NT Tuesday: The Importance of Corporate Prayer

Ocean Waves

In our continuing series on New Testament Principles, I’d like to take a look at the importance of prayer for the believer who wishes to be guided by New Testament principles. Specifically, I would like to consider the importance of the individual believer participating in corporate prayer.

In Acts, the church is said to have been continually devoting themselves to four functions. One of these functions is prayer. Again, I would like to point out the phrase “continually devoting themselves”. That’s a lofty characterization – does it describe our prayer life? Our assembly’s prayer life?

When we think of New Testament principles, many of us do NOT automatically think of prayer and yet, it was mentioned early on as an important activity of the church – an activity that was modeled after watching the Head of the Church, The Lord Jesus Christ, while He walked on the earth He had previously created.

Prayer is prevalent in the disciples of Jesus Christ (both pre-and post Pentecost). In Acts 1:16, the disciples are seen “in one accord… devoting themselves to prayer.” Those that were going to dedicate themselves to feeding the flock and teaching the Word, also were mindful of the importance of devoting themselves to prayer. So much so, that they chose Stephen and other men to serve at the tables so that they had more time to engage in this vital activity.

When Peter was imprisoned, the church devoted itself to making “earnest prayer” for him. Acts 12:5. Their earnest prayer was heard by a prayer-hearing God who answered their prayers and freed Peter! Peter showed up at the prayer meeting, much to their surprise. (How much better would it have been if they were standing at the front door waiting for him as a sign of faith that God would answer their prayer?!) Alas, their surprise at God’s answer to prayer seems to be a New Testament principle, as well. But it ought not to be! We pray to a prayer hearing, prayer answering, all powerful God. His power toward us!!!

When it was time to appoint elders, they did so “with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23). Paul also saw the necessity and the vitality of prayer. While travelling to and in Macedonia, Paul went to “the place of prayer” on the Sabbath Day.

In Paul’s epistle to Timothy, an epistle with the stated purpose of teaching Timothy how he ought to conduct himself in the household of God, Paul mentions prayer several times. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul says “First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all the people.” Note that it says “first of all.” As a means of emphasizing the importance of prayer – before he gets to anything else, Paul wants Timothy to know the importance of prayer. Paul also, in vs. 8 of that chapter, indicates that he desires that men everywhere would engage in praying!

Paul’s epistles are filled with prayers. The Lord Jesus’s life, while here on earth, was filled with prayer. Our lives – individually, but equally important – corporately – should be filled with prayer! It’s a New Testament principle!

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Titus 2:15b – Do Not Despise Those Who Serve God

 

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:15 ESV

This is the 24th video in a series of teaching videos on the book of Titus. You can find the first video here.

It takes courage to serve God and it takes maturity to respect those who do. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that someone is more gifted than I am or has been directed by the Lord to correct me. I need to accept that at times I need the Lord to use his servants to do this.

Titus was being told to take some tough action, now Paul says ‘don’t let anyone despise you”. It’s God’s work not ours – we must respect those he calls to serve.

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NT Tuesday: Fellowship – Part 2

Two Rowing

Last week we started a conversation about fellowship. As a review let’s remind ourselves that inherent in the principle of fellowship are three key ideas:

  1. Fellowship means being a part of a group, a body of people.
  2. Fellowship means sharing with others certain things in common such as interest,
    goals, feelings, beliefs, activities, labor, privileges and responsibilities, experiences, and
    concerns.
  3. Fellowship means a partnership that involves working together and caring for one
    another as a company of people, like a company of soldiers or members of a family.

So, how does this pertain to Boys Camp at Greenwood Hills? For one, the staff (counselors, directors, support staff, and the camp staff) are a group of people (clearly). These dear believers share certain things in common – a desire to serve Jesus Christ by serving His people at Greenwood and share in a concern for the spiritual well-being of the campers.

Usually the first two aspects are relatively straightforward. It’s the third aspect that becomes a little less clear, a little less obvious, perhaps a little less present in our idea of fellowship. You see, the concept of working together involves everyone pulling in the same direction, everyone rowing in the same direction, everyone marching to the same beat. This is where it gets a little harder, a little more difficult for some.

Well-meaning brothers and sisters can be rowing contrary to the group, marching to a different beat, and not pulling in the same direction. It’s happened before at Boys Camp and it happens all too frequently in the local assembly.

This year, we had 118 campers. That’s the highest number of campers we have had in a long, long time. One would think that the logistics would have been more challenging or that the stress level would have been higher, but it wasn’t. And the solution, as noticed by several counselors and staff, was that everyone was pulling in the same direction. There was no “lone ranger”, no counselor having his own agenda, we were all in fellowship. It makes all the difference in the world. So, in a year when directing the camp should have been harder (because of the number of campers), it wasn’t. It was the best year in seven years of directing the camp.

The same can be true in the local body. Well meaning Christians can actually hamper the progress of the meeting by failing to march together, by failing to pull in the same direction. This usually happens when brothers and sisters have their own agendas. And, franky, one can even isolate the agendas to a few key areas – music, youth work, women’s ministries, and use of gifts. These seem to be the areas within the assembly that seem to attract the most attention from individuals who are trying to “make a name for themselves” or “trying to shake things up.”

Here’s a simple test as to whether you are really in fellowship or not – whether you are rowing together or rowing contrary to the body – has it been necessary for the elders to spend an unusually large amount of their time “with you” in regards to one or more of these areas? If so, you might need to start rowing in a different direction.

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo flickr/infomatique

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Ordination or Commendation?

Ocean RocksIf you have been following Digital Sojourner you already know that Tuesdays have been nicknamed “New Testament Tuesdays.”

New Testament Tuesdays started back in the early spring with a series of articles by Jack Hay entitled “Which Church? A Problem.” In the series Brother Hay looked at 11 patterns, or principles, of how the early church gathered together in local congregations. Unfortunately, even a casual observer will note that there numerous discrepancies between what is commonly practiced in most local churches today and the pattern of meeting together as found in the New Testament. A PDF ebook of the series is available here for free.

After the Which Church? series concluded, Brother Mike Stoudt picked up Digital Sojourner’s Tuesday time slot and continued to write about various other patterns and principles found in the pages of the New Testament. Due to a prior ministry obligation Mike was unable to write a post for today, so I thought I could share a little about a subject found in the New Testament that I am currently studying: commendation.

What in the world is commendation you ask? Don’t worry you are not alone! The vast majority of evangelical churches never use the term nor practice the principle – even though the practice of commendation is clearly found in the New Testament. See Acts 11:19-26, Acts 13:1-5, Acts 14:24-28. Even a cursory reading of these passages will reveal that the church in Antioch recognized that the Holy Spirit had called out from among them two believers for a work that God had called them to.

 


Ordination



 

Seems fairly simple… and it is simple. Unfortunately we like to complicate what God has made simple. Today most ecclesiastical circles will speak of “ordination.” Though the practice differs widely, ordination typically means that one has successfully mastered a prescribed religious curriculum, has been approved by an officially recognized inter-church ruling body, and has been ‘ordained’ during a special church ceremony. The one who has been ordained is then considered to be a member of a special class of Christians called “the clergy” and can hold certain offices and practice certain ministries that most other Christians “the laity” can not.

The modern practice of ordination may seem fine. Unfortunately, however, the practice can not be found in the New Testament. Because the practice is so common today many refuse to believe that there is no New Testament precedent regarding ordination. However, I would like to suggest that not only does the modern practice of ordination lack a Biblical foundation, in many ways ordination is actually contrary to New Testament teaching.

How is the modern practice of ordination contrary to the New Testament? Consider this…

  • There is no ‘prescribed religious curriculum’ other than the Bible itself — no other book or even church history is authoritative. Revelation 22:18-19
  • There is no ‘officially recognized inter-church ruling body’ sanctioned in the New Testament — The passages referenced above clearly show that it was the one local church alone that recognized what the Holy Spirit said. Acts 13:1
  • There is no ‘special church ceremony’ described in the New Testament for this purpose. When the local assembly in Antioch ‘sent off’ Barnabas and Saul for the work that God had called them to do they fasted, prayed and laid their hands on them. Acts 13:3. This does not sound like an ornate ceremony with great pomp and circumstance — in fact the Lord Jesus taught against this. See Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18
  • There is no distinction made in the New Testament between the ‘clergy’ and the ‘laity.’ The New Testament actually teaches that all true Christians are members of the so-called ‘clergy’ — the priesthood of all believers 1 Peter 2:4-5 KJV

I know that this may sound shocking to you, so I would ask you not to take my word for it, but rather go to God’s Word alone and prayerfully study what God says about this topic.

 


Commendation



 

Well, if commendation is not ordination — what IS commendation? From the above referenced passages in the book of Acts one preacher has defined commendation as “an action by a local assembly in which they recognize God’s call of one of their own for a specific ministry and they hand the individual over to the grace of God for His care and blessing.”1

So, commendation is simply…

  • the local assembly recognizing that God has called one or more of their own for a special work. Acts 13:2.
  • the local assembly giving way to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) to the Lord. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) for a specific work of God. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) from the local assembly. Acts 13:2-4.
  • an ongoing relationship between the commending assembly and the one commended. Acts 14:26-28.
  • involves the entire local assembly. Note the multiple use of the word ‘they’ in Acts 13:2-3.
  • involves the assembly fasting and praying. Acts 13:2-3 — in accordance with Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18 both fasting and praying should be done in a spirit of humility, and in such a manner that does not draw attention to the ones who are fasting and praying.
  • the local assembly identifying itself with the one(s) being commended as symbolized through the laying on of hands. Acts 13:3.

Therefore, commendation is something that is simple and spirit lead. All too often the modern church has added layer upon layer of rules and regulations to the simple and clear teaching of the Word of God. Yet, so many true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seem to be blinded by the traditions of man.

So, what do you think? Has the modern church over-complicated and possibly even overruled the Scriptures with the modern practice of ordination? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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1William Yuille (June 27, 2012) Commendation, message given at Greenwood Hills Bible Conference, Fayetteville, PA.

Also special credit to: Tom Irwin (July 30, 2012) Commendation, message given at North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA

Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Titus 2:14b The Church – A Purchased and Separated People

 

This is the 21st video in a series of teaching videos on the book of Titus. You can find the first video here.

We are currently looking at three expressions in Titus 2.14. We became excited last week because we are redeemed. What an amazing truth!

This week it gets even better. We belong uniquely to the Lord Jesus Christ. He has ensured that we will never be mixed up with the world in the long run. He has purified us unto himself. If we live in the good of that and reflect this truth in practice it will make an amazing difference in our lives.

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NT Tuesday: Doing the Work of an Evangelist [2]

Glorious SunriseLast week we considered the topic of evangelism and, specifically, in relation to evangelism in a New Testament assembly. In my post, I suggested strongly that Jesus Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” was made primarily to individuals rather than to the Body. I’d like to substantiate that assertion, as well as, discuss the roll that the corporate Body plays in evangelism.

First, the Bible verses that charge us to share the Word of God are directed to the individual Christian. I don’t recall (but if you do, please share some verses) where the assembly corporately was instructed to “reach the lost.” (I think we need to hit the “refresh” button and double check ourselves on a number of verses. In many cases, I think the individual believer is being addressed and given various responsibilities and obligations, but we have abdicated the individual’s responsibilities to the corporate Body. There are various and sundry ways in which that has manifested itself. Lord willing, I will be addressing some of those areas in future posts.)

One of the Bible verses that I didn’t mention last week, but which proves my point here is found in 2 Timothy 4:5. Paul exhorts Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Timothy’s gift wasn’t that of an evangelist, but he is being exhorted to do the work of one. Why, you might ask? Because Paul recognized that each and every believer had the responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.

The second reason for my suggestion is that the spiritual gifts were given to individual believers to be used within the Body to train/equip other believers to do the work of ministry. Individual believers are being equipped to do the work – not the church, not the “pastor”, not the elders, but each and every believer is being equipped to do the work of ministry. And certainly, part of that work, is sharing the Good News with those who are lost and headed toward an eternity in Hell.

Here’s where the assembly comes into play. Every member of the Body has a spiritual gift that is meant to be used for equipping all the other members of the Body so that they can do the work that Jesus Christ gifted them to do. In other words, all the believers gathered together unto the name of Jesus Christ in your local fellowship has a responsibility to work together to equip one another to do the work of an evangelist (and other needed ministries).

Additionally, the believers within the assembly can encourage one another (daily) to do the work of an evangelist, to collectively meet the obligation to share the Gospel, even to provide funds to support those that are more active in the work. However, the responsibility remains with the individual. No individual can accurately complain that the “assembly” does not have a heart for the lost, or the assembly doesn’t reach out enough. We are individually responsible and we can’t abdicate that individual responsibility to the corporate body. If we call ourselves New Testament Christians, we must accept the responsibilities placed upon us individually. We so readily accept the corporate responsibilities, but we must also accept the individual ones.

Let’s encourage one another to be more vigilant as the days are short, we must redeem the time and fulfill our ministry.

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Jottings – Preparing For The Mission Field

Jottings

“Seminary imparts knowledge but not experience. The Bible says that knowledge puffs up. The best place to prepare yourself for the mission field is the local assembly where you get knowledge and experience.”

From my notes of a message given by Mike Attwood at the February 2012 CMML Reaching Higher Conference. The Voices For Christ website offer a large collection of brother Mike’s messages that you can access for free here.

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Jottings – Does It Edify?

Jottings

If it does not edify, it can be of no use.

J N Darby, “A Few Remarks Connected With The Presence and Operation of The Spirit of God in The Body“, Collected Writings, Vol. 3, p. 321.

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Digital Church?

Digital Church

 

Christian blogger and Evangelical leader Albert Mohler recently posted a thought provoking blog entry on the rise of the ‘digital church’ as a replacement for traditional, physical church gatherings.

Brother Mohler rightly points out that digital technologies can be of great value for the believer and the church alike. Online sermon libraries, online archives of the written works of Christian teachers of prior generations, and use of social media for gospel outreach are just a few of the examples cited.

Mohler goes even one step further by implying that an online presence is even NECESSARY for ministry in the 21st Century:

A church without a digital presence is a church that, to many people, simply doesn’t exist.

However, we need to exercise caution. Even with all of the potential benefits that modern, digital technology offers there are some serious dangers that we must consider.

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Website Review: Skitplanet.com

One of the great aspects of the Internet is that it opens up new possibilities for ministry. One example of this is creating short, gospel oriented videos.

The new website skitplanet.com was started by a local assembly in Ontario, Canada to stimulate interest in creatively using video to proclaim the Gospel message. It’s a team effort by the local church… young, old, male, female… working together to script Bibically sound, and visually interesting skits. There is a double benefit, believers working & praying together and the potential to take the Gospel message to a worldwide audience. Just think of it: if one of the videos happens to go ‘viral’ literally millions could hear the Gospel for the very first time!

The website’s about page says:

SkitPlanet is made up of both adults and youth from grades 8 and up. The entire team contributes in different ways including: writing, acting, filming, editing and setup. Their dedication to this ministry is what makes it happen and we are thrilled to have such a super team working on the videos.

Check out Skitplanet.com… don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments section of this post and be sure to share the videos with your online friends!

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