Reaching out by Reaching up…
Another year has come and gone and we find ourselves looking towards the future - 2016. No one knows for sure what the New Year will bring but we know the One who holds the future in his hands. As we look back there are some fantastic memories personally and corporately that we have experienced. Pastor Becky and I were driving home from our daughter’s wedding and we were thanking God for his grace on our children, Kim and Tiffany. We were talking about the many blessings God has shown us over the years past and present; how he has provided and healed and directed our lives. We have had many New Years together and can honestly say God has been good is so many ways to our family. In the same breathe we held hands while driving back to Saskatoon, talking and sharing not only about the awesome blessings but the challenges as well. We prayed for God to help us find his strength for the future. That is what New Years is all about. A time to reflect with God and each other and move forward. We can’t live in the past or the future but only in the present. In one sense we need to forget what lies behind and press on towards what is ahead (Phil 3:13-14). In another sense, we must “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18).
As we were praying and thinking about 2016 I mentioned my desire to start the New Year with a message on prayer. Becky was thinking about Stephen’s Backpacks and how to continue to minister to those children and families in need. She then said, “we need to continue to reach out evangelistically while reaching up to God prayerfully.” I said thank you - this is our New Years Message for 2016.
Mission, Vision and Values
This little phrase - “reaching out by reaching up” - stuck with me as we drove home and I began to think about how similar this is to our Mission Statement. Over the years I believe God has directed us to discover and solidify our Mission, Vision and Values. Many people past and present in Courts of Praise have laboured and prayed into these three key areas:
- Mission Statement - (Who We are) - “Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams”
- Vision Statement - (What we aspire to be) - “We are becominga grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.”
- Values - (What drives us) - Here are our values in brief. Intimacy with God, we value people, we value servanthood, we value stewardship, we value a team approach to ministry, we value spiritual gifts, we value His church in the community, we value corporate family gatherings, and we value the corporate Body of Christ…
Apprehending God’s Heart speaks to me of “reaching up” to touch the person of God in all his glory and majesty. Fulfilling His Dreams speaks to me of “reaching out” to touch the people God created for his glory; reaching out and reaching up compliment each, just as our Mission Statement does. Evangelism without prayer is a sail without the wind. Prayer without evangelism is like the wind with no sail. We need the power of prayer to sustain ongoing evangelism. This is what many call “prayer evangelism.”
Over the past few months we started teaching the topics under the statement of “Fulfilling His Dreams.” The first series was about Jesus being a friend and Saviour to sinners. The main idea behind Jesus being a friend of sinners is that of our Father in heaven “reaching out” with love. It was God’s desire to “demonstrate his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). This amazing Scripture highlights to us the importance of reaching out to those who do not know God personally as a friend. We have partnered with Stephen’s Backpacks as one ongoing means to reach out with the good news. In 2016 we will continue to seek the Lord for his strategies to share God’s love with those around us. In the months ahead we will discover and develop our personal gifts and talents that will aid us a community in reaching out with God’s love to our family and friends.
What is the Westminster Catechism? The Westminster Catechism is a form of teaching to instruct the church and was written in 1646 and 1647 by the Westminster Assembly, a group of English and Scottish theologians and laymen. Their desire was to bring a greater unity between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. The teachings are in the form of a question and answer. The first question being - “What is the chief end of man?” The answer - “Man's chief end is to glorify God,and to enjoy him forever.” This speaks to me of reaching up to apprehend and enjoy and experience God’s heart. The enjoyment of God often comes after times of seeking and prayer.
What is “prayer evangelism?”
I believe prayer evangelism is a “joining” in which God moves in the hearts and lives of yet-to-be-followers of Christ in response to the earnest prayers of believers then follow by acts of evangelism directed by God. God is looking for those who will pray for the salvation of souls before his throne. Jesus is our example for this kind of prayer. The day before he was crucified, He said to the Father, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…” (John 17:20). Just imagine for a moment of being with Jesus as he prayed this prayer. Jesus was bringing you and I before his Father in heaven that we might believe in the Good News.
- Paul was moved to pray for his people: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites, is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).
- The Scriptures urge us to make “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving . . . for everyone,” with the understanding that, “God our Saviour . . . wants all [persons] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1–4). Prayer for the salvation of the people is the fuel for Fulfilling His Dreams - salvation for everyone.
- Lets go back to John’s Gospel - John 14:12-14. In the previous verses the disciples were anxious over Jesus’ words of his death and resurrection. He assured them that they would do “even greater things than these because I am going to the Father… And I will do whatever you ask in my name. . .” You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. Christ acts in response to our prayers; this is a spiritual benefit of following God.
We know that prayer is a biblical and obedient response to following Jesus Christ. We know that prayer is also powerful because we seek and pray to a powerful God! We know that we combining prayer with evangelism we are aligning ourselves rightly with heavens protocol. There are several reasons why combining prayer with evangelistic efforts produces great results.
- Prayer changes things… it can change history. Just look at Moses or Esther as examples. Or how about the church in Acts 1… then Acts 2…
- Praying for others transforms the person praying… earnestly praying for others touches our heart with God’s love for them. What I’ve found is that the more I prayed for pre-followers of Christ, the more I cared and the more I cried. Prayer doesn’t just change things, it changes people especially the people who pray.
- Prayer is relational… with God and each other. When I came to Christ I became friends with those who prayed for me. Prayer and intercession builds relational bridges that connect people in God’s love. Prayer softens the hearts of both saints and sinners.
- Prayer evangelism is easy and do-able. I can pray for pre-Christians in all kinds of circumstances; alone or in a small group or with my whole church. I can pray for anyone, friends, family, neighbours, or coworkers. Prayer for the sake of evangelism is simply a matter of talking to God about the “lost sheep” who are all around us. Opportunities are everywhere.
Here are a couple of contemporary prayer veterans:
William Booth - the Founder of the Salvation Army
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in England. One of the most effective weapons in General Booth's arsenal was fervent prayer. It was not unusual for Booth to hold "an all night of prayer" when he came to preach the Word of God. General Booth's battle cry was “Go for souls and go for the worst.” The worst of sinners were saved, saloons were closed and entire cities were shaken.
Once while traveling, General Booth's car was detained. He took advantage of the opportunity and exhorted some idle factory workers. He said, "some of you men never pray, you gave up praying long ago. But I'm going to say to you, won't you pray for your children that they may be different?" Within minutes 700 men knelt in silent prayer.
At another time, two Salvation Army officers set out to found a new work, only to meet with failure and opposition. Frustrated and tired they appealed to the General to close the rescue mission. General Booth sent back a telegram with two words on it, "TRY TEARS." They followed his advice and they witnessed a mighty revival.
During the course of William Booths ministry he traveled 5,000,000 miles and preached 60,000 sermons. William Booth’s advice was simple - “Work as if everything depended upon your work, and pray as if everything depended upon your prayer.”
Aimee Semple McPherson
Aimee Semple McPherson, also known as Sister Aimee, was a Canadian/American Los Angeles based evangelist in the 1920s and 1930s who founded the International Foursquare Church. She was known for illustrated sermons and phenomenal healings. One of the greatest behind the scenes miracles was her prayer life. She prayed privately for an audience of one and publicly for tens of thousands. In one crusade in San Diego a twenty foot refrigerator in her hotel was even used as a prayer room when local churches could not handle the overflow for prayer.
Another time she took prayer to a new level of innovation. While attending a small church in Canada she noticed that there were only a few people in attendance. With great creativity she grabbed a chair and ran out into the streets. She stood still on the chair and simply looked to the heavens and prayed. After twenty minutes or so of motionless prayer she jumped off of the chair and yelled, “Follow me”. She ran into the church and a great crowd followed her. She had the doors closed and then she began preaching with tremendous results.
Both of these “prayer warriors” had hearts burdened for the lost. They felt the heart of God for the lost and would go to great lengths in prayer and evangelism. Their burden led them to persevere under serious challenges; persecutions, criticism, sickness and spiritual warfare.
I believe that it is God’s desire to fulfill his prophetic words, biblically and prophetically over Courts of Praise. We were recently encouraged by our Unit Supervisor Johanne Spencer to “stretch our our tents and lengthen the cords” (Isa 54:2). The exhortation was to “REACH OUT” to the yet-to-be Christians. We will and have reached out to those needing Jesus. We are looking to work through Stephen’s Backpacks through out the year sharing God’s love with those in need; one potential opportunity being working with refugees.
As we take evangelism to heart we must also “REACH UP” and draw near to God. Something happens when people pray, especially for unsaved persons in their spheres of influence. Ed Silvoso wrote a book called “Prayer Evangelism”. In his book he describes the world wide prayer movement highlighting the powerful changes taking place in the Church. There are prayer meetings that are transforming the people praying. It is his belief that evangelism was so powerful in the Early Church because of prayer; united, passionate, desperate, tearful, fearful, faithful, loving and persistent prayer.
In 2016 we want to “REACH OUT” BY “REACHING UP.”
We will be joining with Foursquare Canada for our week of prayer and fasting starting January 11th - 17th (Monday to Sunday), ending our fast with our monthly Pot of Blessing.
We want to encourage you to come to church weekly with your praise reports and prayer requests for the encouragement of this church community.
There is a weekly prayer meeting on Wednesdays at the church… ladies and men come and join us.
Let’s continue to reach out practically to our pre-Christian families and friends.
Let’s continue to reach out as a church community through our various evangelist endeavours…