God is doing a wonderful thing in His Church. Over the last several years He has awakened a fresh understanding and desire to have the ‘whole Church take the whole gospel to the whole city.’ The way International Renewal Ministries has said it for years is to ‘see a move of God initiated and sustained in a geographic area.’ The Lord has raised up many national and local ministries which have this as their primary thrust. This causes us to rejoice! Each of these ministries has unique things to add to the discussion of how this can best take place. The goal is the same, but the manner in which the goal is pursued, or the process they follow, is different from ministry to ministry.
I am convinced that what makes IRM different from other ministries is our process. I believe our process is the best one for us because it is the one the Lord has led us to use. But that does not mean our process is the best one for other ministries. What follows is an explanation of our process. It is written with the desire to help communicate why we do what we do. It is my hope that this will help set the context of a Prayer Summit and therefore give summit participants a greater opportunity to receive the full impact of their summit experience.
Dr. Joe Aldrich, whom the Lord used to give birth to Pastors’ Prayer Summits, has given us a five-part process that explains his understanding of how we can see a move of God initiated and sustained in a geographic area. These parts naturally flow from one to the next. But, let’s begin with the end in view and work backwards. Picture five blocks.
To understand a Prayer Summit, one must understand that the concept of a Prayer Summit was birthed in the heart of an evangelist. Dr. Joe longs to see more and more people purchased by the blood of the Lamb. His main passion is to see heaven more populated. The question out of which the Prayer Summits came was ‘What is God’s agenda to reach this city?’ So, what do we mean by ‘community impact’?
By ‘community’ we mean any geographic area that recognizes it has some things in common. We have found that it is best to let the people in an area describe its boundaries because they are the ones who have the right understanding of them. It could be small or it could be very large. A community could mean the area around a town with one stop sign and the combined post office, mercantile and gas station, or it could mean a part or even all of a metroplex.
When we say ‘impact’ we mean three specific things. 1) A renewal of the Church: we want to see those who are His be passionately in love with the Savior! We want to see them love Him with ‘all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ We want to see them live their lives to honor Him. 2) Greater spiritual harvest: we want to see more people in that community get saved, born again, go to heaven and have eternal life. 3) We want to see the lives of those who do not and may never submit to the Savior be improved because of a greater level of righteousness in their community. We want to see more justice done to the oppressed, more help for the poor and more compassion given to the needy.
Though each of these areas could be expanded upon, this is what we mean when we say that we want to see a community impacted by God.
A vital question would be, ‘What would it take to see a community impacted like this by God?’ The answer to that question is the second part – a ‘healthy Church.’
If the Church is going to impact a community, then we ourselves must first be a healthy Church. We cannot give away what we do not have. If we want to see healthy families in our communities, then we, in the Church, must first have healthy marriages and be good fathers and mothers. If we ‘love one another’ the world will know that we have something of value to them. (John 13:34-35) To use one of Dr. Joe’s sayings, ‘Let’s let them hear the music of the gospel before they hear the words of the gospel.’ God is most attractive. He is ‘beautiful beyond description.’ He has given us the privilege and the responsibility to reflect His beauty to those around us.
Ezekiel 16 tells the story of God beautifying His bride. His desire was that she would reflect His beauty to the world around her. The tragedy of this story, which brought God great grief, is that she used her beauty on herself. Esther was beautiful before she won the beauty contest of Esther 2. But she was still given seven maids and spent a full year in special treatment before she was brought to the king. If there was this much preparation for the bride of an earthly king, how much more appropriate that the bride of Christ would give herself to reflecting the beauty of her Bridegroom! As He removes the ‘spots and wrinkles’ from His Church, she will become a healthy, attractive bride, and the world will be attracted to our God because it is attracted to His body.
Then, ‘What will it take to make us a healthy community of faith?’ It takes ‘unity.’ Jesus told us that, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’
The evil one always seeks to bring disunity. He did it in heaven; he did it in the garden; he did it in the Israelite kingdom; he did it in the early Church and he is still doing it today. In contrast to that, ‘The Lord is one’ (Deuteronomy 6:4), Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), ‘there is one body, and one Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:4), and we are called to be ‘one in spirit and purpose’ (Philippians 2:2).
We are not talking about uniformity here; we are talking about unity. My body, like His body, is not all the same, but it does (at least most of the time!) move in a coordinated manner. We are talking about the John 17:10 kind of unity that willingly makes what I have available to you. We are talking about the Philippians 2:2 kind of unity that helps us to think, love, care and plan in a compatible manner.
THE VALUE OF UNITY
‘But, the Church seems so divided today! Wouldn’t it be a lot easier not to worry about all those other churches and just take care of ourselves?’ Probably! ‘Why bother with unity?’ Because Scripture gives us no other option. Walking in biblical unity with the other members of the body of Christ in my community may not be easy. In fact, it takes a very deliberate, intentional decision. It takes an investment of time, energy, thought, money and comfort. But the investment pays great dividends.
See ‘The Value of Unity’ for some Scriptural reasons for that commitment.
THE PROCESS OF UNITY
Unity does not happen with a toggle switch. It is more analogue than digital. In fact, even when we are committed to the value of unity in the body of Christ, it doesn’t happen easily, quickly or automatically. Dave Halbert has given a wonderful description of the process of growing in unity; I call them the ‘Uni-T’s.’
See ‘The Process of Growing in Unity’.
Since unity is so valuable and it produces such good fruit, then ‘What will it take to get us to a point of unity?’ It takes ‘humility.’
A ‘bottom line’ is this; the thing that keeps us divided is our pride. So, God both calls us and commands us to humility. If we are going to experience the unity of Philippians 2:2, we will need to walk in the humility of Philippians 2:3-4.
In addition to the very clear ‘requirement’ of God (from Micah 6:8), see ‘The Value of Humility’ for scriptural outcomes God says the humble can anticipate.
So the most important question so far becomes ‘What will get us to a point of true humility?’ We suggest it is time spend in the presence of a holy God!
Time in the presence of a Holy God Humility Unity Health Community Impact
God has created us and redeemed us for the purpose of a relationship with Himself. Jesus defines eternal life in terms of knowing God (John 17:3). Coming into His holy presence reminds us, like it reminded Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8), of what is really important, of His priorities for us and of what He wants from us. As we spend time in His presence, we will see our need to be totally dependant upon Him.
Before sin invaded our world, Adam, Eve and God enjoyed time going on walks together. (Genesis 3:8).
- What Moses coveted, and didn’t want to be without was God’s presence (Exodus 33:15).
- David longed to do that ‘one thing’ of being in His presence (Psalm 27:4).
- Ministering to the people without being able to minister to God was the consequence of disobedient priests. Being able to minister to God was the reward for the priests of Zadok (Ezekiel 44:10-16).
- Hezekiah sought his God before He worked wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 31:21).
- Before Jesus called His disciples to preach, He called them to be with Him (Mark 3:14).
- The command to love God comes before the command to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39). The first commandment is still the first commandment.
- was not rebuked by Jesus for sitting at His feet when Martha wanted her to be. Rather Jesus told Martha that she was the one who was distracted (Luke 10:38-42).
- The religious leaders recognized that what gave the disciples boldness and power was the fact that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
- It was while the leaders in Antioch were worshiping and fasting in God’s presence that God spoke to them about what His missions plan was (Acts 13:1-3).
- Paul’s challenge to the early church leaders who would soon have to drive away ‘savage wolves’ was to take heed first to themselves, then to the flock of God (Acts 20:28).
- Hebrews tell us that we should stimulate one another to love (I would read this as love for both God and my neighbor) and also good works (Hebrews 10:24).
- A major activity of the elders in the book of Revelation is worshiping God in His presence.
- From beginning to end, God desires that we spend time with Him. And He has required that all effective ministry comes out of that time with Him.
So, only as we spend time being impacted by His holy presence, will we humble ourselves. And only as we humble ourselves will we walk together in unity with His body. And that unity will help us become healthy. Then, as a healthy community of faith we will be able to impact our world around us.
Some have argued that this five part process from ‘holiness’ out to ‘community impact’ must be sequential; one must happen before the next one can happen. Some have argued that they must be simultaneous: they should all be taking place at the same time. I suggest that there is a natural sequence to them, and that we want to see all of them functioning fully, but they are really more cyclical. We spend time in His holy presence and are humbled and more unified which gives us more health and, through the three lanes of prayer, care and share, we impact our world. Then we see more of our need and are drawn back to the beginning point and move through them again in a deeper manner. Then move through them in a deeper manner again, and so on.
This is what IRM Prayer Summits are all about. Regular times for the leaders of His body to come together and enjoy His presence and all that comes with it. There is rest, renewal, conviction and comfort, etc. Out of these times comes a greater desire to humble ourselves and pray ‘back home’ in our homes and our congregations or ministries, and to walk together in genuine, biblical unity. This produces greater cooperation and health in His Church in a community. It prepares us to hear and do the good works He has prepared for us to do, so that His glory is seen in our community.
May we see a move of God initiated and sustained in many communities, near and far!
by Dennis Fuqua