Next Prayer Gathering – August 14th at Plymouth Heights CRC

Dear Church,

The church of greater Grand Rapids gathered in July – from nine congregations, and also representing as many ministries or prayer groups – unto God’s glory and bond of grace and peace.

Our next gathering is August 14th at Plymouth Heights CRC at the corner of Lotus and Griggs – Room 300 (Enter at the East side of the building up the stairs to the top floor (two sets of steps).

We have embarked in a season of crying out to God, and seeking His purpose – that the church of greater Grand Rapids will grow in unity, love, and power. We believe the Lord desires to bring healing and a restoration of the whole and complete body of Christ – so that together we can to proclaim the good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, bring sight to blind,  set free the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

We believe we are called to build a network among the prayer groups that are already established.  We want to cover the area pastors with prayer. We also are listening to the Lord, that He will give us a unified voice. We want to be praying in agreement, or in accord, with one another.

Please join us, if you can, or extend this invitation to another who you believe God may be calling to pray in accord for the city.

Your brother,

Mark

 

Africa’s Vision and Mission for America

Dear Church,

Christians throughout Africa have been praying for America . They know Christ, and His power, because of the faithful sacrifice of many missionaries over generations – mostly from Europe and America. Now, the tables appear to be turning – to the praise of God’s name!  As the world watches America falling into moral, social, and even economic chaos; the Church – particularly in Africa – is crying out to God for us. This is a work of God that is unfolding in our day.

This morning the following article from CBN caught my eye: “Capturing America’s Heart: A Third Great Awakening” that cites a South African pastor called to America to help bring an awakening. Here is the link to that article: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2014/May/Casting-a-Gospel-Net-Across-the-Nations-Heart/ .  I never realized that the Second Great Awakening was one of the things that lead to the Civil War – as Christians could no longer tolerate the great evil of slavery. Think about that in the context of a Third Great Awakening!

Last week my wife and I had the privilege of joining the One Cry (www.onecry.com) conference in Chicago. There were several testimonies of God’s work bringing unity and transformation across racial and denominational lines throughout the US: Reno, Cincinnati, Chicago, Ashville (NC), Midland (TX), South Bend, Muskegon, West Palm Beach, Bartow County (GA), Little Rock, and 22 college campuses.  In addition to this, we learned about the spiritual transformation that has been taking place throughout the nation of Uganda. This work of God that began among the Ugandans, then moved to Taiwan, and is now being focused on America. Why? Desperation! It was out of this desperation, that prayer began – but not by one church or denomination – but through a united prayer across many denominations. God showed the Ugandan’s that a spiritual transformation and revival has to come through a united body of Christ – bound by prayer.  

Several of you remember Bramuel Musya, a Kenyan missionary and evangelist, who has come to Grand Rapids a number of times – including preaching at Brown-Hutcherson Ministries last year. Bramuel is developing Oral Bible Schools in East Africa, starting in Kenya. Bramuel also has a burden for America. His ministry team prays regularly for America – and specifically One Church One City. Two years ago, a few of us (Baptist) were worshiping at Bramuel’s Church (Pentecostal) in Nairobi. The pastor was teaching on Acts 16 – no small coincidence – where Paul has a dream of a Macedonian man asking Paul to come help them. This lead to Christianity spreading to Europe. Bramuel and I had the same thought – the call of the African church to America. 

God is calling His people to pray. And out of prayer, He begins the work of transformation – reviving the church and then awakening he spiritually dead. Then what does He do? Apparently, he tears down the invisible walls that separate His Bride – worldwide: across race, class, and denomination. As Christians, we are being driven to repentance – replacing our pride with humility. Could it be that the stirring of God that has lead to One Church One City, is also working in every city in our nation? If this is true from Reno, Nevada – known for its moral depravity and even legal Brothels; to Grand Rapids, known by many as Little Jerusalem – but perhaps plagued with spiritual arrogance and pride – then it might also be true for all in between. 

Prayer is very hard work – but it is vital to breaking down the walls that divide the body of Christ. It is clear that a divided body of Christ is weak and ineffective in transforming culture in this day of evil. There is great hope and encouragement, however, from God through these pastors and leaders in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya – as well as many in the above places throughout America. This all began, and will continue, as Christians commit to a life of prayer – individually and together as families, congregations, groups of congregations, and cities. 

I watch and marvel as – on the one had I see at my own church, our pastors and prayer leaders are raising the focus of prayer – and on the other hand, seeing the same thing happening in many different cities and nations. Are you experiencing much the same?

Your brother,

Mark

Race, Revival, Repentance and Radical

Dear Church,

Mark Noll, in his book, “God and Race in American Politics” cites polling that confirms what we all know – that white evangelicals and black Protestants show the greatest polarization among any constituencies among the two political parties. Noll then points out, “In light of these dramatic partisan differences keyed to race and religion, it is pertinent to remember one more fact documented by a wealth of poling – that the two identifiable groups within the American populace standing closest to each other on questions of religious belief and moral practice are white evangelicals and black Protestants.”

What does this show to the world? It shows that we are not known for our love for one another (John 13). More importantly, however, is how this must grieve the Holy Spirit.

One Church One City (www.onechurchonecity.org) has sought to bring unity in the body of Christ starting with these two groups – united in belief and practice – but opposing each other on most social and political actions. While we differ in many areas – we have found that on the most important and fundamental matters of life and faith – the issue of race falls away, and we are drawn toward relationship with, and service to, one another. We continue to pray, and are eager to see where the Lord takes us.

As an answer to prayer for revival and unity, we recently heard of a national call for spiritual awakening – an initiative of Life Action Ministry (headquartered southwest of here in Buchanan, Michigan) – by the name of One Cry (www.onecry.com). We thank God for the heart of Randy Hekman and others associated with One Cry. Already, the resources and affiliations of One Cry are expanding our horizons. The composite of these works show that our moral chaos has reached levels like those that led to the great awakenings in our nation’s past. Now, as then, prophetic voices are crying up to God for a revival in the church and an awakening among the lukewarm and unbelieving.

As believers reach a point of total disgust as to the moral and social collapse about us – we are soon confronted with our sin and the need to repent. This will bring us to a new hunger for God’s word and prayer – all for the purpose of bringing glory to God – and to His call – which is unity. The One Cry call is likewise – TURN – PRAY – UNITE.

Personally, I am convicted in yet another area that I have been suppressing, but has been stirred up in me recently when I picked up a book by David Platt, “Radical – Taking back your Faith from the American Dream.” I set it aside a few years ago after reading a couple chapters – not ready to embrace it’s message. Now as I read it, I keep thinking that this will return us to the faith and practice – and power – of the church as described in Acts. Am I now ready to take up its message?

In an effort to simplify a very complex society and sickness we face today – these four R’s sort of popped up: Revival, Race, Repentance and Radical.

And so, as we anticipate the National Day of Prayer this Thursday, there is much to cry up to God for. Among these may include: Revival fueled by Repentance to bring us to Radical life in Christ – and uniting the church across race and other “tribal distinctions.”

Your brother,

Mark

 

One Church, One City, One Cry

Dear Church,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
This week, we became acquainted with the One Cry movement. This is a national initiative of Life Action Ministries that is responding to God’s call for awakening throughout the Church. It’s purpose is much the same as One Church One City – but with a vision for our nation – the many cities and regions that make up our country.
The Church in Reno, Nevada has embraced the One Cry. Last year about 700 people from nearly 300 churches gathered together to unite – as a collective voice seeking revival. It is exciting to the Church in cities like Reno, and Birmingham, Alabama and others uniting across denomination, practice, race and class – all to God’s Glory.
I found the following bullet points from Pastor Brent Brook (Reno Christian Fellowship) particularly insightful in addressing many of the same things that we are in Grand Rapids. I hope these help you as well. Please feel free to pass these on to your intercessors if you like. Also note the “tribe” reference that Mark Driscoll used in “Resurgence” – just another example of God moving to bring unity to His Bride:

·         Remember that each region has only one true church where Christ is Lord. (See Revelation 2 and 3). He has prayed that we be one to show the world that Jesus was sent by the Father (John 17).

·         Watch for the moves of the Spirit that are always going before. Keep your eyes, ears, heart, spirit open to what God is already doing around you.

·         God has always been going before you—look for the signs of convergence and God’s preparation

o   In your city

o   In your life

·         Find the intercessors and stay close to them

·         Start with relationships, not events

·         Remember people distrust and build theories about those they don’t know. These dissolve where there is relationship

·         Identify the various pastoral tribes in your community (in our case we have separate tribes for Evangelicals, Pentecostals, African-Americans, Hispanics)

·         Understand that each tribe has its own culture and tribal chieftains. Learn the cultures and know the chieftains.

·         Appreciate the tribal cultures. Remember Christ loves the whole Church despite their flaws, especially the flaws within your tribe.

·         Learn to be multicultural, working in more than one tribe. As long as we stay separate the Devil wins. When we are One the church will rally, the world will take notice, and the Devil will flee.

·         Find others who share your passion. Build a coalition team behind the scenes.  Don’t make the identity of this team public. If you do, then others will ask who put you in charge? Just work quietly together behind the scenes.  You’ll have allies working with you in each of the tribes.

·         Theologically move to the highest common denominators (Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the gospel, authority of Scripture, the Cross, prayer, revival)

·         Don’t treat cultural differences as theological differences

·         Where there has been past friction between tribes, ask “why?”  Learn from the past

·         Where there have been past conflicts practice deliberate “gracism”. In other words, affirmative action in reconciliation will be needed. Remain persistent even when you are initially ignored.  They want to know if you are just like everybody else who wanted to symbolically embrace diversity, but were unwilling to accept them and their culture as full partners.

·         Don’t try to simply be “color blind”.  It won’t work. The goal is not homogeneity (the old melting pot idea where they are supposed to become like us). The goal is a total embrace of all the flavors of Christ’s body (a stew pot, not a melting pot).

·         Don’t ignore the differences. Bring them out in the open. Talk about them. Recognize them and recognize the power of the Spirit to embrace every nation, tribe, and tongue.  It will happen in heaven. It can start now.

·         Don’t accept “we tried it before, it didn’t work.”  Ask “does that mean we should stop?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This short vimeo clip is helpful as well: http://vimeo.com/81029292.

 

One Cry is based in nearby Buchanan, Michigan. The National Director, Randy Hekman, is actually located in Grand Rapids. Please pray that God will raise up more intercessors and leaders to follow the Spirit in bring unity and revival in the Church.

 

Your brother,

 

Mark

 

Heathen Unity

Dear Church,

Apparently Charles Spurgeon was also struck by a question like, “does it concern you that the body of Christ is divided in our city?” Read what he wrote for the March 2nd morning devotion nearly 150 years ago:

“Mark the heathen devotees, what tortures they endure in the service of their idols! Are they alone to exhibit patience and self-sacrifice? Observe the prince of darkness, how persevering in his endeavors, how unabashed in his attempts, how daring in his plans, how thoughtful in his plots, how energetic in all! The devils are united as one man in their infamous rebellion, while we believers in Jesus are divided in our service of God, and scarcely ever work with unanimity. O that from Satan’s infernal industry we may learn to go about like good Samaritans, seeking whom we may bless!”

Surely, Satan’s role is to bring disunity and discord to the Church. And in every country, this is evident. A Kenyan missionary and friend to Grand Rapids, Bramuel Musya, recently requested prayer for the church in his country – which is being divided along class distinctions. The secular press is quick to pick up on church hypocrisy. Bramuel is praying for a ONE CHURCH movement for Kenya, so please consider joining him in this. In South Sudan, church leaders are seeking reconciliation between the Dinka and Neur tribes. Please pray for the church in South Sudan.

Admittedly, Spurgeon’s thoughts could be very discouraging, as we consider the American Church today. But, then, when we consider how the Lord is blessing many here in West Michigan, there are many things to be encouraged about. The 2nd annual CCDA conference to be held next week; the weekly Brother to Brother gatherings at Lifequest; the Sista to Sista gathering this week; Hope Reformed, Alger Park and Oak Park churches – collaboration across denominations; the UNITE movement among young people in GR; Jesus Loves Kalamazoo youth evangelism movement; and The Order of the Trowel (OOTT) gathering of pastors in GR; and the urban, Brown-Hutcherson Ministries and suburban, Blythefield Hills Baptist congregations that are pursuing relationships and joint ministries in a variety of ways.

Last Fall, Dr. Tony Evans encouraged the Church in West Michigan to come together – annually – in a meaningful way – as a collective voice to the region. Please consider praying for this – what might that look like. Pray too, for this movement of God to grow – that His Kingdom would continue to advance in these days of evil.

For His Glory,

Mark