I well remember being away in the Lake District with a group of leaders who represented most of the large denominations, streams, and ministries in the UK. We had gathered to see the unveiling of the latest church trends research. There was plenty to be concerned about, particularly amongst young people and young adults, but also some encouragement, in that the vast majority of growth and impact was being given through evangelicals who believed the Bible was the word of God, and that mission needed to happen in the power of the Spirit – I could almost hear the scales falling from some people’s eyes! What a shock that the best way to kill a denomination is to have a low view of scripture, go liberal and not obey the scriptures and avoid engaging consistently and contagiously in mission to make Jesus known.
After the presentation, a heated debate followed about what was the best strategy to see the decline reversed. Was it micro or mega church or something in between? Mass evangelism or one-on-one etc. However, the contribution that stuck with me the most was from Pastor Agu who heads up the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a black-majority denomination. He simply said, ‘All we do is pray and fast and preach the gospel.’ The key thing about his contribution is that I think it’s fair to say that RCCG have planted more churches in the UK than anyone else in recent times.
For someone who is used to spending a fortune on large scale evangelism, it was quite a challenge. Do I really need to spend nearly 2 million pounds on bands, fun fairs and extreme sports zones etc on what we are calling Festival Manchester, or could I see as many disciples made by just stepping up in praying, fasting and proclamation, saving loads of money and heartache at the same time? Here is what I have decided… It’s ok to spend large amounts of money, stepping out to do huge faith-filled things that one church or ministry could never pull off on their own; but when you do that don’t expect to see lasting fruit unless you use it to also step up in prayer, fasting and proclamation. God has ordained us to use the humility of prayer and the foolishness of preaching to advance his kingdom and lead people to salvation in Christ and we must be very careful not to think we can do it any other way.
So whether it’s something on the scale of Festival Manchester, where prayer is foundational, and bold, unashamed proclamation will be happening everywhere or whether it’s personal evangelism springing from our time in an Advance group, let’s make sure prayer, fasting, preparation and biblical preaching underpin what we do and who we are.
In my office, where I am writing this blog, I have a pair of scissors that a friend presented to me after a talk I gave on keeping mission and prayer hot in our nation. I said back then that the only way we would see our nation changed and transformed for Jesus was through prayer and mission like two blades of a pair of scissors cutting through. If we just focus on prayer, we are likely to get a bit pious and introverted, yet if we just focus on mission, we will likely be powerless and see very little cutting through into people’s hearts.
So, what would it look like for us to get more intentional about prayer and fasting and sharing the good news in words? Step up in these areas and stand back in awe at what God will do!
1. Is prayer and fasting a regular discipline in your own spiritual journey?
2. Why do you think so many Christians struggle to stay committed to the practice of prayer and fasting?
3. When was the last time you committed yourself to praying and fasting for your nation?