it comes to spiritual matters, a healthy interest in the new should never be to the exclusion of the old, or, “ancient paths” (Jer. 6:16). The book of Deuteronomy was a repetition of the Law of Moses. The Apostle Peter starts his second epistle with a reminder concerning things already established (2Pe. 1:12).

As a local New Testament Church, we should be urgent in our pursuit of corporate prayer. This urgency, however, can become legalistic bondage if we limit our creativity and imagination. Although our corporate prayer box may be bigger than many churches, it is still limited. Our box at CCC presently consists of our mid-week Call To the Wall solemn assembly (7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.); the Tuesday afternoon Mountain Movers Prophetic Prayer meeting (Noon-2 p.m.); the Tuesday evening Coweta Worship and Prayer Furnace (7 p.m.); and the Sunday morning Pre-Service Prayer (7 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.). Praying outside the box challenges all of us to not use our unavailability during these already existing corporate prayer opportunities to excuse us from the pursuit of praying with others. In light of this, I offer some suggestions that I have seen work well in the past or are presently working with other churches, etc. Just can’t make these other meetings? Consider these suggestions…

  1. LIFE groups meeting in homes for prayer. Explore either hosting, leading and/or hosting and leading a corporate prayer meeting in a home. Such meetings can be established in the framework of a LIFE group in order to encourage the necessary healthy dynamics of Christian community.
  2. Early morning corporate prayer groups. Many churches in American and around the world have weekly prayer groups that meet early in the morning. Such groups often meet by 6 a.m. or even earlier in order that folks can be on the way to work or school by 7 a.m. Such early time frames may seem daunting at first, but can become a habit quite quickly.
  3. Alternative nights at church. For those who simply can’t attend the main mid-week prayer meeting, pick and organize another night at church. Monday, Thursday, Saturday…

The point is that we all need to consider praying outside our boxes and, again, not let existing opportunities limit our imagination. One of the unique image-bearing characteristics of man is our ability to create. Let’s focus this wonderful gift in meeting our Savior’s mandate that we all “watch and pray” (Lk. 21:36).

If anyone would like help with any of these suggestions, please contact me.

Pastor Pete

The Most Important Decision This Pastor Has Ever Made

 Dear Saint;

JOE 2:12  “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.14  Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing – grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. 15  Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16  Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17  Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” 

(On the day I am writing this, President Obama was quoted as saying the following to an assembled group of homosexual activists he had invited to the Whitehouse on June 29, 2009: “I will not only be your friend; I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a president who fights with you and for you,’’ In this “fight”, he went on to promise defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act and repeal of the military’s prohibition against openly homosexual service members continuing their service. I mention this to highlight the times we are living in. Now more than ever we must commit ourselves to lifting a desperate cry to heaven… a cry of repentance and petition for mercy. We must cry out like never before for a heavenly intervention. Job relates an eternal principle regarding God’s connection with man’s affairs… “Yet he (God) is over man and nation alike, to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people.” (Job 34:29b-30). This verse was written in the larger context of the truth that God is aware and that He hears the cries of those who fear him . In light of the wicked actions and intentions of many of our leaders, we are left with no other option but to seek the Lord like never before.)   

The following is a pastoral letter written to you from my heart. Below you will find what I pray will be for you and your family a prophetic word. Such a word should capture the will of God, which is revealed in his Word, and the timing of heaven…the present burden in the throne room. This is a relatively long letter, so be sure to read it when you have time rather than rushing through it. Some of the information contained herein is as much as five years old, but as relevant as ever. Following are some the specific reasons I have felt compelled to write this letter: 

  1. I have been reviewing the circumstances which led to CCC’s repentance regarding corporate prayer in an attempt to see if we are remaining in the faith (See 2Co. 13:5-6).
  2. I have been alarmed by what I would describe as a discernible retreat from our commitment to corporate prayer as a local church. I fear we are following an unmistakable trend within the Western Church which has been and continues to be the abandonment of corporate prayer in favor of almost everything else.
  3. In light of “end-times” events, I am sensing the stage is being set from a number of perspectives for a great temptation for the “Western” church to enter a time of apostasy. Apostasy is defined as a renunciation of religious belief. We are witnessing a not-so- subtle and pervasive falling away from the fundamental elements of Biblical Christianity on a national scale. Chief among these, I believe, has and continues to be a lack of interest and involvement in corporate prayer.    
  4. Notwithstanding the fact that I believe the Bible clearly teaches that seeking the Lord in prayer and worship must be the Church’s most prominent activity (Isa. 56:7; Mar. 11:17; Luk. 21:36;  Act 1:14; 2:42; Eph. 6:18; Col. 1:9; 4:2; 1Th. 5:17), now, more than ever, such activity represents the only safe harbor available to us (2Ch. 7: 13-15). For our nation, I think it accurate to say that the heavens have been shut. 

2CH 7:13  “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14  if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.  

  1. I am convinced that if we fail to inspire our teens and children with the priority of corporate prayer, we will effectively rob them of any hope for the safe harbor that only God can provide as they engage the potentially overwhelming challenges sure to come their way. 

WHAT THE SOLIDER, ATHLETE, AND FARMER KNOW… AND THE CHURCH HAS FORGOTTEN  

2TI 2:3  Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. 5  Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.6  The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7  Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 

The following is a story about essential elements. The writer to the Hebrews asserts that things of first importance (essential elements) must be in place before we can go on to maturity (Heb. 6:1-2). Below one will find some of my thoughts regarding the essential element of corporate prayer and its inescapable connection to the visitation and revival we all long for. In many ways, we are like soldiers in a war who long for the news to return to our homes in peace and victory. As with the soldiers in the trenches, we tend to be focused on this desire exclusive of any connection with considerations and decisions being made at higher levels of command and responsibility necessary for the war to be won. We just want the struggle to end. Our gracious God has given us insight into the essential nature of corporate prayer as it relates to our well-being for some time now. This insight is not unique or new, but involves timeless principles associated with experiencing a move of God in our lives, families, communities and nation. In the scriptures above, the Apostle Paul likens the challenges that lay before Timothy to three professions…the soldier, farmer and athlete. These three activities illustrate what labor in the Kingdom is like. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that to successfully negotiate the challenges before him, he must have a mindset that would position him for success. As we all know, each of these three pursuits rely heavily on disciplined behavior characterized by repetition, devotion, persistence, and patience. While contemplating these things, I found myself focusing on the similarity between the need for the physical conditioning of the soldier (and athlete) and the need for corporate prayer in the church. 

The most fundamental attribute of a soldier is that he be physically fit. The first thing I learned in the Army was that physical training was going to be an inescapable fact of life. During the summer of my junior year in college, I spent two additional weeks following ROTC summer camp assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. It was in the middle of the summer and the heat was gut-busting. I vividly remember going on a five-mile formation run on one Friday morning during this time. Most likely, it was during these two weeks that I decided I wanted to be a paratrooper. The sense of camaraderie with these men was infectious. At some time during my senior year I requested to be assigned to Ft. Bragg and, upon graduation, got my wish. After graduation from college and with four months of additional training, I reported to Bragg. I was immediately assigned as a platoon leader…responsible for the training and general welfare of about forty-four soldiers. Somewhere in the course of my training as an army officer, I embraced the notion that soldiers should be in good physical condition. I was somewhat shocked that my devotion to this was not shared by all of my new charges. Even some of the NCO’s were not as enamored with the idea as I assumed they would be. The lesson I learned as a young, know-nothing platoon leader was that not everyone would necessarily appreciate the value of what I assumed was a fundamental necessity to the task at hand. I was somewhat surprised at the amount of “encouragement” and “inspiration” I had to extend to my troops in order to get their agreement in this matter. Twenty-four years later, as a know-nothing preacher, I found myself in a similar situation. After ministering as a pastor for about twelve years, and as a result of a number of divine encounters, I realized that the church I was shepherding was missing a fundamental dynamic essential to any hope of success. Corporate prayer! We were probably praying corporately as much as most churches, which meant hardly at all. We had our prayer chains. We were sensitive to pray for needs as they arose…hospital lists, etc. We would pray before things and after things. However, prayer was rarely “the thing.” The fact is that a soldier can do lots of things successfully without being in good physical shape. But there may well come an occasion when being physically fit could be the determining factor in his survival. An out- of- shape soldier can easily perform maintenance on a vehicle in the motor pool.  But when the time comes for him to work on his vehicle all night; travel all day and fight the following night, well, God help him. The same applies to the church. We can do lots of things without corporate prayer. But there will come a time when doing everything but the “main” thing will take its toll. By the year 2000, and by the grace of God Almighty, I was fast coming to the conclusion that CCC was suffering due to our lack of emphasis on corporate prayer. I began to sense a burning fire inside of me to repent. For years, I had pursued many good things without appreciating the best thing. Thus began my journey of repentance as a pastor…leading my congregation in becoming first and foremost a “house of prayer.” Corporate prayer can’t be the only thing, but it must be the first thing. Just as every good soldier in every army around the world begins the day with physical training, the church must begin with prayer. Just as physical training for the soldier must be relentlessly pursued, the church must relentlessly pursue corporate prayer as a life-style. Last year’s conditioning won’t win tomorrow’s battle. 

Calling one’s church to repentance concerning corporate prayer is a lonely task. Though such a notion among Para-church ministries enjoys acceptance, it is extremely rare to find a local church that will designate its primary mid-week service as a full-blown corporate prayer meeting where everyone is expected to participate. Yes everyone…kids, teens, adults, elders, deacons…you get the picture. With corporate prayer slipping to such a low priority in American church life, calls to repentance go largely unheeded. As I am now fully engaged with middle age (54), I am finding that becoming a curmudgeon is pretty easy. When other pastors share with me their plans for building the church and the Kingdom through various new and exciting approaches, I politely listen but, inside I grieve. I am, truly, a wet blanket. What I really believe is the church is fiddling (with our programs) while Rome (America) burns. As with Nero, we are tempted to blame someone else. The gut-wrenching fact, however, may be that the enemy of revival is us. If finding agreement with the proposition that churches must return to vibrant, persistent, corporate prayer were too important to me, I would be depressed. On the contrary, I am joyful like never before. The Bible teaches me that a house of prayer will be a joyous place (Isa. 56:7) and I believe it! No pity party for me as I am too busy trying to keep myself and my troops in shape. 

WHERE DID CORPORATE PRAYER GO?  

Although recent history may define “revival” in terms of a focused evangelistic effort to reach the lost, its historical meaning more accurately speaks of the restoration of relationship between God and his people. The greatest revival in history occurred at Pentecost when the church was birthed.  God is a God of order and historical revivals invariably have followed a similar pattern. An indispensable component of this pattern involves seeking the Lord through corporate prayer. Jesus insisted that this pattern be followed by the charter members of his Church and this is seen in his instructions that they “wait” on God before doing anything (Acts 1:4-14). This pattern of seeking God constantly in prayer is affirmed throughout the remainder of Acts as well as the entire New Testament. God indeed is a God of order and pattern. There can be no shortcuts in seeing the power of God released in revival. Revival simply will not happen without devotion to prayer (Acts 2:42-4:31). 

Over the past few years, our church has been walking out a path of repentance regarding the restoration of the priority of prayer. We have learned much and come a long way. We have much more to learn and a long way still to go in establishing Coweta Community Church as a house of prayer; stronghold of God; and Church of His Presence. Not everyone along the way has agreed with the emphasis that has been placed upon prayer. Some have been concerned that prayer has been emphasized at the expense of other equally important pursuits such as evangelism, discipleship, works of mercy and practical matters like the need for better facilities. This is understandable. I too have struggled with what at times seemed to me to be an undue and burdensome focus on seeking God. There is no denying the prominence and sacrifice this direction has involved. At a time when tremendous emphasis has been placed upon a person finding his or her individual “purpose” in serving the Lord, I am afraid many have missed God’s universal purposes for all Christians. Corporate prayer is not a “gift” or “divine talent.” Rather it is an obligation in the same vein as everyone’s responsibility to love and be hospitable. As attractive as it may seem, none of us have a gift of intercession. To the contrary, corporate prayer is a response to a revelation of God. It is, indeed, worship. It cannot be replaced by other legitimate pursuits and should not have to compete with activities such as choir practice and Bible study.  

Recently, the Lord has been imparting to me some things regarding these matters that have been very encouraging.  Not only has he been revealing insight, he has also allowed us as a church to begin experiencing the realities of these insights.  First, the Lord has been encouraging me to “stay the course” and do not be deterred. Many of the other pursuits that I and others have been concerned about are being and will be successfully engaged as a result of our corporate emphasis upon prayer. God is honoring and will honor his pattern. He revealed to me a few years ago the same thing he revealed to Daniel (Dan 9:13)…so much of the calamity we face has come upon us and we have not sought God. Since we have been seeking the Lord with a new level of devotion, he has been affirming to my spirit that all the good things we desire to transpire are conceived through corporate prayer. For many of these things, conception has already occurred. The gestation, labor and birth of many things are under way. Let me give you one example. 

As we pray for the harvest (as we have so many time on Wednesdays and other times), God begins to bring things to pass and arrange things in order for us to minister to the harvest he will bring. All of a sudden individuals and leaders begin to feel burdens and see issues that need to be addressed. This is fruit of the original act of praying for the harvest. There arises a real concern about preparing the saints to make disciples. People begin to see their weaknesses and address them with a Holy Spirit inspired zeal.  Recently I have witnessed a tangible eagerness to be better equipped to minister by many at CCC. There are a number of other clear examples of other ministries being birthed. The point to remember is that all were “conceived” because of prayer. This is the great thing about spirit-led prayer. We pray for one thing and so many other great things come to pass that are associated with that one thing! Wow! 

I heard the Lord very clearly speak to me regarding these things that “EVERYTHING” positive that has happened at CCC has been the fruit of prayer. He emphasized to me, “EVERYTHING!” As if I had better not forget it. In light of this, I want to encourage everyone to stay the course concerning corporate prayer. It can’t be a fad or movement, but rather a monument…a constant reminder to all of us from whence all of our good fortune comes. 

I believe it is from this understanding that the Lord inspired my wife, Sharon, to illustrate a prayer and worship furnace as being the hub connecting and the furnace firing every other ministry at CCC. (The illustration below is an early rendering of this vision as other gates have since been opened). 

So, the challenge before us remains the same…how to keep the most important thing the most important thing. I have listed some important information regarding patterns of revival and their connection to corporate prayer. The patterns mentioned refer to previous revival generations and highlight thing we need to be ever watchful for that would threaten our walk of repentance. 

Powerful Prayer Patterns from Past Generations* 

*The following was taken from Biblical Patterns for Powerful Church Prayer Meetings, Gregory R. Frizzell, PhD., pp. 12-14. 

(1) In generations of great revivals, prayer meetings were focused mostly on prayers for lost people, personal repentance, revival, and mission initiatives. Past prayer meetings focused primary attention on key kingdom issues of evangelism, missions, and sweeping revival. 6 (This pattern was especially true of generations that experienced great spiritual awakenings). By contrast, modern meetings focus mostly on a brief prayer for a hospital list. Evangelism, missions, and personal repentance have long since ceased to be the predominant focus of most prayer meetings. 

(2)  Until the twentieth century, prayer meetings were often led by lay people. 7  Lay people were the primary prayer leaders and congregational participation was extensive.  In past generations congregations were participants and not merely spectators.  By contrast, modern meetings are led mostly by the pastor and congregational participation is often minimal at best. (The point is not so much who leads the meeting, but how much the congregation participates.) 

(3)  In past prayer meetings, people spent the majority of time actually praying. 8  Little time was given for devotional sermons or talking “about” requests.  The people came to talk to God.  By contrast, modern prayer meetings typically consist of devotions and singing with only a tiny percentage of time given to direct communication with God.  Actual prayer is often the last thing done at today’s prayer meetings.  By the time churches finish with announcements, singing, devotions, and “talking about” prayer requests, almost no time is left for prayer. 

(4)  Prayer meetings were not confined to brief time slots or crowded into the midst of many other activities. 9 Revival generations promoted corporate prayer as the major church-wide experience. Because they believed prayer was important, the whole church typically spent an hour or more in fervent intercession for a variety of kingdom issues

By contrast, most modern churches schedule many activities at the same time a prayer and split congregations into many different groups. Quite frequently, the prayer meeting is the least promoted (and least attended) of all church activities. In most churches, there is no such thing as a “church-wide” prayer meeting.  In fact, in many churches, there is no prayer meeting at all. 

(5)  Historically, church prayer meetings often involved whole families (including older children and youth).  As did the adults, children and youth learned the power of prayer by personal participation.  In fact, revival generations valued the participation of young people. They understood that youth best learn to pray by actually praying and hearing others pray. They also understood that God hears the prayers of children and youth. 

By contrast, today’s youth are routinely excluded from prayer meetings. It has been all too common for children and youth to grow up in a Baptist church and never experience a corporate prayer meeting. (No wonder so many in today’s generation see little value in a church-wide corporate prayer meeting.) 

(6)  Historic church prayer meetings often contained strong emphasis on personal repentance and confession.  Pastors frequently shared scriptures that dealt with personal sin and called for specific prayers of repentance. 10  In the prayer meetings, people often confessed sin and asked other to pray for them in matters of spiritual struggle (James 5:16) They believed spiritual cleansing was essential to whether God would ultimately hear their prayers (Psalms 66:18) By contrast, personal confession and repentance are rarely a part of modern prayer meetings. 

(7)  Fasting was a frequent emphasis in past prayer meetings.  For the first three hundred years of Baptist history, fasting was a rather common emphasis among serious believers. 11  Yet, until very recently, fasting was seldom even mentioned much less practiced.  Even now, serious biblical fasting is exceedingly rare.  To many modern believers, simple biblical teaching on fasting still sounds extreme and unusual.  We know beyond question that fasting was a common practice for the first four hundred years after Christ’s resurrection. 

(8)  Past prayer meetings where often characterized by great fervency and inspiring testimoniesBelievers really expected  mighty answers to their prayers.  As a result, their meetings were anything but dead and formal!  Glorious public testimonies ignited faith and spurred whole congregations to ever greater depths of prayer.  By contrast, today’s prayer meetings are often routine and uninspiring. 

Following are five reasons given by Dr. Frizzell as to why churches have abandoned corporate prayer. May this not be the story our children and grand children tell! 

(1) As church programs and organizational activities became more numerous, Wednesday nights took on many purposes besides prayer.

(2)  Because of a variety of midweek activities, modern prayer meetings were pushed into ever shorter time slots.

(3)  Because many pastors were not experienced or confident in leading prayer meetings, it was natural to substitute other activities in its place.

(4)  As churches placed more and more focus on organizational programs, prayer was treated as a “side item” of lesser importance.

(5)  By the mid 1950’s churches were three generations removed from a time when strong prayer meetings were the predominate practice. 

Our Response 

What should our response be? Dr. Henry Blackaby, gives us this answer regarding corporate prayer, “Now is our turn! The witness is before us! The decision awaits us! Heaven is anticipating our obedience and waiting to burst into celebration over every believer, and every unbeliever who repents (Luk. 15:7, 10, 22-24). May we join together, week after week, corporate, power-filled prayer meetings!” (From forward to work cited above)