Montana Baptist E-News

The Montana Baptist E-News | November 2015

MTSBC Calendar

DATE

12.4

12.5

12.30-1.7

2016

1.21-23

1.26-28

EVENT

ELEVATE Training (Bozeman/Missoula)

ELEVATE Training (Miles City)

International Missions Emphasis

-

Church Planter/Wives Retreat (Fairmont)

Church Starting Team Retreat

SHOW MORE EVENTS

2.19-21

2.19

2.20

3.6-13

3.2-3

3.3-4

3.4

4.10

4.15-16

4.8

4.9

4.22-23

5.14

6.6-8

6.14-15

7.25-31

8.1-6

8.26

8.27

9.1-31

9.13-14

10.4

10.4

10.4-5

11.11-12

12.2

12.3

12.4-11

Montana Southern Baptist Convention

2015 Annual Meeting Highlights

The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

2015 Annual Meeting Darren Hales (2nd from right) was elected as the 2016 MTSBC President, and Lee Merck (Left) was elected as vice president. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

BOZEMAN (FOUR CORNERS), MT - The numbers for the "Annual Church Profile" reflect a troubling trend among Southern Baptist churches: 3 out of every 4 churches are not growing, or are getting smaller.


The focus of this year's Annual Meeting was to break this trend in Montana, by going "Beyond the Status Quo."


In his message titled "Overcoming the Status Quo", MTSBC President Bruce Speer detailed how pastors may become a "change agent", rather than being stuck in complacency. More...

2015 Annual Meeting Dr. Frank Page delivers a message on Wednesday night titled 'Returning to The Lordship of Christ.'

2015 Annual Meeting Attendees at the conference enjoy fellowship together. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting A full auditorium listens as Dr. Jeff Iorg (Goldengate Baptist Theological Seminary) delivers his message on 'No More Status Quo.' (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting Dr. Randy Davis, Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director, delivers his message titled 'The Sin of Ai'. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting Sean Stevenson and band, Crossroads Church, leads worship. Crossroads Church in Bozeman (Four Corners) hosted this years meeting. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting Attendees pray for missionaries sent abroad during the 'Montana Sent' presentation on Wednesday night. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting A panel of experienced pastors participate in a question-and-answer session during the 'Pastors Conference' on Tuesday morning. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting Fred Hewett and Bruce Speer accept a plaque from Dr. Randy Davis commemorating the Montana-Tennessee partnership. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

2015 Annual Meeting Newly elected convention president, Darren Hales, listens to one of the messages at the Annual Meeting. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Atendees were treated to a delicious continental breakfast every morning. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

"It's our nature to love status quo. People would rather hold on to what they have now rather than take the risk of losing something. Instead of asking ourselves, 'What's the worst thing that could happen,' we should be asking ourselves 'What's the best thing that could happen?'"


Dr. Speer resolved that "the Bible defines faithfulness in John 15 as fruitfulness. Showing up is not faithfulness. Faithfullness is producing something. And the one thing God wants me to produce more than anything else is reaching lost people."


In the business session of the conference, two key changes were approved for 2016.


Messengers approved a proposal to sell the MTSBC state office and move the state staff to a smaller building. With a reduction in the need for office space over the last decade, the executive committee saw this as an opportunity to free up dollars to invest in new kingdom work. The proposal specifies that the state office will remain in Billings.


A new state staff position was also considered and approved. This new position, a "Next Generation Ministry Director", will be a resource for youth and college programs in the state.


"If we're truly going to reach this state for the glory of God, we've got to do a better job of reaching the next generation," said MTSBC Executive Director Fred Hewett.


In one of his final duties as MTSBC President, Dr. Bruce Speer accepted a plaque of appreciation from Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director, Dr. Randy Davis, to commemorate ten years of partnership between the two conventions.


Succeeding Dr. Speer will be Darren Hales, pastor at Big Sky Fellowship in Helena, and MTSBC Church Strategies team member. Lee Merck from Church of The Rockies in Red Lodge was voted in as MTSBC Vice President.


Pastors, church leaders and other church laypersons from across the state left the 2015 Annual Meeting feeling encouraged, motivated, and challenged.


"There's such a spirit of harmony and a spirit of unity here, and it's a great atmosphere for worshipping the Lord, and a lot of encouragement," said Lee Merck.


Jacob Oiler, attending the Annual Meeting for the first time, was encouraged by the willingness to share demonstrated by church leaders. "People here are so transparent in the way they talk about their experiences ... Each person goes up, goes to their Bible, and it all comes back to 'we all do this because of the lost'. So all of these meetings and all of these programs are all because of the lost - and that's so important. I love how it always comes back to that."


As the new MTSBC president, Darren Hales looks to rouse and energize Montana Southern Baptists. "I'm certainly humbled to be asked to be the president of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, but I just want to be an encouragement to our pastors, to our churches, to the people of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention ... to see how I can pray for them, walk along side them, and I just want to be a great cheerleader for our convention."


Other attendees found the messages delivered on going "Beyond the Status Quo" as a challenge to change the way things are done in their part of the state. "Status quo is something that is very comfortable, and it's really nice sometimes just to settle in, enjoy things and go with the flow. Christ has really called us to a whole lot more than that. In fact, everything about Him went against the status quo," says Pastor Allen James, First Baptist Church of Hamilton.


Melissa Giddis of Miles City offers another perspective: "For me, 'Beyond the Status Quo' is going past what we can see right here. What's in our line of sight is our status quo, but God's picture is so much bigger than what we can see."


All of the messages and business sessions from the 2015 Annual Meeting are available for you to watch on the Montana E-quip website at Montana.e-quip.net . You can select any of the available messages below:


  • Bigger Isn't Always Better - Daniel Lambert
  • Business Session 1 - Bruce Speer
  • Business Session 2 - Bruce Speer
  • Going Beyond the Status Quo - Fred Hewett
  • Loving Those Where God Has Planted You - B.J. Hallmark
  • No More Status Quo - Dr. Jeff Iorg
  • Overcoming The Status Quo - Bruce Speer
  • Q&A Panel Session 1
  • Q&A Panel Session 2
  • Q&A Panel Session 3
  • Returning to the Lordship of Christ - Dr. Frank Page
  • The Monday Morning Prayers of Three Baptist Preachers - Darwin Payton
  • The Sin of Ai - Dr. Randy Davis

  • More photos from MPact 2014 (click to enlarge):


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    Annual Meeting & Pastor's Conference on E-quip

    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    Did you miss our Annual Meeting and Pastor’s Conference last month? What a wonderful time of worship, fellowship, training, and encouragement.


    If you couldn’t be in Bozeman for the excitement, then you can experience the next best thing.


    The both events, including messages and interviews can be found on our E-quip website! More...

    Visit www.montana.e-quip.net


    These sessions can be found under the “Annual Meeting and Pastor’s Conference 2015” channel.


    Feel free to use these videos in whichever way suits you best. Watch them on your computer and download any handouts that might be available. Watch them from your mobile phone or tablet. Download the mp3 audio file and listen to the sessions while you travel, exercise, or relax at home.


    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention makes this incredible tool available to everyone in our state, for FREE! No fees to pay, no registration needed, just click and start watching!


    Here is a list of this year’s videos:

  • Bigger Isn't Always Better, Better is Better - Daniel Lambert
  • Business Session 1 - Dr. Bruce Speer
  • Business Session 2 - Dr. Bruce Speer
  • Going Beyond the Status Quo - Dr. Fred Hewett
  • Loving Those Where God Has Planted You - B.J. Hallmark
  • No More Status Quo - Dr. Jeff Iorg
  • Overcoming The Status Quo - Dr. Bruce Speer
  • Q&A Panel Session 1 - Mark Arbaugh et al.
  • Q&A Panel Session 2 - Mark Arbaugh et al.
  • Q&A Panel Session 3 - Mark Arbaugh et al.
  • Returning to the Lordship of Christ - Dr. Frank Page
  • The Monday Morning Prayers of Three Baptist Preachers - Darwin Payton
  • The Sin of Ai - Dr. Randy Davis
  • MTSBC

    2015 Annual Church Profile

    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    Annual Church Profile

    MTSBC pastors are asked to complete the Annual Church Profile (ACP) by filling out the document online or mailing it in. Every MTSBC Church should have received the ACP form in the mail in September.


    “By participating in the ACP report, Montana churches can affect how the SBC allocates its resources by providing more accurate information regarding trends here in the West. In essence, the ACP helps us and the SBC be a better steward of resources,” said Fred Hewett, MTSBC Executive Director.


    Please submit your church’s ACP information today. You may contact Jeannie Hayes (jhayes@mtsbc.org or 406-252-7537) if you need assistance.


    Start your ACP report here


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    'We Cannot Be Silent' Mohler Says in New Book

    By S. Craig Sanders, Baptist Press

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- In the span of three months in the summer of 2015, three headlines marked historic events that generations of Americans past could never have imagined. First it was former “world’s greatest athlete” Bruce Jenner debuting his gender transition on the cover of Vanity Fair. Next the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Within a few weeks Americans witnessed the horrors of abortion in a series of undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood profiting from the sale of aborted baby parts and organs.


    R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, issues a call for faithful, biblical witness in his latest book, “We Cannot Be Silent,” that he says is ever more urgent in the wake of these landmark events. Written in late 2014, the book -- to be published by Thomas Nelson Oct. 27 -- examines the rise of the homosexual movement, the path to same-sex marriage, the emergence of transgenderism, and the sexual revolution’s imperilment to religious liberty. More...

    “I am confronted daily with Christians who are asking one of the most basic questions and that is, ‘How did this happen?’” Mohler said in an interview with the seminary’s Southern News, noting he wrote the book to provide clear answers. “I think Christians are living with a kind of moral emergency they sense and see about them. And it’s not just what they see on the headlines and on the Twitter feeds. It’s what they hear from their kids and it’s what they see in their own neighborhood and it’s what they might see in their own church.”


    Mohler writes in his book that the cultural acceptance of contraceptives, no-fault divorce, reproductive technologies, and extramarital sex paved the way for same-sex marriage.


    “Long before same-sex marriage was on the moral horizon, many of us were making clear that the divorce revolution was one of the central engines of the breakdown of marriage as an institution,” Mohler said. “You can have heterosexual divorce without legalizing same-sex marriage, but you really can’t legalize same-sex marriage until you’ve passed the moral threshold of normalizing divorce.”


    Mohler elaborated further on the need for evangelicals to be consistent on the issue, saying: “The Bible’s message is not that some forms of sexual expression other than marriage are wrong, but that all forms of sexual expression outside of marriage are wrong.”


    Although the Supreme Court ruled in the 5-4 Obergefell v. Hodges decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Mohler insists the nation’s highest court will one day be held accountable by the court of “divine judgment” for legalizing what he regards as a moral fiction. In his book, he penned a special “Word to the Reader” following the court’s June 26 decision, calling for Christians “to speak the truth in love” and “to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives.”


    “The biblical worldview explains that the fallen human reason will demonstrate itself in sinful irrationality. And even though same-sex marriage is, biblically speaking, not possible, in terms of human culture it is now possible. It was thinkable and now it’s, at least in terms of a legal reality, actual. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that it actually exists,” Mohler said in the interview.


    In the months before the Supreme Court’s historic ruling, celebrity Bruce Jenner brought transgenderism to the forefront of the cultural conversation with the announcement of his gender transition. Yet Mohler, writing in his book several months before Jenner’s declaration, said the transgender revolution has arrived and presents enormous challenges for evangelicals. He nevertheless insists those theological and pastoral challenges are not beyond the sufficiency of Christ’s death and resurrection.


    “Over 20 years ago, I made the prediction that the transgender revolution would be far greater and more devastating in its effects, more potent in terms of its moral confusion, more complex when it comes to its pastoral challenge than homosexuality and even same-sex marriage,” Mohler said. “The transgender revolution goes right to the heart of what it means to be human beings made in the image of God, and whether or not our bodies are part of God’s intention for us and also reflect His glory and His purpose for us.”


    Mohler said the book’s subtitle, “Speaking Truth To A Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, And The Very Meaning Of Right And Wrong,” indicates how the sexual revolution has “denied the fact that we can know the truth” by means of divine revelation.


    Furthermore, the success of this revolution has imperiled religious liberty. Mohler, who recently received the Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from Alliance Defending Freedom, said Christians must not only demonstrate “compassionate conviction” to the culture but prioritize expository preaching.


    “We cannot be silent, but that’s because He is not silent,” said Mohler, invoking the title of his earlier book on preaching, “He Is Not Silent.” “And not only has God spoken and revealed Himself in his Word but He has called out preachers to preach that Word and assigned the responsibility to every Christian to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us,” Mohler said.


    We Cannot Be Silent is available for preorder and will be in stores Oct. 27. For more information, go to: www.WeCannotBeSilent.com .


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    Rethinking Small

    Ed Stetzer, The Exchange

    Rethinking Small

    Many American Christians have this idea that if a church is big, it must be better. Not necessarily. Our obsession with “bigness” can be a reflection of American values rather than biblical ones—size is not necessarily the best measurement of church health.


    Is it sometimes OK for churches to be small? Absolutely. But before I give you three questions that can show if your small church is healthy, here are three questions that demonstrate when it is not OK for a church to stay small. More...

    A Small, Unhealthy Church

    Is your church staying small even when the community around you is growing?

    There is really no excuse for this. Every church in America has unchurched or de-churched people in its neighborhood. As the people of God, on mission with God, we are called to spread the good news and make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).


    Scripture reminds us that we are called to water and plant while recognizing that the actual growth is God’s business (1 Cor. 3:6). Let’s not blame our lack of growth on God’s will if we are not planting and watering in the first place.


    Is your church staying small because you refuse to engage the culture around you?

    According to our research in Transformational Church, the healthiest churches are those actively seeking to understand and invest in their communities. Some churches have built a bubble around themselves as protection from the world. Sadly, these churches refuse to acknowledge that sin resides in their own hearts (Rom. 5:12), causing them to either implode or die out.


    Hasn’t Jesus called us to be kingdom witnesses in a dark and broken world (Matt. 5:16)? How can we do that if we don’t engage those around us?


    Is your church staying small because you love your fellowship but not the lost?

    Too many churches—whether 30 members or 3,000 members—are full of internally focused consumers primarily concerned about themselves. We should seek to cultivate intimate fellowship and care for one another in the church family. However, we have to be intentional about reaching out to those around us with the good news of Jesus.


    We need to strike a healthy balance between internal health and external reach. This means moving church members from customers to co-laborers by developing intentional strategies to train and launch people in missional living.


    A Small, Healthy Church

    Is your church staying small because you are in a small community but you are still faithfully engaging those around you?

    For churches in small towns it is quite possible to remain faithful and never experience rapid growth. Digging deep roots in one place builds a legacy of gospel persistence. Doesn’t Jesus compare God’s kingdom to a tiny mustard seed or a small amount of yeast (Matt. 13:31-33)? Like those, a steadfast and faithful small church can have an impact beyond its appearance.


    Remembering the lesson of planting, watering and growing, we should be encouraged that our task is to share persistently. Where there is little community growth, there may be little church growth, but that shouldn’t keep us from trying.


    Is your church staying small because you gather in a transient community but you are reaching new people?

    Persistent turnover is a reality for some smaller churches because of their location. Churches near universities and military bases almost have a new congregation every three to five years. Think of these small churches’ kingdom impact as they invest in and train students and soldiers before they are launched throughout the world.


    Small churches that recognize a calling in transient places focus on discipling those God has given them, knowing he will plant them somewhere else. These are healthy churches on mission for God’s glory.


    Is your church staying small because of your facility so you are using your resources for other things?

    A gripping section in Johnny Carr’s new book Orphan Justice describes the anguish of planning a $10 million building after visiting an orphanage where children were dying from starvation. The struggle eventually led him toward fully investing his life for orphans.


    Often, small churches may consider themselves unable to have large kingdom impact, believing size and resources limit them. However, smaller churches have more freedom to focus their time, energy and money toward caring for neglected neighbors, caring for children and supporting church plants—things close to God’s heart.


    Bigger is not necessarily better, but neither is smaller necessarily better. Small is not the goal. Let’s face it—a small church that reaches people becomes a larger church, and this is a good thing. Healthy churches grow and reproduce. We have many reasons to affirm small churches, but romanticizing them is unhelpful to the mission. So without idealizing the small church, let’s value it.


    Small churches are and have always been the norm. The rise of megachurches is a unique feature of late twentieth century American Christianity. Most likely, megachurches are not going away for years to come, so we need to remind ourselves of the value of smaller congregations. Many small churches are living on mission in their contexts, being about the business of God’s kingdom. Faithfulness and fruitfulness are more biblical measurements for church health, not church size.


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    What Happens When The Church Prays

    By Jim Cymbala, The Brooklyn Tabernacle

    Have you ever considered the implications of Christ’s startling words when He tells His disciples in John 15:5 "Apart from Me you can do nothing"? Are we really so spiritually helpless that nothing can be accomplished without God?


    My wife, Carol, and I made that discovery in the autumn of 1971 when the little inner-city New York church I was pastoring was struggling to keep the lights on. Carol and I had frankly admitted to each other that unless God broke through, the Brooklyn Tabernacle was doomed. We couldn’t finesse it along. We couldn’t organize, market and program our way out. The embarrassing truth was that sometimes I didn’t even want to show up for the service. And our weekly Tuesday night prayer meetings were sparsely attended and less than powerful. More...

    We had to have a visitation of the Holy Spirit, or bust.


    I remember praying, “Lord, I have no idea how to be a successful pastor. I haven’t been trained. All I know is that Carol and I are working in the middle of New York City, with people dying on every side, overdosing from heroin, consumed by materialism. If the Gospel is so powerful … .” I couldn’t finish the sentence.


    Quietly but forcefully, I sensed God speaking: If you and your wife will lead My people to pray and call upon My name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response.


    I knew I had heard from God, even though I hadn’t experienced some strange vision, nothing sensational or peculiar. God was simply focusing on the only answer to our situation—or anybody else’s for that matter.


    The next Sunday, I came back to the church and told the tiny congregation, “I really feel that I’ve heard from God about our church’s future. From this day on, the prayer meeting will be the barometer of our church. … If we call upon the Lord, He has promised in His Word to answer, to bring the unsaved to Himself, to pour out His Spirit among us. If we don’t call upon the Lord, He has promised nothing. No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer.”


    In the weeks that followed, answers to prayer became noticeable. Unsaved relatives and total strangers began to show up. There were junkies, prostitutes and homosexuals. But lost lawyers, business types and bus drivers turned to the Lord there, too. We started to think of ourselves as a “Holy Ghost emergency room” where people in spiritual trauma could be rescued.


    I knew that a lot of churches gave lip service to the idea that God can do anything But we needed to have real faith that anyone who walked in, regardless of his or her problems, could become a trophy of God’s grace.


    Breakthrough Prayer

    The story of our church’s growing dependence on Christ is such a vivid reminder to me of how God uses praying believers to draw the lost to Himself.


    As someone who’s spent more than 25 years pastoring a church, I have seen many new believers repeatedly make futile attempts at victorious living in their own strength. But as they mature spiritually, they start to see their need for divine assistance and are driven to a deeper prayer life.


    Unfortunately, when it comes to evangelistic outreach, we often overlook this discipline. We discount the truth that for us to be effective in our efforts to expand Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Holy Spirit’s power must be our source.


    Do we really believe that God can bring anyone to Himself?


    Carol and I have seen countless lives transformed through prayer at our church, but several years ago in answer to believers’ prayer, Ricardo Aparicio—known on the street as “Sarah”—walked into our doors and our lives.


    The whole outreach that touched this man was born in prayer. At our church, most ministries do not begin with a bright idea in a pastors’ meeting. Over the years, we’ve learned to let God birth something in people who are spiritually sensitive, who begin to pray and feel a calling. Then they come to us and say, “We want to start this ministry.”


    Several years ago, a fellow named Terry and some others in our church grew concerned for the subculture of male prostitutes that flourishes on Manhattan’s Lower West Side in a place called the “salt mines,” where the city keeps salt for deicing streets. Living in abandoned vehicles or subterranean cavities, many dress in drag and offer themselves to customers who drive by.


    Our outreach team began to bring food and blankets on Saturdays. Although these men made considerable money, most squandered it on drugs, which left them scavenging garbage cans and dumpsters for food.


    To feel compassion for these guys, to understand their wretched life, was extremely difficult. Our church prayed fervently on Tuesday nights for love, compassion and protection for them.


    One Sunday, our outreach team got in vans and brought 27 of the men to our afternoon service. After the service, I met Ricardo. Walking down the center aisle, I bumped into an attractive woman in a black dress, with blond, shoulder-length hair, nicely done nails, black stockings and high heels.


    “Excuse me, ma’am,” I said.


    She turned … and this low voice with a heavy Spanish accent replied, “No, that’s OK, man.”


    Terry later told me that Ricardo was one of the main troublemakers who introduced young kids to crack cocaine and prostitution. He’d been plying his trade for at least 10 years, and the dreariness was finally getting to him.


    Over the next few weeks, Ricardo sat in our meetings, where it dawned on him that maybe he could be different, that this Jesus he was hearing about could actually set him free from crack and this lifestyle. He kept listening, and after about a month, he gave his heart to the Lord.


    I will never forget the Tuesday night we introduced him to the congregation. He stood before us, a bit shy, in male clothing. His blond hair had been cut, and dark roots were now growing out. His nail polish had been chipped off. The congregation couldn’t help but cheer and praise God.


    Ricardo’s story has been evidence to me and our church of what God will do in response to fervent prayer. No one is beyond His grace. No situation, anywhere on Earth, is too hard for God.


    A Praying Church

    I have seen countless churches that desire to reach their communities for Christ execute strategy after strategy only to see their efforts fail miserably. Our churches today need less clever talk and more dependence on the invisible, convicting power of the Holy Spirit as they share the Gospel. When a church prays, the presence of God rests upon it and affects believers and unbelievers alike.


    It’s exactly how corporate prayer coupled with a simple Gospel appeal yielded such a vast spiritual harvest in the early Church: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14). Soon after, the apostle Peter preached his first sermon with these results: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’… and about 3,000 were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:37, 41).


    Peter’s fishing trade didn’t really prepare him for public speaking. No doubt, his sermon was no oratorical masterpiece, but God’s invisible power transformed his simple words into fiery arrows that pierced the hearts of the crowd that day.


    Are you and I seeing the results Peter did? Are we bringing thousands of men and women to Christ? If not, we need to get back to this fisherman’s power source—our greatest need today in churches. We’re overloaded with organizational machinery, Bible translations and sophisticated media techniques, and we’re lacking the Holy Spirit’s power and presence as we proclaim Christ’s message.


    Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, “We are not New Testament Christians if we don’t have a prayer life.” Granted, this conviction may make us squirm a little, but how else will we see God break through to our churches and the people around us?


    Prayer and Power

    Throughout Scripture, you see this link between sincere, believing prayer and God’s power on earth. Remember the Church’s reaction when King Herod arrested Peter and planned to execute him? For those of us dealing with the challenges of evangelism that are so prevalent in the so-called “post-Christian” era, the first-century account packs quite a punch.


    Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”


    What were the believers doing when Peter was arrested? A steady stream of prayer ascended to God from a desperate church as Peter lay chained in a Jerusalem dungeon. The night before his mock trial, God responded to the fervent petitions of His people: “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell” (Acts 12:7).


    It’s a beautiful picture of the invisible side of outreach when God works with His people. Something from heaven suddenly appeared. No human power could manufacture or organize it. It was something from heaven, and I’m convinced it can still happen today when our churches pray.


    The angel struck Peter on the side and “woke him up.” Isn’t this what all our outreach efforts are geared toward today? Don’t we desperately want to awaken the lost from their “sleep”? That’s what the Psalmist prayed to God for—to “come down” and awaken men and women to what really matters in life.


    The story ends on a victorious note: “The chains fell off Peter’s wrists” (Acts 12:7). Peter—a chained prisoner guarded by four soldiers—was set free by almighty God in answer to the petition of a group of praying believers who couldn’t get within 100 yards of the man.


    I’ve seen how God can still break chains today—drugs, pornography, compulsive immoral relationships, alcohol abuse. The Holy Spirit alone has brought “something from heaven” that illumines, awakens and liberates people God loves.


    To see people like Ricardo transformed into new creations, the invisible side of outreach—whether it’s the heartfelt cries of a wife in a one-bedroom apartment or the shouts of a congregation in a Tuesday night prayer meeting—is essential. It’s life-giving. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.


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