Important Things to Learn From the Antioch Church--Part 6
Oct 11, 2010 by Alex Mekonnen | 0 Comments
If you have been following my post for the last five months, by now, you have discovered the interesting and innovative features of the Antioch church which was launched as multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Christian community which became a great example to those who followed after them. This centrifugal church was enriched with gifted teachers and prophets, was blessed with leaders of different cultural and racial background, was strong in worship and was mission focused, and was also fervent in prayer. The Scripture says, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’. Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3).
Even though those who engaged in service were busy ministering, they did not give an excuse to neglect fasting and prayer. Their resolution to such kind of spiritual discipline reflects the depth of their hunger and thirst for spiritual intimacy with the savior. Early on, this church was convicted that it is only by abiding in Christ that they can bear much fruit. Busyness was not a mark of their success. In their theological mind, to be with Him was more important and essential before we go out for him. Hence, they were fasting and praying. Such kind of spiritual exercise makes us ready to obey and open our senses to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Holy Spirit spoke and the congregation listened. Without a hint of doubt and question Barnabas and Paul obeyed to the voice of the third person of the Trinity and gave their lives to the cause of mission.
Fasting and prayer can be a spiritual thermostat of a church or individuals. Both in the Old and the New Testament, in the lives of the prophets and Jesus Christ, we see the crucial place of fasting and prayer. In the words of E.M. Bounds, “Prayer is profoundly simple and simply profound.” It is profoundly simple because it doesn’t require human ingenuity. It can be done without uttering a word like Hannah, done by Elijah who was running for his life. It can be done in prison, in the belly of a whale, in the desert or from the top of a mountain. It can be done in the church or a temple or on our deathbed. Prayer is profound because it is as vast as God himself. It can encompass the universe and cover centuries of time. Because it is important God answers prayer. Because it is profound so many impossible things can be possible as a result of prayer. The dead have come to life, the blind have gained sight, the lames have walked, and the sick are healed through the power of prayer. Those who need the gospel have received preachers of the good news as the result of prayer. Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mt. 9:37-38). Even though none of the people who were in leadership position in Antioch church were physically present when Jesus said these words, we see them faithfully following the spiritual formula of sending laborers to the harvest. They prayed. The answer to their fasting and prayer, through the writings and life of Paul, is impacting us today and until Jesus comes back in glory. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer and assume to be effective in ministry.
In his book “Why Revival Tarries,” Leonard Ravenhill wrote this about prayer:
No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shopping window to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off.
Poverty-stricken as the church is today in many things, she is most stricken here in place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, few passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.” If most of us are not spending enough time in prayer including those on leadership positions, it is difficult to see the manifestation of God’s power in our midst as it happened in the book of Acts. So many actions without unction avails nothing. “We are constantly on stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything. Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men” (E.M Bounds 1976:11). We need people like Jabez, Daniel, Simon, Hanna, etc who understands the power of prayer. “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years. Again he prayed, the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17). I encourage you to go through the Scriptures and discover how God responded to an earnest and fervent prayer. The church in Antioch has grasped this truth and was practicing it. Their spiritual disciplines and theological convictions made huge contribution to the inward growth of the believers and to the outreach ministry of the church.