June 17, 2016

PIECES OF REVIVAL by Dr. Rick Flanders


“And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
(Acts 8:1)

We learn a lot from the record of early Christian activity given to us in the Bible book named the Acts of the Apostles.  The divinely-inspired account of what the followers of Jesus did after He went back to heaven is organized around His parting words on the Mount of Olives.

“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8)
As the story is told, we find the Holy Spirit coming upon the band of believers in chapter 2, and the evangelization of Jerusalem going forward from that chapter and continuing through chapter 7.  But the next phase of the plan given by Christ (witnessing in the rest of Judaea) has not been entered as we begin to read chapter 8.  The witnessing had not spread out from the city into “all Judea.”  But clearly God was (and is) serious about the Acts 1:8 program.  We see Him bringing severe persecution to the Jerusalem church so that the members were “scattered abroad” spreading the Gospel into Judaea and Samaria.  However the twelve apostles stayed in Jerusalem.  Chapter 8 records the progress of the Gospel in Samaria and in chapter 9 we see it moving into new parts of the province of Judaea.  Of course, in these chapters of Acts we are also reading about how the groundwork for the “uttermost part of the earth” phase of the plan was being laid with the conversions of the Ethiopian treasurer and of Saul the persecutor.  Oddly, as the Lord moved to cause His people to fulfill His plan, the apostles held back, and at least for a time, stayed in Jerusalem and stalled in the first stages of the program.  Somebody years ago noticed this phenomenon and said that the book could be titled “the inaction of the apostles”!  But the program went forward, as “they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:2).

Since those early days, one obstacle to the fulfilling of God’s plan for the evangelization of the world has been the tendency of His servants to pick and choose what parts of the plan to pursue, and what parts to neglect.  The plan is not unclear.  See it again in Acts 1:8, and follow how it was understood and implemented in the next chapters of the book of Acts.  We are to get the power to fulfill the daunting task of telling every person in the world the good news of salvation, not from our own energy and enthusiasm, or from well-devised and implemented human planning, but from the Spirit of God Who came to live in believers on the day of Pentecost.  In His power, we are thoroughly to evangelize our cities and our countries, forming churches with the converts in order to carry the Gospel to regions beyond.  Eventually the churches will send divinely-called individuals from their growing congregations to go to new places and spread the Gospel.  As believers are made by the preaching of the Gospel, and made into disciples by the work of the churches, and as churches are multiplied through the Acts 1:8 program, the message of Christ’s deliverance from man’s bondage to sin will get to every last person in the world!  In partnership with God, it can indeed be done, was accomplished in the first century, and will be fulfilled again just before the return of Christ to set up His Kingdom on earth.  The main reason it is not being done today is that God’s children, including many very serious ones, are adopting the program of the Lord in pieces, and not as a whole.

Revival, a term quite familiar to evangelical Christians, is the work of God to bring His people back to spiritual health.  God is willing to bring us back, to lift us up, to where we ought to be, when we are willing to humble ourselves and seek His face for the revival we need.  The goal, in a sense, is to get us back to the program of Acts 1:8.  In these desperate days, more and more earnest servants of the Lord are seeing more clearly what that program is, and how far we have come short of it.  But some of the best lights that shine among us in these dark days are still shining only on pieces of the plan, and partly for this reason, we are seeing very little of powerful revival in our Bible-believing churches.  Some say that “this” is the answer, and others are saying that “that” is the answer.  In a sense every one of these voices are right, but most of them are giving us only part of “the answer.”  We are being taught about revival in pieces, although it really doesn’t work in pieces, but must be implemented as a whole.

Looking at the book of Acts again, we can discern at least five visible elements in the fulfilling of the Acts 1:8 program.  Each of these is being emphasized by some of our preachers today:

1.       The need for the enduement of power from on high for the effective spread of the Gospel;

2.       The duty of Christians to evangelize the city, producing the growth of the church;

3.       The work of evangelism in widening circles of the surrounding areas, eventually covering the whole country and neighboring nations, and bringing about the establishment of new churches;

4.       The prosperity of the churches facilitating the progress of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, through the development and sending of missionaries to other parts; and always

5.       Prayer meetings to gain and sustain divine blessing in the churches in the work of evangelism.

Obviously there is not enough of any of these elements in the work of Christians today.  And strong voices are calling for a return to these factors in real New Testament religion.  Some are seeing the need for intensive prayer, including the practice of fasting and even spiritual warfare.  Some see powerful revival as the great need, with the focus on power for service.  Some see the need for revival with the focus on victory over sin and holy living.  Some see evangelism as the need, producing rapid church growth.  Some preach church-planting as the great need of the hour.  Some see missions and sending missionaries as the answer to the problems of the world.  Some say that the key to remedying the malaise of Christianity is purging the churches of worldliness and worldly methods and unscriptural associations.  Some see in prayer meetings the key to guiding and empowering the churches, and bringing them back to life.  And none of these revival-oriented preachers are wrong.  But some of them are giving us only pieces of the revival puzzle.

In a way, the situation in the fundamentalist world is very encouraging, since more than in the recent past, we have all the elements of real revival coming before us.  For years we rarely heard from the pulpit sermons on the invisible world, fasting and prayer, the power of the Holy Ghost, the New Testament church, hope for new awakenings, world-wide evangelization, how to conduct effective prayer meetings, church growth without compromise, or victory over the flesh and sin.  These are good days for hearing old revival themes proclaimed.  The problem is that too many of our leaders suffer from too narrow a vision.  To some, the whole thing is church-planting, but not revival prayer meetings.  To some, the great cause is the missionary cause, and not the old separation issue.  To some the main thing is evangelism, with little attention given to church-planting, Baptist distinctives, or the Holy Spirit.  To many the need of the day is knowing more about church growth, with less interest being given to church standards.  Each advocate can convince us for a while because on some level, each position is right, but each of them is looking at only a piece of the plan of God.

That plan (outlined by Jesus in Acts 1:8) includes turning without reservation to the Lord for the power of Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission.  Such a call to repentance will make us into bold witnesses of Jesus, with transformed lives and countenances to support our testimonies.  What an effect this will have on the world around us when we go out as an army of powerful witnesses for Christ!  The plan sends us into our cities to saturate the population with our message.  It forms us into churches dedicated to fulfill the rest of the plan.  Churches operating on the Acts 1:8 plan energize it through effective prayer meetings, and by doing battle with the enemy on their knees.  Believers revived in this way live happy and holy lives by the power of the cross and of the Spirit of Christ.  The movement will go forward across the map in projects to spread the Gospel and found new churches.  The book of Acts gives us the whole picture, and we need to keep the whole picture in mind.

Let the men that are teaching us to pray, keep a Biblical emphasis on evangelism.  Let the church-builders make sure that it is Jesus Who is building His church by the power of His Spirit.  Let those who inspire us to spread the Gospel also inspire us to exercise our faith to live in victory over sin and the world.  Let those who hold up the church as the center of God’s cause in the world, present it also as the means of getting the Gospel to the city, to the nation, and to the world.  Let missionary statesmen emphasize the connection of revival to missions.  Let all of God’s people seek His face for revival, and recognize that all the pieces of revival are essential to the whole.  Our need and our obligation at this time is to turn our hearts fully back to the God of the first Christians, and to settle for nothing less than the complete revival He intends to bring us!
Dr. Rick Flanders

June 7, 2016

Archival Series: What is Lordship Salvation and Why Does it Matter?

There is an on-going debate over a certain segment of fundamentalists preaching and practicing a new paradigm shift for separation commonly known as “gospel-driven separation” or “gospel centric fellowship.” Today, the primary mantra has been “It’s all about the Gospel,” from which doctrinal aberrations and ecumenical compromise is tolerated or excused for the sake of fellowship around the gospel.  But, what sort of gospel message is the rallying point for this kind of compromised fellowship and cooperative ministry?

There is today a very subtle shift that, on the surface, is very persuasive…. Rather than base separatism on the Bible, the whole counsel of God, we should use as our test the Gospel. There is a plea that says the only doctrines for which we should contend are those doctrines that impinge directly upon the Gospel…. That [Gospel-Centric separatism] broadens our fellowship incredibly to include organizations and individuals who are patently disobedient to the plain teaching of Scripture and yet are somehow tolerated, vindicated and even honored in some of our circles.”1
In recent articles we have been considering why there should be no fellowship or cooperative efforts with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. The reasons include aberrant theology such as non-cessationism, amillenialism, ecumenical compromise, embracing the world’s music in the form of RAP, Hip Hop and CCM for ministry. All of these are grounds for withdrawing from and having no fellowship with believers who teach and do these things. All of this, however, is being tolerated, allowed for, excused or ignored by certain men who minister in fundamental circles, men who are forging cooperative ministries with the evangelicals and influencing the next generation to follow them.  There is, however, one overarching concern that trumps all of these issues with the evangelicals combined. That is Lordship Salvation!
Defined briefly: Lordship Salvation is a position on the gospel in which “saving faith” is considered reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Lordship views “saving faith” as incomplete without an accompanying resolve to “forsake sin” and to “start obeying.” Lordship’s “sine qua non” (indispensable condition) that must be met to fully define “saving faith,” for salvation, is a commitment to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ in submissive obedience. (In Defense of the Gospel: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 48.)
It is virtually impossible not to know that the evangelicals, almost to a man, believe, preach and defend Lordship Salvation (LS). When the T4G and Gospel Coalition conferences convene they gather around the LS interpretation of the Gospel. Certain men in fundamental circles, however, are drawn together in “gospel-centric” fellowship with evangelicals. They are gathering around a common acceptance of and bond in Calvinistic soteriology, primarily in the form of Lordship Salvation.    

Following are samples of Lordship’s corruption of the Gospel for justification.
Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation.” (Dr. John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? pp. 219.) 
That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior.” (MacArthur, Ibid, p. 150.) 
If you want to receive this gift [salvation] it will cost you the total commitment of all that you are to the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Ps. Steven Lawson, The Cost of Discipleship: It Will Cost You Everything.) 
Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 78.) 
This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of taking up one’s own cross to follow Him. And that is why he demanded that we count the cost carefully. He was calling for an exchange of all that we are for all that He is. He was demanding implicit obedience--unconditional surrender to His lordship.” (MacArthur, Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
Based on clear, unambiguous statements from advocates of LS thousands in Fundamentalism reject LS as a corrupt and false interpretation of the gospel.  Dr. Kevin Bauder published a serious misrepresentation of a known fact when he wrote that Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel.”2  Kevin Bauder has never edited or retracted that statement.
When the Lordship advocate speaks of “following Christ,” he is speaking of the gospel. When John MacArthur refers to “The Cost of Following Christ,” he really means “The Cost to Receive Christ.” MacArthur believes there is a “Real Cost of Salvation,” or more accurately a “Real Cost for Salvation.” He believes that the gospel demands a commitment of one’s life, and a promise of surrender to the lordship of Christ in an up-front “exchange” for the reception of salvation. (In Defense of the Gospel: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 82.)


Dr. Ernest Pickering recognized that LS, as MacArthur defined it, was a departure from the biblical plan of salvation. Following are two excerpts from Dr. Pickering’s review of the first edition (1988) of John MacArthur’s  The Gospel According to Jesus.

MacArthur laments, ‘Contemporary Christendom too often accepts a shallow repentance that bears no fruit’ (p. 96).  This theme recurs over and over again in the book.  The recommended cure for this malady is to require more of the seeking sinner than the Bible requires. Instead of ‘merely’ believing on the finished work of Christ the inquiring soul must also be willing to have Christ as Lord over every area of his life.  It seems evident upon an examination of this thesis that those who espouse it are adding something to the gospel that is not in the Scriptures.  Charles Ryrie was certainly on target when he wrote, ‘The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel…’” (Balancing the Christian Life, p. 70.)

One of the chief objections to the notion of ‘lordship salvation’ is that it adds to the gospel of grace. It requires something of the sinner which the Scriptures do not require. The message of salvation by grace proclaims to sinner that they may receive eternal life by faith alone whereas the message of ‘lordship salvation’ tells sinners they must be willing to give up whatever is in their life that is displeasing to God.”

Several months after an April 2010 personal meeting with Dr. MacArthur NIU president Dr. Matt Olson announced that with MacArthur they “agree on the most substantive issues of life and ministry.”3 Then Olson hosted MacArthur’s executive pastor Rick Holland in the NIU chapel pulpit to address impressionable young people.4 NIU would not have had Rick Holland in its pulpit, or validated John MacArthur’s doctrine and ministry if the administration had any serious reservations over Lordship Salvation. With Olson’s statement on MacArthur and putting Holland in the chapel pulpit NIU stamped its approval on and endorsed a false gospel, namely “Lordship Salvation.”

Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel?”  Men in fundamental circles who are converging with the evangelical advocates of Lordship Salvation are either tolerating an egregious error or have themselves embraced Lordship Salvation and are rallying around it in gospel-centric fellowship with like-minded evangelicals. Have Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan, et. al., been willing to state in unvarnished terms whether or not they believe LS as John MacArthur, John Piper, Steve Lawson, et. al., “believe, preach and defend” it is the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Lordship Salvation is not the gospel!  LS clouds, confuses and complicates the Gospel. LS corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).  Above all other considerations (aberrant theology, ecumenism and worldliness) we cannot fellowship, promote or cooperate with evangelicals who “believe, preach and defend” Lordship Salvation.


LM
Originally published April 14, 2011- Updated October 28, 2012.

Related Reading:.
For a clear, concise example of the egregious error that is Lordship Salvation please read, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page.  This article is a reproduction of an appendix entry by the same name that appears on pp. 284-286 of In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.  In it I examine a statement by John MacArthur that appears in all three editions of The Gospel According to Jesus.  You will find that there is no more clear example of Lordship Salvation’s corruption of the simplicity that is Christ (2 Cor. 11:3).

As an addendum please see, Lordship Salvation Requirements by Pastor George Zeller

What is the Fault Line for Fracture in Fundamentalism?
How can there be unity within a fellowship when two polar opposite interpretations of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ are accepted as legitimate?”

Footnotes:
1) Pastor Marc Monte, Preserving the Separatist Impulse

2) Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “Believe, Preach and Defend the [Same] Gospel?”
“There is no universal ‘mutuality in the gospel’ among evangelicals and fundamentalists. ‘Evangelicals and fundamentalists are [NOT] united in their allegiance to the gospel,’ because there is a vast difference between what evangelicals and non-Calvinists in Fundamentalism believe to be the one true Gospel. It is irrefutable, and Kevin Bauder is well aware, that many men in Fundamentalism reject Calvinistic soteriology in the form of LS as a false, works based Gospel. It is, furthermore, indisputable that virtually every man in “conservative” evangelicalism is a passionate advocate for Lordship Salvation, which Dr. Bauder is also well aware of.”

3) Dr. Matt Olson, Open Letter To Friends in Ministry, November 23, 2010.

4) Northland Int’l University Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body

May 15, 2016

The Invitation by Dr. Clay Nuttall

Let me begin with a warning: this monthly article is meant to incite discussion.  If you read it only until you are offended, you have missed the point.  This issue takes aim at the extremes surrounding the “invitation.”  We use this term almost every day in some way or other.  In the end, I want us to consider what has been termed the “altar call.”  Invitations are not bad.  Jesus often gave invitations, beginning with one to His disciples.  (Matthew 4:18-22)  Andrew followed that example.  (John 1:41-43)

An open invitation at the end of a meeting is a relatively new thing in church circles.  During the great periods of revival, it was used in evangelism.  It then became a popular tool in conservative churches.  Even if some did not like the idea, at its heart it was, and is, effective.

WHERE IT IS TODAY

Among churches headed toward the flawed “emerging church” trend, there is a growing disdain of the practice, some of which is encouraged by certain historical theological elements.  There are also churches that have become discouraged with this tool because of its excesses and misguided use.  There are even some churches that ought to forget about giving an invitation, since they have nothing to invite people to, anyway!

The danger in excluding it completely is that its rejection derives from cultural arguments rather than from scripture.  The mob mentality dictates that as soon as they are able, everyone has to follow the “change culture” that scraps all old things.  We are told that the “millennials” can’t be reached with anything other than what they demand.  It is sad that people have forgotten that all generations, including this one, have the same need.  We are all sinners and need the God of the Word and the Word of God.

A good number of conservative churches continue the practice.  The problem is that we so seldom evaluate ministry.  If we do, it offends some folks who think they are more important than the work of God.  Rather than searching for the value of this practice, they go on tripping over all kinds of obstacles.  That may be one of the reasons why there so few churches anymore who are seeing real conversions over the period of a year, rather than seeing people saved “daily” as God intended.  (Acts 2:47)  Now that I have made everyone mad, let me add some constructive advice.

USE AND MISUSE

One of the major traps of “culture authority” is that you are obligated to follow the methods that everyone else is using.  To be considered relevant, you have to use all the “stuff” that others are using.  What the devil could not accomplish outside the church he has now done inside the church.  This is not a new problem; among conservative churches, the same mentality has existed for a long time.  The idea is that if I want to have the largest church in the area, I will have to use the same tools others use, whether good or bad.

With that in place, all of us need to take a good look at the use of an open invitation in order to see what and why adjustments may be helpful.  We are not, and should not feel obligated to do what others do in their churches.  Any adjustments, however, need to make sense in order to be effective.

If you dare, take a look at the extremes.  We should indeed present the gospel clearly, and we should offer a way for further explanation and reception of the message.  A carefully crafted invitation can do that.  Our task is to sow the seed, but it is God who gives the increase.  High-pressure invitations are highly questionable.  Giving an opportunity to come forward is not the question, but extending an invitation until everyone is “down front” is questionable.  The invitation is often confusing rather than being pointed and clear.  By the time an invitation is given, things should have been made so clear that long explanations are not necessary.  The Holy Spirit can and will work when God’s message has been presented clearly.

SOME PRACTICAL IDEAS

There are some excellent illustrations of how to use an effective invitation.  I will refrain from recommending certain names because that gets in the way, but there are some speakers who do get it right.  A well-ordered message will tell the listeners what is going to be said, and it can be summarized quickly afterward.  This comes from the old country preacher who said, “I tells them what I is going to tell them, then I tells them, then I tells them what I told them.”  So from the very beginning the listener should know what to expect and what is expected of her/him.  At the end, all that remains is to quickly open the door and invite them to respond down a clear path.

A well-ordered message flows swiftly into the conclusion and the opportunity to respond.  It should not become an obstacle, but should remain an opportunity.  One of the keys is to never refer to time.  The listener ought not to be able to anticipate the transition; this way the attention of the lost person is never broken.  His mind is on his need and the answer the preacher has given, and one question remains: What will I do with Jesus?  Distractions spell disaster when it comes to closing a message.  There is no law saying that we have to sing, even if it is helpful at times.  Singing a dozen verses of a hymn is most often a distraction.  If you haven’t made the message clear at this point, a last-minute explanation can be a distraction.

When you get over being mad about this, take some time to think it over.  Most people aren’t opposed to an invitation; actually, they are opposed to distractions.


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.


SHEPHERD’SSTAFF – May, 2016

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address- shepherdstaff2@juno.com

May 5, 2016

Book of Acts Arithmetic

“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly…”  
(Acts 6:7) 
Dr. Rick Flanders
Any reader of the divinely-inspired record of early Christianity written in the Acts of the Apostles will note the attention given to numbers.  Those who were “saved” in the days after the coming of the Holy Spirit were “added to the church” (Acts 2:41 and 47).  Then later, “believers were the more added to the Lord” as the evangelism continued in Jerusalem (Acts 5:14).  The math begins with addition.  Then we read that “the number of the disciples was multiplied,” and “multiplied in Jerusalem greatly” (Acts 6:1 and 7).  When persecution of the Christians subsided in Palestine, “the churches…were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).  Not only did the membership of the early churches multiply, the number of churches multiplied.  As evangelistic Christians travelled to Phoenicia and Syria, “the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).  Through the life and ministry of Barnabas, “much people was added unto the Lord” (Acts 11:24).  We then read about churches in many places that were “established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5).  We find that because of the preaching of the Gospel in a certain city, “a great multitude” believed, and that “not a few” of the “chief women” became believers (Acts 17:4).  To the inspired writer of Acts, more was better than less.  We understand that God is interested in adding people to churches, multiplying the membership numbers, and eventually in multiplying the number of churches in any part of the world.  We ought to pay attention to this scriptural math, and to its theological meaning.
 
Several important spiritual facts can be gleaned from studying Acts arithmetic.
  1. When the church is healthy, new converts will be joining.  Jesus teaches us in the book of John that healthy Christianity is lived by the principle, “Abide in Me” (read John 15:1-8).  When a believer lives his life absolutely submitted to the will of Christ (John 15:9-10) and in total dependence on Him for power to live and serve Him, he can expect to reproduce.  The fruit-bearing of John 15 is reproduction, Christians producing new Christians through divinely empowered evangelism.  The first church was full of abiding-in-Christ believers (or “filled with the Holy Ghost”) after the day of Pentecost, and the result was amazing reproduction (see Acts 2:37-47).  New believers were being added to the church every day for a time.  This is what can be expected when we are living in Christ as we should.  There certainly should be addition.
  2. When discipleship is the emphasis of the work of the church, as well as evangelism, we can expect the growth to rise to multiplication.  And the reason is obvious to anyone who knows anything about math and about Christian discipleship.  Discipleship in the New Testament had to do with how we live, and the call to discipleship was, “Follow Me” (read Matthew 4:18-25, 8:18-23, and 9:9).  Disciples of Jesus are followers of Jesus.  They seek to follow His teachings, His example, and His leadership.  We believe on Jesus to be saved, and we follow Him to be His disciples.  And every believer in Jesus has a moral obligation to live as a follower of Jesus.  That’s why Jesus said to “those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).  It’s also why Romans 12:1 beseeches us on the basis of God’s mercy to us as believers to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God in the service of Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).  Because of the great persecution waged against the Jerusalem church, “they were scattered abroad” and “went every where preaching the Christ. Believers in Jesus, saved people, have the duty to live for the One Who died for them (see also Second Corinthians 5:14-15). And they need training to know how to do so. This is the reason why, in the book of Acts, believers who join the church by baptism are called “disciples” (notice this in 6:1, 6:7, 9:1-2, 9:10, 9:22-28, 9:36-38, 11:26-30, 14:21-22 [where the word translated “taught” comes from the word “disciple” and means to make disciples], 19:1-7, 20:1, 20:7, 21:3-4, and 21:16-17). It means that when believers joined the church, they were signing up to be disciples. They would be trained to be true followers of Jesus Christ (remember the instructions our Lord gave us in Matthew 28:16-20, where the word for “teach” in verse 19 is translated from the Greek word for making disciples, and the word “teaching” in verse 20 means instructing the would-be disciples). When the church is training believers as disciples the result is multiplication. The new converts will soon have the know-how and the faith to reproduce themselves, and to instruct their spiritual children to reproduce themselves. Just do the math. The disciples will multiply. Effective evangelism will add believers to the church, and intense discipleship will multiply them. Soul-winning churches ought to become disciple-making churches.
  3. Growing congregations should be expected eventually to plant new churches. This is what happened when the churches, “walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy word” (Acts 8:4).  The Lord was and is serious about the fulfillment of the Great Commission, given for the last time in Acts 1:8.  Because the first church didn’t move past the first stage of evangelizing their own city, he forced them to go forward to the next stages of the Acts 1:8 program by sending them withering persecution.  As a result, “they were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (compare Acts 8:1 with Acts 1:8).  These scattered Christians evangelized new areas and started new churches (review chapters 8 and 9).  After a while, the scattered disciples actually “travelled” to new areas deliberately to evangelize the people and found new churches (read chapter 11).  And one of the churches planted in this time of multiplying churches became the first missionary church, sending some of their own to regions beyond them to preach the Gospel and start new churches all over the world (see Second Corinthians 10:14-17, and watch the missionaries work, producing believers through the preaching of the Gospel, multiplying disciples by instructing believers, and multiplying the churches, in Acts 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, and 19).  This scenario is what we should be seeing in the world today.  And as God revives us, putting us back into His program, we will.
  4. Increasing numbers of believers, of church-members, and of New Testament churches must be the hope and prayer of every dedicated Christian.  Now, of course, the increase of the numbers is not the ultimate goal.  The membership and attendance at the Jerusalem church was devastated in Acts 8:1 by divine design.  But the spread of the Gospel and the forwarding of the Great Commission were accomplished.  The ultimate goal of our lives and churches is the fulfillment of God’s will to His glory.  But His promises and His revealed plans include addition and multiplication.  This is not numerical growth at any price, but it is also not “numbers don’t matter.”  More saved and serving God is certainly on some level better than fewer enlisted in the Lord’s army, from a Biblical perspective.
  5. We can expect a plentiful harvest if we follow God’s plan.  Those in our day who expand their church attendance by abandoning God’s plan fail to glorify and please Him, and also ultimately fail to reach their own goals.Those who follow God’s plan for evangelizing the world not only do the right thing, but also do it in the right way!  God’s plan for us in the New Testament age is Acts 1:8.
“But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Notice the steps we must take.  First we must engage in vertical action.  The power to be witnesses is God’s power.  We must be filled with the Spirit before we engage in horizontal action among our fellowmen.  In Acts, they engaged in intense and prolonged prayer meetings in order to come into union with the Lord for the work He had given them to do (find such prayer meetings in chapters 1, 2, and 4).  Then we must evangelize our cities, our countries, and the next countries, in ever-widening circles of labor (Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria).  This was done everywhere in just this way.  Then we must establish new churches in order that our witness can be “both” here at home and “unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  The role of churches is vital to world-wide evangelization.  Romans 10:9-15 has the message of salvation being preached at home by the believers here, and elsewhere by preachers they have “sent.”  And this pattern is what we can see in the book of Acts.  Every church had a global witness by evangelizing its own city and area and then sending people to evangelize in places far and wide.  When all of this is done in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Cause of Christ prospers according to book of Acts arithmetic!  And this miraculous progress of the Gospel is the great need of the world in our time.

Every Spirit-filled Christian can expect to see new believers “added” to the Lord through his witness, as did Barnabas, of whom it is said that “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith, and much people was added unto the Lord” (Acts 11:24).  John 15 says that one who abides in Christ will not only bear His fruit, but actually “much fruit.”

Every revived church can expect, based on faith in what the Lord says, to add members regularly who have been converted to Christ, and eventually to start multiplying.  As the people of God in general experience revival, we will begin to see the churches start new churches regularly.  The appearance of Bible-believing Christianity will change phenomenally according to Acts arithmetic, and in many places the Gospel will powerfully prevail (look at Acts 19:10-20).

The numbers and the math in the book of Acts give us insight into what to expect when New Testament Christianity is restored.  All of this scriptural material gives us more motivation to pray every day for revival in our lives and in our churches, and to believe that what God has told us in Acts is what we can expect Him to do through us.  Let God’s servants get back to God’s program, and go forward by faith in the God Whose program we are following.The world in which we live is in desperate need of renewed, revitalized, and aggressive Christianity, such as we view in the book of Acts.
 
 
Dr. Rick Flanders

April 12, 2016

For Whom Shall Christians Vote?

“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.  And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.  And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

“And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord suffer me first to go and bury my father.  But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.  And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.  And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.  And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.  And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?  Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”
(Matthew 8:18-26)
Dr. Rick Flanders

The election year of 2016 has presented Christian voters with unusual challenges and dilemmas. At the beginning of the primary season, a surprising number of the candidates running for their party’s nomination for the office of President were individuals with credible professions of personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Not that people who have been born again must vote only for other born-gain Christians, but candidates who give a testimony of salvation certainly attract the attention of other believers.  But now most of these Christian candidates have fallen by the wayside in the political process, and the candidates that are left trouble us with dirty jokes, gutter-level profanity, harsh insults, unethical tactics, and obvious dishonesty.  Some of them are very vocal on the wrong side of issues that necessarily matter to believers, such as religious liberty, human life, the family, private property, the legalization of drug abuse, the public recognition of God, and religion-based terrorism.  Not many months ago a leading candidate made the statement that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” in order that the progressive agenda be fulfilled.  In many ways, the Christian element in society, which at one time supported the undergirding values of our culture, feels threatened by the political scene, and the actors on the political stage.  When Election Day comes, should they vote their conscience, or for the lesser of two or more evils, or shall they stay home and let the devil have the country?  This year confronts us with facts that press us to re-consider our most important commitment.
My suggestion is that, at this pivotal time in the life of our republic, every Christian cast their vote for Jesus Christ!  A fundamental problem in America is that the people who are the light of the world have let their light grow dim.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared that His would-be followers are “the light of the world,” and He urged us to let our light shine (Matthew 5:14-16).  He also warned us that when we lose our focus on the Kingdom, our light darkens (get the point of Matthew 6:19-34), and remarked, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Shallow discipleship, and lack of focus on the Kingdom in the Christians has left our once-Christian society open to moral and spiritual decadence, and the moral decline has produced our cultural, societal, and political problems.  This year, the big need is for believers in Jesus Christ to forsake all and follow Him.
Christian discipleship is a prominent theme of the book of Matthew from the beginning to the last chapter.  And chapter 8 tells the story of some men whose commitment to follow Jesus was tested.  In verse 8 we find Jesus commanding His followers to get into a boat and ride with Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  In verse 19 we are introduced to “a certain scribe” who said to Jesus, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”  The Lord answered him (in verse 20) by explaining that He and His followers have no certain lodging night after night.  Then “another of his disciples” is introduced who said, “Lord, suffer [allow] me first to go and bury my father.”  In other words, he would follow Jesus after his father died because of responsibilities that event would bring to him.  Jesus responded by saying bluntly, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (verses 21-22).  In other words, the true disciple must not put anything ahead of following Him.  The narrative continues with Jesus getting into the boat, and His disciples following him and taking their places in that boat.  As they travel across the lake, a storm comes and threatens to capsize the vessel and drown all of them.  The followers of Jesus are recorded as crying out at this point, “Lord save us: we perish.”  But then Jesus said to them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (verses 23-26).  He had told them at the first that they would go “to the other side,” and if they had taken His words seriously they would not have doubted that their journey would be successful in spite of the storm in the middle.  Of course, the situation turned out right, and everybody learned another lesson about Jesus and what it takes to follow him (see verse 27).
The shallow commitment of these would-be disciples of Jesus speaks loudly to the problems His followers in our country seem to have today.  Many think they are following Jesus but are still insisting on a certain level of comfort in the experience.  Others insist on putting something else, perhaps something personal, first and ahead of what the Lord might call them to do.  Very many who get a relatively good start in following Jesus give up when they run into trouble along the path of faith.  The problem with America is not really with the Republicans (although they do have obvious problems) or with the Democrats (although they have created some serious problems) or with the rich (who nevertheless have often been characterized by unethical conduct) or with the working class (although many of them have been fooled by various radical versions of atheistic socialism); it is with the Christians who give so little of their lives to Christ.  The country would be affected by a change in who runs the government, but certainly not nearly as much as it would if believers in Christ would experience a revival.  And any believer can experience revival, as well as influence others to revival, by just choosing (voting) to deepen their commitment.  There is something that you can do to turn this upside down world right-side up, and a true Christian probably knows what it is.  Decide the issue that stands in the way of full fellowship with Christ, and decide it on His side.  Vote for Jesus Christ this year.  Cast your vote in favor of taking up your cross!
And there are ways that the shallow Christian can move in the right direction on this very day:
1.       If you get up early tomorrow to pray, you are voting for Jesus Christ.

2.       If you take Gospel tracts with you as you leave home, planning to distribute them, you are voting for Jesus Christ.

3.       If you will humble yourself in order to ask a family-member for forgiveness, you will be voting for Jesus Christ.

4.       If you finally deal with the sin-issue today that has ruined your spiritual life for weeks or years, you will be voting for Jesus Christ.

5.       If you stop right now, get on your knees and surrender your life without reservation to the Lord, resolving to do His bidding no matter what, in a significant way you will vote for Jesus Christ.
So let me suggest that it is time for Christians in this country today to go to the polls and vote for their Lord and Saviour, intending to carry out His agenda and let Him heal their land.  Leave your complacency, lukewarmness, and comfort to join the revival movement on this day.
Dr. Rick Flanders

April 4, 2016

A Nation of Fools

In April of last year, I greeted you with the words “Unhappy Atheist’s Day.” Atheists do have their day to be recognized, and that would be…April Fool’s Day! We are warned in scripture not to call someone a fool in a light manner. In this case, however, we are only repeating what the Sovereign Creator has recorded in Psalm 14:1 - The fool hath said in his heart, (there is) no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

In the current national election discussion, voters give clear evidence that they have chosen to be identified as fools. This (possibly) majority vote gives new meaning to the term “a nation of fools.” I doubt if a majority of those voters would actually call themselves atheists, but some of them are willing to do so. They are the stated fools, who admit - by God’s definition - that they belong to a nation of fools. The remaining part of that voting bloc admits to being fools only by the way they speak and live. They are the demonstrated fools, who live as if there is no God who is the final authority on all things.

This discussion is not about our nation having originally been a Christian nation; I will let others debate that. On the other hand, though, how could anyone possibly think that we are a Christian nation at this point in time? Some would argue that we are a secular nation, but that is not true, either. Everything that is being advanced by this nation of fools today is really based on what they believe. Their belief system is actually their religion, and it is not difficult to identify. While the goal of Islam is to be a majority and to extend its cruel rule over all the earth, Muslims are not yet the majority in our nation. The religion of fools that now has a majority has one common god, and that is man himself. Man has, for them, become autonomous; he doesn’t need, nor does he want, the God of the universe.

FOOLS LEADING FOOLS

A majority of fools has placed foolish leaders in charge, but this elite group is demonstrating every day that, through their new oligarchy, they will press their folly on the entire nation. This is true in every phase of government. The majority of our Supreme Court members have chosen to mock the one true God with most of their decisions, the most recent trend of approving sodomy being only one of the most egregious. For years, they have been closing the public sector to God, at least from their point of view. Instead of having a court jester, as in olden days, they have become an entire court of fools, according to God’s definition.

The present administration has morphed from its former false claim of support for Christianity to ignoring it, and now even to open hostility against it. While it openly and without apology has given honor to Islam, it now pushes the agenda of that movement, which is based on violence and hate. At the same time, it is criticizing and condemning biblical Christianity, the very heart of a peaceful society.

Our Congress, for the most part, has joined the massive movement that has led us to become a nation of fools. Like other leaders in government who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, they have run roughshod over the founding elements of this nation that were put in place in order to protect good citizens. The very people who were chosen to protect all citizens - including people of faith - have marginalized and maligned those very people. This folly on the part of our leaders is the reason why this nation is now so deeply divided.

At this point, some moderate evangelicals are going to brand these thoughts as anti-government rhetoric. I warn you not to go there. It is nearing the time when your support of fools, by God’s definition, is going to return to bite you as well. Your affinity to this failure is why the government has become the god of our beloved land. Who needs the true God, anyway, when we have a government that can solve any problem and will take care of us from the cradle to the grave? The problem with this setup is that the only way government can play god is to make slaves out of the rest of us; and a fool is really a slave, even if he thinks he is in charge.

THE SOURCE OF THE FOOL’S FOLLY

Any Bible student should be able to recognize this failure of leaders in the history of the nation of Israel. The people became evil because the leaders became evil. In every case, the Old Testament declares that the nation was judged by God, and in time some were sent into exile for their rejection of God’s leadership and law.

With this in mind, it is worth asking when God will bring His judgment on our country. Perhaps it has already begun, and we are simply unwilling to recognize it. How could any serious student of the scriptures think that the murder of millions of infants and the accommodation of sodomy will be ignored by God? At all levels of society, morality has reached the level of a junkyard dog’s.

We might begin by asking what made it possible for such a nation, founded on biblical law and principles, to sink so low. One of the answers is education. Like it or not, fools are in charge of today’s educational system. Intellectual fools, perhaps, but nevertheless having dictated “no god but man.” The terrible truth is that believers have supported these fools and paid them to destroy the morality of our youth, who now have become the fools in charge.

NOT EVERYONE IS A FOOL

At every level of society, there is a light. Thank God, there are still true believers, as identified in the book of 1 John. These saints have “kept the faith;” they have “fought a good fight,” and they will be “faithful unto death.” This week I was asked, “How long do you think it will be before true believers may have to go underground?” At the present rate of the advancement of the evil led by the elite fools, I doubt if we will have ten years. Because I am in the evening of my life, I may not see that day; but I think of our children and grandchildren and what we must teach them.

Peter has the answer to this question, and it begins with perspective. We shouldn’t be surprised. “Beloved, think it not strange considering the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” (I Peter 4:12) We should find joy in the fact that we will suffer for Christ. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 4:13)

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or the Shepherd Staff

Consider reading The Coming Conflict: The Separation of Church and State by Clay Nuttall.

March 14, 2016

Prayer Meeting Dynamics by Dr. Rick Flanders

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 
(Matthew 18:18-20)

The remarkable eighteenth chapter of the book of Matthew deals with many important subjects, and should be studied thoroughly by every serious Christian. In this passage we find teaching by the Lord Jesus regarding such matters as the kingdom, ministry to children, offenses, hell fire, the church, and forgiveness. Verses 15 through 20 present a section of scripture commonly cited in the matter of “church discipline,” but the passage is really about something else: prayer meetings. Yes, verses 15 and 16 tell Christians what to do when we are wronged by a brother, and give usthe command to confront offenders and restore them. (In verses 21-35 we are taught to forgive each other and reconcile.)Verse 17 is indeed an important verse describing church discipline. Then verse 18 repeats the remarkable promise associated with “the keys of the kingdom” in Matthew 16:19. But the words of Jesus in verse 19 make clear what the main subject is. We are told that if “two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done”—two agree about what to ask. “Two” makes it a meeting, and “ask” makes it a prayer meeting. This great passage with its phenomenal promises ties the purification and unification of the church to its use of the keys of the kingdom in a prayer meeting. Read verses 15 through 20 again! Here we find our Lord’s teaching on how to conduct church prayer meetings.

Prayer meetings are making a come-back these days, and we can be glad for it. With renewed interest in revival has come a renewal of the practice of corporate prayer, and the effects are truly wonderful. Prayer meetings, that is, meetings of Christians called for the purpose of praying, bring with them some new challenges and questions for congregations that engage in them, and it will be beneficial to get some scriptural help on the subject. The midweek services held by evangelical churches since the Second Great Awakening, although traditionally called “prayer meetings,” have mostly degenerated into something much less than actual prayer meetings. However the God-given burden for revival in these days is bringing people together more often in true meetings for prayer. As we hold prayer meetings, we ought to keep in mind a few things that are often forgotten.

1. PRAYER MEETINGS ARE ABOUT GETTING THINGS DONE.

Why shall we have prayer meetings? It seems appropriate to call “cottage prayer meetings,” as well as other prayer meetings, in connection with revival campaigns, but is propriety the main reason for them? Some say they feel good in a prayer meeting, but is the good feeling the reason we are to have them? The answer is “No” to both of those questions. Actually prayer meetings are called in order to get things done. Notice what Jesus promised in Matthew 18:19, that certain things would “be done” in response to the prayers. In John 14:13-14, Jesus promises to “do” what we ask, and in John 15:7, we are told that whatever we ask, “it shall be done.” The idea is that we can get things done, cause things actually to happen, by means of prayer meetings. Throughout the New Testament, the results of effective praying, and effective prayer meetings, are things that get done in answer to prayer (look up Matthew 7:7-11, Acts 12:5 and 7, and James 5:15-18). Prayer meetings are called to convict sinners, to supply needs, to solve problems, to change history, to revive the saints, to find direction, obtain boldness and power in evangelism, to get things done. We should expect things to happen in answer to our prayers, and we ought to come together to pray with this purpose in mind primarily.

2. AGREEMENT IN PRAYER IS EVIDENCE OF THE SPIRIT’S MINISTRY.

Matthew 18:19 is one of the most stunning promises in the Bible, and we must learn its meaning. As we have seen, it is about meeting for prayer.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”
It states plainly that when the condition of agreement is met, the prayer will be answered: “it shall be done for them of my Father.”  But what exactly is this agreeing, and why is it effective in getting the answer to a prayer?  The word in the original Greek of Matthew that is rendered “agree” in the English Bible is sumphonesosin, which looks like our word “symphony.”  It indeed has the idea of harmony.  It implies more than just making an agreement.  The promise of Jesus here means that when people in a prayer meeting come to the point of fullunity in asking for something, when thereis union of heart and soul as well as mind and language, they can expect a direct and positive answer to their request.  The truth is that onereason for having a prayer meeting and looking for unity in the praying has to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus taught His disciples the night before He died that, after He would go away, He would send them the Holy Spirit as “another Comforter” Who would remain within them forever (be sure to study John 14:12-17 and John 16:5-15 in this regard).  The word translated “Comforter” in this important passage means more than One Who consoles us when we are sad.  It literally means that the Spirit is our great Helper.  He helps us succeed in every aspect of the Christian life!  We cannot live the abundant life without His supernatural help.

The New Testament scriptures teach that Christians can have the help of the Spirit in the business of praying. Find this amazing truth in Romans 8:26-27, Ephesians 6:18, and Jude 20-21. He will even help us know what to ask. He can make our praying effective by helping it to be informed. In other words, the Spirit can give us insight into the will of the Father in the matter about which we are praying so that we can ask for the right thing. When praying alone, the witness of the Spirit will on occasionhave some competition in our minds. Our own strong wishes often compete with the ministry of the Spirit to provide the contents of our requests. We can find ourselves unsure if the sense that we should ask for a certain thing comes from the Spirit or from our own hearts, especially when we feel strongly about a certain issue. However, in a prayer meeting, the union of yielded hearts in supplication for a particular petition can be evidence that the burden or desire is really coming from God, since so many are sensing it. How often Christians united in prayer and yielded to the Spirit experience such powerful agreement! It is a real indication that the group is asking for something that the Father will be pleased to grant.

The fact is that the wording of Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18, as well as Matthew 18:19 indicates that the things bound and loosed were already bound and loosed in heaven before they were requested from the earth. God already purposed to accomplish certain things, but He waits for His people to exercise faith in asking for them before actually doing them. This idea that God wills to do things that He won’t do unless we ask Him is actually taught throughout the Bible, and can regarded as the great mystery behind effectual prayer. Usually it is the written Word of God that reveals to us what the Lord really wants to do in a situation, and will do if we believe Him. This truth is behind the promise of John 15:7. But then also it is the Spirit Who applies the Word of God to our situation and shows us how to pray according to the Father’s will. . Study, when you can, such passages as Second Kings 13:14-19, Daniel 9:2-19, Matthew 6:8, and James 4:2, to see that God will have us ask for things He already wants to do give us. Study First John 5:14-15, and notice that the promise here gives us “confidence” in prayer. Asking “according to his will” is a matter of confidence and assurance, and not a form of resignation to whatever happens, as we have been taught sometimes. When we know the Father’s will, we should ask that it be done, and trust that He will do it. In a prayer meeting the ministry of the Spirit can help us see clearly what the Father wills, and how to pray.

3. HOW MANY ATTEND THE PRAYER MEETING MATTERS, AND YET IT DOESN’T.

Verse 19 says that two can attend a prayer meeting and expect great results. Verse 20 (of Matthew 18) says that two or three can attend the prayer meeting and expect Jesus to be there. Clearly a small number can have big things happen. However, in the book of Acts where we see what the early churches actually did, there is some emphasis on attendance at the prayer meetings. Acts 2:1 says that the congregation of 120 “were all with one accord in one place,” when the great prayer was answered. Later in the same chapter we are told that the expanded congregation at Jerusalem “continued” together “in prayers” (verses 41-42). Generally speaking, it was the whole congregation, now amounting to more than three thousand, kept on meeting after the day of Pentecost. The prayer meeting in chapter 4 that brought revival to the congregation seems also to have been attended by everybody. In chapter 6, “the multitude of the disciples” had been called together for a meeting that concluded as a prayer meeting, which produced a powerful resurgence of evangelism in the city. We get the idea that it mattered if everybody was there. Two or three can use the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 18:18-20), but the congregation as a whole ought to be well represented when coming as a body to present a petition. Revivalists of the past seemed to think that God’s impression of our earnestness matters and that attendance at a prayer meeting can be an indication of that earnestness. The number of folks who come to prayer meetings often indicates the spiritual level of the church. One old-time evangelist asserted that a “prayer meeting is an index to the state of religion [spiritual condition] of a church. If the church neglect the prayer meetings, or come and have not the spirit of prayer [a humble and believing spirit created by the Holy Spirit], you know of course that the religion is low. Let me go into the prayer meeting, and I can always see the state of religion there.” Certainly here we are looking at two sides of a coin, but must be strongly convinced that it is important for believers to attend prayer meetings when they are called. However, poor attendance should not discourage those who do attend in regard to the possibilities of their seeing great things happen in answer to their prayers.

4. PRAYER MEETINGS HAVE A LOT TO DO WITH REVIVAL.

Acts 4:31 records that the revival of the church in that chapter came in direct answer to the prayers offered at a prayer meeting.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken there they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
Revival is the work of God by which He lifts His people up to the place where He can bless them (read James 4:8-10). He does this in answer to beseeching prayer. This truth is taught both in the Old and in the New Testament scriptures. When Israel needed revival, they gathered for prayer (read First Samuel 7, Second Chronicles 30, Nehemiah 9, and Joel 2). When the New Testament churches needed a new filling of the Spirit of God, they gathered to pray (Acts 2, 4, 8, and 19). So if a church needs and wants revival, they should have prayer meetings. Find in the Bible the revivals that happened after prayer meetings. Find in history the role prayer meetings always have in revival. When believers wither in defeat, sorrow, sin, and retreat, they ought to call a revival prayer meeting as soon as possible.

5. PRAYER MEETINGS ARE SOMETIMES INVADED AND ATTACKED BY THE ENEMY.

When Christians pray together and seek to be led by the Holy Spirit, sometimes they must deal with other spirits. This is why First John 4:1-6 was put in the Bible. It admonishes us to “try the spirits whether they are of God,” and gives us instruction about how to do this. We find in this very important passage that evil spirits are often represented by imposters who represent themselves as speaking for God, but the praying Christians are really dealing with spirits, rather than just with flesh and blood (do study again Ephesians 6:10-20). Some, we are told in First Corinthians 12, will receive a gift of “discerning of spirits.” The leaders of a prayer meeting must be watchful to spot the involvement of evil influences, and bold to squash them. Sometimes good prayer meetings are hindered by prayers that preach rather than petition, insert inappropriate subject matter, by individuals inappropriately dominating the meeting, by the articulation of doctrine and ideas, and by other obvious distractions that come from the enemy. Under the guidance of God, a leader must silence a problem pray-er kindly but boldly. The one causing the problem may be sincere but misguided, but the bad influence must still be challenged. Wisdom is required, but wisdom is promised in James 1:5. We must learn spiritual warfare in the conducting of prayer meetings.

6. PRAYER MEETINGS ARE THE BIBLE WAY OF MEETING CHALLENGES AND SOLVING PROBLEMS.

Notice how they were used in the Jerusalem church: to prepare to evangelize the world (Acts 1), to keep a revival going (Acts 2), to obtain boldness to continue in the work in the face of opposition (Acts 4), to heal discord and re-start the work (Acts 6), and to get a preacher out of jail (Acts 12)! Jesus taught the apostles how to have prayer meetings, and they led the church to have them often. This is a new route for many of us to take, but the prayer-meeting method is the Bible way to meet the needs of the church and to take the cause of the Gospel forward.

7. PRAYER MEETINGS LED BY THE SPIRIT WILL PROMOTE HARMONY IN THE CHURCH.

When the Christians united in asking for revival, the church could expect to experience it. See this vividly in Acts 1:12-2:4, and then again in Acts 4:23-31. One requirement for corporate revival, we might conclude, is unity of purpose in prayer, and in the prayer meetings. However, after revival came, there was another deeper kind of unity in the body. This was unity of heart. Acts 2:46 says that there was “gladness and singleness of heart” in the Spirit-filled Jerusalem church. Acts 4:32 says that after the revival that resulted from the prayer meeting that was called because of threats made against the evangelizing church (read the whole chapter), “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” The unity that results from revival is a unity of heart generated by union with God (read how Jesus described it in John 17:18-21). Certainly a byproduct of Spirit-filled prayer meetings is harmony. Whatever disrupts harmony among believers also hinders the effectiveness of their prayers (remember Matthew 5:23-24 and 6:9-15, and also Mark 11:22-26). Whenever such hindrances are taken away by humble deference to others, real unity can come. And the presence of the Holy Spirit within us makes us truly one Body (meditate upon Ephesians 2:14-22 and 4:1-16). Let’s follow the leadership of God in these critical days, and gather often for real prayer meetings! May we join the Lord as He guides us down the revival road!

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries