By Michael C. Mack
Every day you and I face many challenges, and biggest of them all may be how we choose to perceive them. As the apostle Paul put it, we can fix our eyes on what is seen or what is unseen, on what is temporary or what is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Our perspective makes an incalculable difference in our lives and, by extension, the lives of those around us.
How you view the articles in this issue will make a difference, too.
A main theme for this issue is missions. One article describes how COVID-19 is changing Christian missions. Read it with the mindset that we serve an unchanging God who is the Great Physician and far more powerful than any pandemic. If even the gates of Hades will not overcome his church, a disease, regardless how severe or the number of variants, will not consume it.
Two articles describe opposition to the gospel in countries around the world. It’s no secret that as we carry out God’s mission we will face trials, sufferings, and persecution. None of it can separate us from God and none of it can stop his gospel from moving forward. We can even consider it “pure joy” when trials come. (And joy is discussed in three other articles this month.) God will even use persecution to spread the gospel (Acts 8:1, 4).
Another article addresses language barriers to God’s message going to all nations and what is being done about it. As you read that article, watch for God’s sovereignty, intervention, and timing.
Tony Twist’s article on fasting and prayer connects all the other articles in this issue and his topic provides all the power needed to carry out the mission God has given us. Our commitment to prayer and fasting help us focus our eyes, heart, and mind where they need to be—on the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
As a tribe “devoted to the restoration of New Testament Christianity, its doctrine, its ordinances, and its fruits,” we must be devoted to prayer. As Twist wrote, “We are rediscovering how prayer and fasting can bring the missing power of Pentecost that is often lacking in our churches and organizations.”
Prayer is the linchpin that connects the various parts of God’s mission and our work for him. That’s why the book of Acts and many of the New Testament letters include so many powerful prayers. Someone said, “The Lord’s church began with a 10-day prayer meeting.” It’s true: “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). But their devotion to prayer did not end after a week and a half. It was one of the foundational practices of the early church (2:42).
Is personal and corporate prayer one of the main practices our movement is known for? Is it still foundational in who we are and what we do? We’ve been known for great preachers and influential leaders. We’ve been known for our large, growing churches. We’re known for our positions on issues such as baptism. We’re known for being independent and our assertion of being nondenominational. These are all good things. But do people look at our churches and say, “They are a people devoted to prayer!”?
All great movements of God begin with and march forward with people who are abiding with Christ and devoted to prayer. A praying movement is a God-trusting, God-dependent movement. It’s a movement comprised of God-first, difference-making, commission-fulfilling people.
The early church was a praying church, and that’s a main reason they were a growing, fruit-bearing, reproducing church. The same can happen today. God’s prevailing church can fulfill his mission despite political, economic, and other circumstances; despite diseases that slow us down, opposition that tries to close us out, cultural and language barriers that impede us, even “all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” We boldly, unapologetically answer Paul’s question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” with an unequivocal, “No one!”
Over the years, independent Christian churches have had various prayer movements, prayer emphases, and prayer ministries. Churches have conducted prayer services, concerts of prayer, and “40 Days of Prayer.” These are all good and worthwhile attempts to be a people of prayer, but it seems our devotion to prayer too often gets snuffed out by other ministry priorities.
I’m thrilled about the global call to fasting and prayer highlighted in Tony Twist’s article, and I anticipate many of our churches will join in, but I hope it will not be just another fad. Prayer is too vital for that. I’m praying our movement will become a truly praying people, fixing our eyes on what is unseen and eternal.
I’ll close with a portion of King David’s prayer toward the end of his reign. It provides the perspective we need for our lives and ministries. Take a moment now to lift this up to almighty God:
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all (1 Chronicles 29:11).