Are We Stable?
Have you ever sat down on a stool or chair where the legs were uneven or wobbly? It isn’t a terribly secure feeling, is it? In order to effectively fulfill its role, a stool or chair needs to have legs of equal length and strength. We could say the same about certain areas of spiritual aspects of our and our churches’ lives.
Luke tells us in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” In most gospel-centered evangelical churches there is a strong emphasis on teaching and preaching of the Word, so we resonate deeply with the early church’s devotion to this leg of the stool. We justifiably emphasize it in the individual lives of the members, as well as in services and Bible studies from cradle to grave, for it is essential to truth and growth.
The next leg of the Acts 2 church was fellowship. As we see throughout Acts, they gathered together a lot. This has been a characteristic of vibrant church communities throughout the centuries, especially when most congregations were smaller and people we more dependent on one another, not just for encouragement, but even for survival. This kind of interdependency was beginning to be lost in our culture in recent times, especially with the arrival of the Big-Box Churches, where it was easier to just attend than it was to connect with one another. Seeing that this was not the biblical model and was not bearing good fruit in the lives of their members, wise leaders began to reemphasize fellowship. Often these smaller groups better reflect the Acts 2 church in fellowship, connection with one another, and caring. This is strengthening that second leg of the chair. Not only is it good for the health of the church overall, it is good for the individual to have that kind of accountable connection which comes with knowing and being known in spiritual community, whatever form that might take.
On the surface the third leg of the chair, the Breaking of Bread, seems like it fits with the second, however, while that phrase can mean sharing a meal, in this context it was most likely referring to the Lord’s Supper. The early church had few rituals—basically baptism and communion—which is why most evangelical churches claim only these two. But in practice every church with an order of service has established some ritual, even if it wouldn’t be called “sacred” (although try to change something that has been long established and we will quickly find out that it has become more “sacred” to someone than we realized). For our purposes we will label this leg of the chair as Worship.
Just as communion is centered on Christ’s work of redemption, a healthy church or individual has a strong leg of God-centered worship. For each of us personally, if we are only worshiping once a week in services, that leg of our spiritual lives will be a bit weak and wobbly. Daily times of worship will not only strengthen us, but will intensify our times of corporate worship, as well.
The fourth leg of our chair is Prayer. Prayer is one of those things that everyone acknowledges is important, but often is not a leg of equal length or strength in our lives or in the church. Most churches have paid staff dedicated to teaching the Word, organizing the fellowship, and facilitating worship, but few have a staff member dedicated to prayer. If a church is to be as vibrant, growing and strong against persecution as the churches of Acts, we need to lengthen and strengthen our prayer ministries, equipping, training, and encouraging prayer the way we do with Bible study.
When a person first comes to Christ, we know they need to be discipled in the Word, because they do not intuitively know all the truth about God and His ways when they are saved. The same is true of prayer. When we come to salvation we do not automatically know how to pray, especially for power and communion with God, yet we do not have on ramps and programs in place to disciple people in prayer. I think this betrays not only the weakness of that leg of our chair, but how short sighted we can be to the issue. I believe this is why our churches are often stagnant and ministry is more about man’s effort than God’s power. We wonder why the Word does not go forth with power, there is no revival, and we are losing the culture wars. It could be because we are woefully deficient in length and strength in this fourth leg of the chair, and need to make concerted effort to remedy that deficiency, especially in light of the challenges that lie ahead in our evermore challenging culture.
As individuals we need to lengthen and strengthen that leg in our spiritual lives, as well. There are all sorts of wonderful books out there on prayer to instruct and encourage our prayer lives. I find when I regularly read books on prayer it serves to spur me on to perseverance and growth, and to strengthen this leg of the stool.
Each of us would do well to examine our lives to see if any of these aspects of our spiritual lives are a bit wobbly and attend to it. As we look at our churches, we should pray that our leadership will be attentive here, as well—both in their own lives and within our congregations. We should encourage efforts they make to strengthen weak areas, humbly suggest areas which need to be strengthened (but perhaps only if we are willing to pitch in and be a part of the solution).
Here are a few suggestions for those interested in developing their prayer lives:
• Prayer, Timothy Keller
• Did You Think to Pray, and The Lord’s Prayer, R.T. Kendall
• The Inner Chamber, and With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murray
• Prevailing Prayer, D.L. Moody
• The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, C.H. Spurgeon
• E.M. Bounds’ several volume series on prayer
• Prayer Fatigue, and Live a Praying Life, Jennifer Dean
• Asleep in the Land of Nod, David Butts
• House of Prayer, Jonathan Graf, ed.
• Praying for Your Pastor, Eddie Byun
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
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