For years, I attended a church that my family and I loved. The pastor taught verse by verse, which was essential, and we made friends there. The services began with the worship band playing several songs, then we would “great the person sitting next to you,” followed by the sermon.
This was the way the churches I’d attended for years ordered their services. When so many pastors, often with degrees in seminary or other training, do church a certain way, it becomes accepted as the norm. After all, if these guys, with all their education and Bible knowledge are doing church the same way, it must be Biblical, right?
Except that, when I compared the American church to the church I saw in God’s word, especially in the book of Acts, it wasn’t lining up. The churches in Acts focused on prayer (often), fellowship, and “the teaching of the apostles.”
Throughout the book of Acts, we continuously read of the church praying together; these are in the first two chapters alone:
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7, which refers to His church as a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13).
I kept asking, if the church is supposed to be a house of prayer, why aren’t we praying every weekend? Why do we reserve prayer for special events once every 3 months or so (if that) where a small number of the congregation shows up?
From my walk with God, I know that prayer is our most powerful spiritual weapon. With the freefall of our country into evil in recent years, why aren’t our churches going after God hard in prayer for repentance, cleansing, and revival, as we’re encourage to do in 2 Chronicles 7:14?
Then there’s that thing so many churches do where they tell people to “great the person next to you.” When I travel and speak at churches and conference, I’ll ask people to raise their hands if they meet with another brother or sister once a week for the purpose of support, accountability, and prayer. Usually, only 10-15% of those in attendance raise their hands.
Most American Christians are isolated; the first words those who come to us for help at Blazing Grace usually say is “I have no one to talk to.” I felt like I was faking it every time I was asked to “greet the person next to me.” You know how it goes. We ask, “How are you doing?” and the other person puts on a fake smile and says “Really good, how are you doing?” And we respond in kind. I got so sick of being enabled to fake it that I wanted to throw up.
In Acts 2:42, we’re told the early church devoted themselves to “the apostles teaching.” Note how one man isn’t named. I would have thought that Peter, James, and John would have referenced as the teachers, but apparently the teachers in the early churches weren’t built around one man.
Then there’s what we see every day here at Blazing Grace with the men and women who come to us for help. Often, they know Scripture, but we end up mentoring them on how to have an intimate, heart relationship with God. Many have little to no prayer life; some even have a hard time praying. Their home churches avoid topics like sex that make people uncomfortable, or if they do address them, it’s usually in the context of a sermon where they are told (in the case of pornography, for example) “Porn is sin, don’t do it,” but they’re not equipping their people with how to overcome it.
When I compared the American Church to the New Testament Biblical Church, this is what I came up with:
The status quo in many American Churches: isolated Christians, a worship band, most teaching done by one pastor, the hard issues people struggle with aren’t being addressed and/or many they aren’t being equipped on how to be overcomers, no church prayer in their weekend meetings, and many struggling to have a love relationship from the heart with God.
The Biblical Church: Devotion to prayer, fellowship (no isolated believers), and the apostles teaching.
The Biblical church changed the world.
The American Church, with 65% of men and 30% of women viewing porn, among other problems, is losing its ability to be salt and light. Satan now has a significant stronghold in the U.S. in many corners of society, not the least of which is the growing momentum towards socialism. It is just a matter of time before the Bible is outlawed for being “hate literature.”
Unless, we transform our churches to Biblical gatherings, and start devoting ourselves to prayer, fellowship, and the Word. With where our country is today, it’s critical that our churches are houses of prayer and we go after God for repentance, revival, and healing. Believers who live in fellowship with others are less likely to be in bondage to sin and more devoted in their walk with God, and can be effective in being salt and light.
Every week, at Blazing Grace Church, we have a Scripture based message, break the congregation up into groups of 2 or 3 to share struggles and pray for each other, and then pray together as a church body. In doing so, our services are built around God and His people, as His word shows.