Re:New Prayer Guide

Week 5: Renewal in the early church

Buckle up! The early church had wave after wave of renewal experiences. In a few short years everything changed for them...their geographic center - from Jerusalem to Rome; their ethnicity - from Jews to Greeks; their language - from Aramaic to Greek; their churches - from synagogues to houses; their transport – from walking to sailing; their leaders - from only men to men and women; their rules - from a gazillion to just four; their messiah – from future hope to present reality; their Holy Spirit – from episodic enablings to permanent residing; their mentality – from fearful self-preservation to triumphant missionary; their message - from Yahweh to Father, Son, and Spirit, and on and on. And we thought we’d seen change because we moved from the Stone Church to the new sanctuary in 1963!

 

Monday, November 21: New leaders take their place 

Pray for an openness to whatever the Spirit of God might like to do in you and through you.

 

Acts 2:7 “They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed.”

 

Recalling the Story:

On Pentecost day (about 7 weeks after the resurrection) the Holy Spirit filled the house where the believers were meeting and enabled them to speak in other languages so the foreign Jews could understand them in their own languages. After a crowd gathered and accused them of being drunk, Peter preached a message about Jesus’ death and resurrection that pierced their hearts. Peter gave them the essence of the good news: repent, turn to God, be baptized in Jesus’ name, and receive the Holy Spirit. Three thousand were baptized and joined the church that very same day! No membership classes?!?

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. Since Jesus had always been the one preaching and teaching, how hard must it have been for the disciples to lead without Jesus being there?

  2. Thinking beyond finances and beyond prayer, can you envision yourself stepping into a new place of ministry, one for which you might feel unprepared?  

 

Pray that some around you might be amazed at what happens next in your life as you find ways to tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

 

Tuesday, November 22: New people are invited by new people

Pray, asking God for a new mental image of yourself sharing about the Lord Jesus. Ask him to give you new eyes to see people in their need and a new enthusiasm to share.

 

Acts 11: 19b-20 “They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus.”

 

Recalling the Story:

The big question facing the early church was if all Jesus-followers had to be Jews, like them. Was Christianity going to be another Jewish subset, like the Pharisees, or a new thing open to all? Peter had his awakening moment when he saw the vision of “unclean” food. And then here in chapter 11 it gets even wilder when some unnamed “believers,” rather than the apostles, went to Antioch and told the gentiles the good news. This was a breakthrough development because the spreading of the good news was being done by “normal” people, not just the apostles. Both the scope and the preaching was globalized...anyone could preach to anyone anywhere!

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. Much of Spring Arbor’s history hinges on a group of lay persons (like in Acts 11) who made a financial offer to E.P. Hart to help establish a Free Methodist school in Spring Arbor. What would it take for you to be one of the lay persons who steps forward to help write the next chapter in the history of our community and church? 

  2. Might there be a student, at the University across the street, with whom you would enjoy connecting? Can you think of any way to begin a friendship with one or more students?  

 

Pray that God’s Spirit might stir your heart toward new adventures with Him. New people. New places. New friends.

 

Wednesday, November 23: New places are reached

Pray to think of The Arbor Church, not just as a place you go to, but also as the group that sends you out into ministry.

 

Acts 13: 5 “There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God.”

 

Recalling the Story:

The same church, that yesterday we saw started in Antioch, became the church that sent out the first missionaries; Paul, Barnabas (his given name was Joseph), and John Mark. The whole rest of the book is going to be telling the story of the expansion of the church toward Greece and then Rome. But the first place they visited was Cypress, Barnabas’ home island!

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. If they had instead first preached in the town of Pepperonis, maybe they would have invented pizza! (Ha! Get it, Salamis, Pepperonis??)

  2. If going to a new place seems out of reach, what about just connecting with new people at The Arbor Church by sitting in a different part of the sanctuary and exiting out a different door? You’ll make new friends!

  3. Can you deduce who their target audience was, given that they preached first in the synagogues (see also verses 14 and 46)? Any good reasons they might have chosen them?

 

Pray (and fast?) for God to send you as a missionary to another place, even if, like Barnabas, it begins on your home island and with your own people.

 

Thursday, November 24: (it’s Thanksgiving!) A new culture is targeted 

Pray today, giving thanks for those who shared the gospel of Jesus with you and also for the people with whom you have shared the gospel. Enter the day with a spirit of joyful thanksgiving!

 

Acts 19:21b ”And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!”

 

Recalling the Story:

The third phase of the early church begins here. Paul had been in Ephesus for two years. The ministry was going very well. In spite of that, Paul felt he must renew his focus and must go to Rome, with a layover on the way in Jerusalem. Paul was deciding to take the gospel to the dominant culture, the rulers of the western world. 

But this meant a slowdown in fruitfulness as he tried to figure out how to present the good news to this new people group. There were no new converts or miracles from here, 19:21 until the final chapter of the book. A whole third of the book of Acts and there were no converts or miracles in it! As is often the case, retooling for a new job or ministry involves a time of trying to find a new vocabulary and understand the places of pain in the new culture before you can again hit your stride.

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. What factors can you imagine that Paul might be considering as he decides to leave the Greek world for the Roman world?

  2. Do you feel like you have any “unfinished ministry?” Any big thing that God may be leading you toward? Even if it’s not crystal clear, is there a sense that there is more you must do?

 

Pray you will have a sense of “I MUST.” Pray for a spiritual “bucket list.” Pray for the Spirit of God to inspire you toward a new horizon.

 

Friday, November 25: Now you write chapter 29

Pray that this day of sales and purchases might incite a desire in you for accomplishments more substantial and permanent. Pray that you might use your money for bigger purposes.

 

Acts 28:30-31 “For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.”

 

Recalling the Story: 

Unlike the gospels, which end with the exclamation point of Jesus’ triumph over the grave, the book of Acts ends with something like a semicolon; suggesting that the story will continue to be written. In Acts 28 Paul was a prisoner, shipwrecked, cold, wet, and snake-bit on the Island of Malta. By all appearances the trip was a disaster. But when the snakebite proved harmless the people proclaimed him a god and treated him with honor and supplies. Finally arriving in Rome, still a prisoner who had to pay for his own expenses, Paul tirelessly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

And there, Luke ends his telling of the story, the ending uncertain. The ending unwritten. Or perhaps better said, the ending yet to be written by people like us.

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. When the book is written about your life, what will the title be? 

  2. What act of significance can you do this week, to continue the writing of the story of God?

 

Pray that you may be considered worthy to sacrificially participate in the ongoing writing of the story of God’s gracious salvation offered through his Son, Jesus, the Christ.