Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Is it Spiritual Warfare or Discipline
A non-praying church never knows what God is doing in their midst. The Lord could be sending chastisement or judgment and the members, due to a lack of intimacy through lack of prayer, may not respond in repentance. Some churches react wrongly to circumstances, thinking the enemy is attacking, when in reality he has already sidelined the church's ministry through the people's lack of prayer. A common error is to label as "spiritual warfare" everything bad that happens to a church. Spiritual warfare does occur in many cases, but so does God's discipline. If we mistake discipline for Satan's attack, God will not be able to get our attention and call us to repent. In this context, I think of Pastor Marshall. He went the normal college and seminary route. He came to his first church with a master of divinity degree in his pocket but little experience. He could not easily recognize the church's spiritual condition. He soon learned that this one-time large church had shrunk to a small one; that though live (barely), it needed a resurrection if it wanted to accomplish anything in the name of Jesus Christ. Pastor Marshall learned the greatest problem was the community's opinion of the church. It was bad, and no one was about to become a part of it. He also realized a tremendous amount of discouragement had infected the body itself. Seeking God and reading the Scriptures for answers, Pastor Marshall came to an understanding of James's text, "You do not have because you do not ask." He also discovered God had something in store for this church if its members would pray. He and his wife were convinced God wanted them there, so they both began to pray, crying out to God. Pastor Marshall poured out the needs of the people before the throne of grace. As time went on, members began to notice something different about him and to catch the vision for prayer. They began opening the doors of the church at 5:30 in the morning for prayer. And the members came! Five mornings a week people came to the altar throughout the morning to pray. Through prayer, they recognized their cold hearts and God's readiness to embrace those who returned to Him. Another discovery followed: The members found if they prayed for an hour before a church business meeting the meeting would last five or ten minutes! Now that's the kind of answer I can relish! At the same time, prayer grew in their worship on Sunday mornings. Visitors sensed a unique spirit of God in that place. The church began to grow and the prayers continued. The church bounded from a mere fifty people to two hundred in the first year. Now, ten years later, the church averages more than sixteen hundred simply through God's leadership in prayer. When I asked for the meaning he saw behind it, Pastor Marshall told me, "Prayer is the lubricant that lubricates the machinery of the church. Not praying is like not breathing. Christians die! but when God builds into the hearts of our people a passion for prayer, we live." I can't emphasize it enough. If you have problems or your church has problems, pray. God will answer, and you will live again--joyously and fully! Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.