Mike Bickle explains the importance of today’s prayer movement
I am honored and challenged to be the guest editor of this issue of Ministry Today. It’s impossible to cover all the important elements and ministries the Holy Spirit is emphasizing right now regarding the prayer and worship movement. But in this issue we seek to highlight some of what is happening, why it is important, and how it will strengthen the church’s efforts in evangelism, world missions and in establishing local congregations.
In this hour of history God is raising up a worship-based prayer movement as the leading edge of a youth-led missions thrust that will reach all nations with the power of the gospel as it invades every sphere of society with the presence of God’s kingdom. This massive movement involves people from all around the world, in many different congregations, ministries and denominations.
The Lord led me to focus on building an evangelical missions organization based on night-and-day prayer and led by worship teams serving 24/7. For the past 12 years our missions base, the International House of Prayer, has continued nonstop in worship and prayer.
Just telling our societies that Jesus is what they need isn’t enough
In the current vitriolic and polarizing culture-war atmosphere, a Sermon on the Mount emphasis of giving mercy, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and forgiving “70 times seven” would serve the cause of Christ far better than an angry stance that smacks of, “We’re Christians and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Recently I was at a stoplight, and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that read: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” The statement is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Of course it’s overstated and far too much of a glaring generalization. But I find little comfort in that.
When I saw that bumper sticker, I wanted to get out of my car, walk up to the driver and apologize. I wanted to say something like: “I know. We have been far too unlike our Christ. Please forgive us.”
We live in a world where much is wrong. And what is most wrong with the world is not the politics or the economy or who happens to be living in the White House. What is most wrong with the world is the human heart.
The greed and pride and lust of the human heart are the epicenter of all that is wrong with the world. We should realize this by now.
As followers of Christ, we are not so much called to know the answer or preach the answer as much as we are called to be the answer. This is how we are salt and light (also found in the Sermon on the Mount). We are to model the answer by being Christ-like in a Caesar-like world. This is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
The narrow (and difficult) way of the Golden Rule demands that we consider and not use others. The Golden Rule of considering others by giving them love, respect and mercy is the narrow gate that leads to salvation. Not because this is how salvation is earned, but because this is how salvation islived.
Using other people as objects to satisfy our self-centered agenda is absolutely the highway to hell—it is the kind of life that leads to the utter and final ruin of the human soul. When creatures created in the image of God cooperate with sin and Satan to use other image-bearing creatures as objects to satisfy their own greed and lust, they conspire to erase the image of God from their own souls. This is what Jesus is trying to save us from in teaching us the narrow way of the Golden Rule.
This is the Sermon on the Mount—to choose the Christ-like way of giving over the Caesar-like way of taking. To give mercy to the undeserving. To forgive the offender. To turn the other cheek to the enemy. To go the extra mile with the oppressor. To give the cloak to the scoundrel. To give cheerfully to the beggar. To forgive again and again. Seventy times seven.
This is the narrow way that Christ invites us to follow Him on. It is a hard and difficult way. But because it is Christ who invites us to follow, it is also possible.
Above all, it is the way that leads to life. Do we dare believe this? To be Christians means that we do believe this. And not only do we believe it; we live it. We live it in community with others who share our faith in Jesus Christ. Even more significantly, we live it in fellowship with the One who promised to never leave us or forsake us and to be with us on the narrow road to the end of the age.
Brian Zahnd is pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and the author of What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life and the new Unconditional? (Charisma House) from which this article is taken.
The auditorium was jam-packed with visitors for a dead man—my father, in fact. Students, teachers, engineers, taxi drivers, businessmen, nurses ... all lined up to pay their respects to a fallen hero. Hundreds came to the memorial service, with more waiting outside amid an overflow of familiar faces. All this for a simple music teacher.
In the last several years I have witnessed at least two astounding miracles where Christian ministries have experienced a literal rebirth.
The first is a doctrinal miracle. The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934, reexamined its doctrines and practices after Armstrong's death in 1986. This led to a complete theological reformation to Christian orthodoxy in the 1990s. Today, no longer viewed as a cult, the denomination has changed its name to Grace Communion International and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In my view, this is nothing short of a miracle. Almost always throughout history, the drift of denominations over time is away from biblical orthodoxy. But the Worldwide Church of God was captured by grace and took a radical turn out of darkness and into the light.
There's a second, even more recent miracle where a ministry has experienced a genuine resurrection. This is the financial miracle experienced recently by Oral Roberts University (ORU). Two years ago ORU was drowning in a quagmire of a $55 million debt. Millions were owed in current bills. Added to this crisis were high-profile accusations and lawsuits filed by former faculty, the resignation of the second president, and a general malaise that had gripped many students, faculty and staff.
But all that has changed - and changed dramatically. The generosity of a missions-hearted family from Oklahoma City erased almost all of the University's debt. Alumni giving is now at an all-time high. Student morale has soared. Millions of dollars have been poured into campus renovations. And a new, capable and godly president, Mark Rutland, is pointing ORU toward a bright future and its greatest impact ever.
ORU has played an important role in my family. I have been privileged to know Oral Roberts, his wife, the late Evelyn Roberts and their family since I was in high school. Both of my sisters received their undergraduate degrees from ORU. One sister met her husband there. Although my undergraduate degree is from another outstanding Christian university, I was humbled to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from ORU in 1988.
Growing up in Tulsa I watched with joyful amazement as an evangelist's colossal faith was translated into the construction of innovative, futuristic buildings and a bustling hub of worldwide ministry. Now, four decades later, it's thrilling to sense the same excitement that permeated the campus in those early years returning to ORU.
In 1967, as a teenage preacher, I attended the dedication of ORU. My young heart pounded with vision as I witnessed the two greatest evangelists of that era, Billy Graham and Oral Roberts, standing together at the zenith of their strength. I will always remember how Billy Graham, in his dedicatory address, charged the new institution to be forever faithful to its commitment to world evangelization.
Fast-forward 42 years. Last month I stood in ORU's Christ's Chapel. As today's ORU students exit the chapel, they read again the directive the Lord gave Oral Roberts at the university's founding: "Raise up your students to hear My voice, to go where My light is seen dim, My voice is heard small, and My healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth." That is Great Commission language and a clear, missional vision.
The next day I attended Rutland's inauguration as the third President of ORU. I drank in the historic importance of the moment as the 91-year-old founder, Oral Roberts, laid his hands on the new president and pronounced blessing over Rutland and the university Roberts' faith had birthed.
Oral Roberts was a towering figure of the 20th century. We have much to learn from his life and legacy. In a few years we will begin to understand just how much we owe him. I am convinced that his fiercely focused faith, in the university's darkest hours, simply would not permit ORU to die. Like the patriarchs of old, he was human and therefore (like all of us) imperfect. But also like the patriarchs of antiquity, he shaped history by his faith and his clear vision of an all-sufficient, conquering Christ.
At the investiture of Rutland, the ORU combined choirs and orchestra performed the majestic "Hallelujah" from Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives. The powerful strains of triumph filled the air:
Hallelujah unto God's almighty Son!
Let your heart rejoice today. God still performs miracles. Hallelujah unto God's almighty Son!
David Shibley is founding president of Global Advance, a Dallas-based ministry that provides on-site training and resources for some 40,000 developing world church and business leaders each year. His latest book, co-authored with his son, Jonathan, is Marketplace Memos.
A few months ago my pastor asked me to preach on a Sunday he was away on vacation. I’m not a preacher and knew several others who would’ve been better substitutes. But I also knew the Lord had been sharing with me something I felt would help our congregation, so I said yes.
Early in the movie Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce sits in a field of wet grass enthralled with finding God in the intricacy of a spider’s web. The legendary abolitionist is in his early 20s and on the cusp of political stardom, yet at the time he’d gladly give up his career aspirations just to “meet in secret” with God. Wherever he turns—from feeding beggars who arrive at his doorstep to staring at the passing clouds—the young Wilberforce finds himself lost in worship. And it’s from this disposition that he embarks on a journey that eventually shapes world history.