My wife and I are blessed to have 4 wonderful children, and with these children come messes. The bonus room in our home is a constant minefield of toys, books, puzzles, clothes….you name it! We are constantly asking our kids to at least pick up some of the mess. The other day we were picking up toys and putting them away, and we had big toys, little toys, and everything in between. As we were picking up I reminded the kids of an important point: make sure you put the big toys in the box first or they won’t fit.
This principle applies to ministry as well. If we don’t put the big things in the ministry box first they won’t happen. If you’re church is struggling it just might be because you have put all the small toys in the box first and now there’s no room for the big stuff. What are the big things that must come first?
In the book of Acts we see that if the church could do nothing else, they prayed. Prayer was the foundational ministry of the early New Testament Church; as a result, they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in a significant way. Prayer is not a pragmatic way to get God’s attention, it is the personal way we connect with God. Peace comes through prayer. Wisdom comes through prayer. God guides His church through prayer, and as we see in the book of Acts great power comes through prayer. Through prayer we tap into the power of God through the person of the Holy Spirit. Prayer was so important to the original Apostles that they asked the church to raise up deacons to serve widows so they didn’t get pulled away from it. One of the reasons Christians are so powerless is because we are so prayerless.
Acts 4:31 tells us….And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
God still shakes His church through fervent prayer! If your church is struggling pray….and pray….and pray….until God moves.
The second ministry the Apostles said in Acts 6 was essential for them was the ministry of preaching. Preaching is the bold proclamation of the Word of God. A Preacher is a messenger with a message. This message is a God-given, Holy Spirit empowered word specifically for a given people. This powerful ministry seems to be missing in our churches today. We have substituted the systematic bold proclamation of God’s Word with steps to a better life. Take one look at the messages of the New Testament and you realize this is not the gospel at all. If your church is struggling is the Word being preached with power? Pastor, are you studying to show yourself approved as a workman who does not need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15)? The original Apostles were Spirit filled men with a Spirit filled Christocentric message. Listen to what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth,
1 Corinthians 2:4-5….my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God
What an amazing passage! Paul said He was more interested in his messages being powerful than plausible! Preacher, is your message a powerful Spirit anointed word from God or simply a plausible systematic presentation of man’s supposed wisdom? We must get back to Spirit-filled passionate preaching of God’s Word! Without it the church is no different than the nearest psychologist’s office.
Christ gave us the one central mission of the church in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus said,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Of all the things Christ could have shared with the disciples before ascending back to Heaven after His resurrection He chose to say, “go and make disciples.” A disciple is a follower of Christ who is in a teaching relationship with another more mature Christian. Very simply, if we are not making disciples we are not carrying out God’s mission. To put it in simple terms if we don’t make disciples we cease to function as a church. We no longer exist for God’s design. That may seem harsh, but it’s true. It’s easy to focus on all the small stuff and fail to engage lost people in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities. Churches die because of a lack of disciple making fervor. This must drive all that we do. Fellowship gatherings, bible studies, and worship services have little meaning if we are unwilling to go and make disciples.
If we don’t put the big things in first they won’t fit in the box. Today, help your church to focus on these most important things. If we will pray, preach the word, and personally invite others into a relationship with Jesus Christ God will save people and the church will grow in number and in spirit. No formulas, just faithfulness. If we are faithful to put first what God puts first we will see fruit of His Spirit in and around us. Church, let’s get back to the basics!