Church Profile – Pt. 1

Every year FBC receives forms to create a “Church Profile” It’s a common practice because of the desire to use some objective standards to measure how a church is doing, or to compare churches to one another.  Different groups measure different things to make these determinations.  How many people were baptized?  How many decisions were made?  How many programs, how many people, how much money … 

May I say candidly that I’ve always had limited use for such profiles, because I’ve never been sure they create accurate images.  For example, FBC is a church in a college town, and I’ve maintained for a long time that we are a church that has impacted the kingdom of God all out of proportion to our size by touching young lives at a pivotal time and then sending them out to live out the faith they have seen here.  But college students don’t typically bring a lot of money, don’t typically become members, … they don’t typically do anything that will pad our statistics.  So what?  How do you measure depth of commitment, or church unity, etc.? 

I do not wish to dismiss the idea of a church profile altogether.  I simply don’t want to be in some artificial competition with some other church and comparing ourselves against them.  I do want us to compare ourselves to the Church that Jesus established, and see how we match up in that regard. 

Acts 4:23-37 provides a profile of the early Church.  I will use my next few entries to discuss some of those characteristics.

For today, note that the early Church was a church of  PASSIONATE PRAYER (vv. 23-30)

the_prayer_of_jabez_screen_saver-90745-1Why do I label this prayer as “passionate prayer?”

          A.      SOLIDARITY (vv. 23=24)

“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God …”

           There is a modern notion of corporate prayer that amounts essentially to this: “If we can get enough people to pray, God will hear us.”  As if God needed a hearing aid.  As if He does not hear the prayers of His saints alone in their secret places pouring out their hearts to Him.  This passage speaks of solidarity of purpose, and as with every other aspect of prayer, the issue is not changing God’s mind, but changing our hearts. 

          Jesus taught His disciples to pray in solidarity: “Our Father, give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, lead us not into temptation but deliver us.”  That’s 9 plural references, without an “I,” “me,” or “my” to be found.

          B.      SOVEREIGNTY (vv. 24, 27-28)

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, …for truly in this city there were gathered together … both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

          Why did these early disciples pour out their hearts to God in this way?  Because they knew that as the Creator of all things, He rules over all things.  And what effect did this theological knowledge have upon them.  They entrusted themselves to His care and keeping without regard for the personal welfare.  They knew that God had not only the power to oversee all things, including their lives, but that His essential character was good, that He does all things well, that He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  They did not find God’s sovereignty a cold and sterile doctrine, but the source of their greatest comfort.

          The Heidelberg Catechism speaks beautifully to this point:

Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

          C.      SCRIPTURE (vv. 24-26)

          The early Church knew the Scripture and prayed the Scripture.

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,”

This is directly from Psalm 146:6. 

“… who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ …”

This is a direct quote of Psalm 2:1-2.

The early Church not only knew and prayed the Scripture, but they applied it to their lives.

“… for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.”

          Do we know and pray and apply the Scriptures as we pour out our hearts to God?  Do we claim His promises?  Do we ask strength to fulfill His commands? 

          D.      SURRENDER (vv. 29-30)

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

          These disciples did not pray for God to remove the threat, or to make them comfortable.  They asked for God to make them bold in proclaiming the gospel and to allow them to take part in the work He was doing in the earth.

          And what was the result of such passionate prayer?  God gave them exactly what they asked.

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

I want FBC to be a church of passionate prayer.  And I know what that means.  I must be a pastor of passionate prayer.

gkr1996 posted at 2009-10-7 Category: Theological