Believing in the Power of Prayer
Acts 4:31-35 (NIV)
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
My father-in-law Bruce surprises people. On occasion when a person shares that they are going through a difficult time he will respond, “May I pray for you?” If the person says, “Yes, would you?” To their surprise Bruce will immediately take up their hand and pray for them on the spot! This is a practice I hope to employ. Too often we tell someone we will “hold them in prayer,” but forget. I think Bruce does this to bless people, not forget, and back his words with immediate faith-filled action. Furthermore, and most importantly, Bruce believes in prayer! Kudos to him.
You see, prayer is not stagnant; prayer moves inward in the present time faith and outward to real time commitment, meaning prayer should grow into action, deepen faith and rush to commitment. Prayer should transform environments, assume change, stir hearts and witness to the power of God. Do you believe in the power of prayer? The early church witnessed amazing supernatural experience immediately following their prayers. They prayed and their surroundings were shaken! Then spoke God’s word boldly, they came into oneness, were gracious and met the physical needs of those around them. They believed in prayer!
There is a humorous story about a church’s encounter with a bar and its owner. A bar called Drummond’s (in Mt Vernon, Texas) began construction on an expansion of their building, hoping to “grow” their business. In response, the local Southern Baptist Church started a campaign to block the bar from expanding – petitions, prayers, etc. About a week before the bar’s grand re-opening, a bolt of lightning struck the bar and burned it to the ground! Afterward, the church folks were rather smug – bragging about “the power of prayer”. The angry bar owner eventually sued the church on grounds that the church … “was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, through direct actions or indirect means.” Of course, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise. The judge read carefully through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply. He then opened the hearing by saying: “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that what we have here is a bar owner who now believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.”
Let me ask you again, “Do you believe in the power of prayer?” If you do, then let’s stand behind it and put it into action.
A Signature Ministry
By Pastor Jonathan and Rev. Neilson Kibbey
[Identifying a signature ministry] is that core element that will make the congregation shed a tear, reach deep in their pockets or fight for it if it were taken away. When we discover that one thing that makes us come together in ministry we have found our unique one excellent mission–when we find our misery, we find our ministry.”
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
We are continuing to examine some of the habits of an effective church and the writings of my friend Rev. Sue Neilson Kibbey. I truly believe this is one of the key action steps of a congregation to process in auditing ministry. In many of the churches I have served there are tons of service projects, dinners and traditional fundraisers that seem to be a mile wide but an inch thick and not really focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ. This article talks about a signature ministry. This summer I would like every member to read this article, then give feedback on what we should do or no do. I always said, “if we say yes to something, we need to then say no to something we are currently doing.” All I ask you to do is pray first, then be ready to offer to our leadership feedback. Ponder the message in this article about how we should move forward in mission together in the future at Mt. Healthy UMC. This future might just include an incredible “signature ministry,” to lead and guide our mission for Jesus Christ!
Habit #3: Embrace a “Signature Ministry.”
By Rev. Sue Nielson Kibbey
“The legacy of John Wesley is known for emphasis upon the crucial faith-filled importance of Matthew 25: serving the needs of others in Christ’s name. The history of Methodism has been hallmarked by acts of tangible Christian mercy that bring resources, healing and hope to the brokenness of its world. Wesley’s intent was that such practical outplays of service in the name of Christ would also connect recipients with the eternal hope-filled message of Christ as its source.
Many congregations seek to demonstrate this priority by collecting special offerings to fund missionaries or projects that address community, national or global needs. Some churches encourage every committee, ministry or group within to choose and then either serve or contribute to its own specialized mission focus. It’s possible for a single congregation to be thus engaged in a dozen—or even dozens—of different service projects and small financial contributions that all contribute to addressing the needs of God’s people.
But what happens when there’s also (or instead) a churchwide shift of focus to embrace one “signature ministry” around which every age group, class, committee and team rallies in order to unite energies? What can unfold when one excellent mission—a missional focus that becomes the heartbeat and DNA of an entire church—centralizes the time and investment of an entire congregation in order to multiply the impact for God’s good?
The third habit of a Missional Church is the active emergence of just such a focus. When a congregation begins to prayerfully discern whether centralizing time, energy and concentration to a signature ministry is its next step, a few clarifying questions can surface:
Will this help us fulfill our biblical call to meet the needs of our community or world—materially, relationally and spiritually?
Are we willing to move this to a collective financial priority of our church as the heartbeat of our focus on mission?
Is it a mission or ministry that involves just a few, while the rest of our membership is simply appreciative of their hard work—or is it an effort in which an increasing number of our members are becoming personally involved and around which there is a passion.
The Missional Church habit of an all-church signature ministry doesn’t require a congregation to ignore every other important cause it’s previously supported. Rather, through prayer and exploration it moves a primary collective motivation of its membership into a central priority so that that all ages have an opportunity to invest with time, resources and energy with influence for Christ’s work and witness.”
What are your thoughts? What is God’s passion for our community and mission? Are we willing to give our time, money and service to this ministry?
Let me know your thoughts.
By Pastor Jonathan Kollmann
2 Corinthians 12:9
“but he (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’”
I don’t know about you but I tend to not boast too often about my weaknesses. In our culture we tend to mask our weaknesses. We can even walk into this church on a Sunday morning, in pain feeling weak in our faith, “sin sick” because of shortcomings and a sense that we are far from God.
A certain older woman was trying to impress the guests at a party. “My family’s ancestry is very old,” she boasted. “It dates back to the days of Alexander the Great.” Then, turning to a young lady standing quietly at her side, she asked condescendingly: “And how old is your family, my dear?”
The younger woman smiled and quietly came back, “Well, I can’t really say. All of our family records were lost in the Flood.”
What is it about human nature that makes us want to boast? We all do it. We all get together and somebody tells a story and pretty soon we all start playing that little game of one-up-man-ship. We may not do it very often but we all succumb to boasting from time to time. So, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul says about boasting from 2 Corinthians chapter 12, “On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
That is so counter to what we see and hear from society isn’t it? We’re told we have to be strong, “suck it up,” don’t cry, and self-reliant! Yet Paul promotes a completely different message. This is counter culture message. It goes against everything we’ve been taught. Everything that Hollywood and Fifth Avenue have been feeding us for years. Paul says God isn’t interested in our strength or our self-reliant ways. God is only interested in our weakness. Paul says: “We are made perfect in our weakness. For whenever we are weak then we are strong.”
Do you know the church thrived when people confessed their short comings? In fact, when people “get real” in community it helped people become authentic and true to who they are in God’s eyes. Because I have heard it said, “We all have junk in the trunk!” I enjoy Crossroads Church’s ministry to Cincinnati. On their website they give a detailed description of seven hills people die on. Meaning, they believe there are biblical truths that guide their life of ministry as a community of faith. The first is AUTHENICITY. Here is what it states, “We believe we can’t be what God has called us to be if we play games with each other. Whether it’s what happens on stage, within our smaller communities, in serving teams or in our homes, we need to be able to share our faults and weaknesses and not fake it. That’s authenticity, just being real.”
What if we shared our struggles with each other? Not just prayer requests when we are sick or having surgery. But really shared our hurt, pain, doubt and even SIN with one another? I wonder what would happen? I believe people who are in pain would find that we are real and authentic. He also would have complete empathy and compassionate love. What do you think? I would like to hear!
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Romans 1:8 (NIV)
After worship on January 10, 2016 our leadership had a retreat. We ate together and shared stories about very special people past and present who helped form our faith. At the end of our sharing, I asked the leadership what characteristics would describe those precious people. Many qualities were pooled and words like faithful, humble, loving, compassionate and caring were brought forth.
I shared about my wonderful youth leader and Christian tobacco farmer named Jeff Chipman. Jeff was a very simple man. He laughed all the time. His love for the Lord was so evident. I have many memories of Jeff. For example, our youth group went swimming at his pool, which was miraculously made out of a steel silo. I worked for Jeff in every stage of the tobacco process. He paid well and was always kind. He often invited me to have dinner with his family. Those dinners were very special and I truly saw a fine example of a Christian family.
I praised God for Jeff as I shared his faith story with our church leadership. At the end of the retreat I challenged our leadership to go and be “Jeff Chipman’s,” to one another, the congregation and the world.
The Apostle Paul gave a very nice compliment to the church he founded in Rome. He stated, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Wow! A report about faith going all over the world. Think for a moment how a TV show is interrupted for a “Special Report.” It grabs your attention. It causes your head to pop up and take notice. Think for a moment how Mt. Healthy and surrounding communities can experience “Special Reports,” coming out of Mt. Healthy UMC? Wouldn’t that be great? I truly believe 2016 will be an amazing year in the history of Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church! How? All of us committing to take time to be like Jeff Chipman or someone you can name in your mind who touched your life! The community will get a very special report about God’s amazing love through us! Is there anything greater than Christians loving all on behalf of Jesus Christ? I ask you to join our leadership as we live out our faith everywhere! God bless you and have a great February 2016!