Who can think of the person at work, or at your school who is always looking for ways to get out of work? It doesn’t seem to matter the job or the assignment, they will be the first one who possibly even pulls you aside and says “Hey if we just do it this way, it will take half of the time!” I think we all agree we either know somebody like that or once knew someone like that in our lifetime.
In my years of ministry, I have been given several different titles. The most often misinterpreted is “evangelist”. “Revivalist” is the most misunderstood. Interestingly, it is not listed in the Bible. Over and over in the last thirty-five years He has taught me how to seek His heart and how to be able to clearly hear what He is saying. I understand my calling and job before God to be someone who promotes revival. This means my job is to revive someone from near spiritual death back to life again spiritually. One by one, the Lord opens my eyes while I am praying to conditions that exist in the church today. Then He shows me how the conditions developed. Next He will show me the best way to fix them.
This article deals with one of those things the Lord revealed to me actually several years ago but brought it back up during my prayer time at church recently. Over the last several months God has called me to go to my home church and spend time with Him alone in prayer each night. As I was walking one of the rows of chairs recently praying for my church family and for the church in America as a whole, this thought came clearly. “My people are praying Christian prayers but they are not praying disciple prayers.” The understanding of what that meant soon followed.
Just like those people that we either know or have known who are always looking for easy ways to get out of work, God’s people have been doing those same things for thousands of years. Someone at some point in history, no doubt inspired by Satan himself, came up with the thought, “Well, not everyone is a disciple. Some are disciples and the rest are Christians who are born again.” This is kind of like someone saying, “Not everyone is in the military. Some are in the military and some are civilians.” While we realize that the second statement is obviously true, the first statement has absolutely not one scriptural reference to support it. However, the Lord clearly showed me that literally millions of church-going attendees in America have either been taught by misguided leaders, perhaps to better fill their sanctuary, or else lukewarm believers have just chose to believe it on their own.
Do you know that Jesus never once called anyone to go and win converts to Christianity? What He did say in Matthew 28:18,19 is: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV) The word disciple means one who teaches while one is being taught. It’s an interesting word but it suggests a steady flow.
From cover to cover in the Bible God’s people were always looking for the easiest way out, the shortcut to getting things done. In today’s church, speaking metaphorically, it’s the extra thinner to add to the bucket of paint to make the paint go further; the cheaper this, or the lesser quality that. As a result, when even the thought of being considered a disciple instead of just a Christian enters their mind, they run to the church down the street that promotes following Christ a whole lot easier.
What exactly did the Holy Spirit mean when he said to my heart recently, “My people are praying Christian prayers but are not praying disciple prayers?” Perhaps I can best illustrate it this way; our pastor has felt that the Lord wants him to make community outreach ministries this year’s emphasis. During the previous five years he felt the priority needed to be on ministry within our church. The needs were great. The church has been through several difficulties over the years.
As a result of the Lord’s leading to redirect the churches focus outward, our staff created a promotional station where people can view a list of suggested prayers for direction to bring before the Lord. They also laid out packets for members to consider picking up, in the hope that they would sign up to make that area their ministry for this year. It really did sadden me, however, as it seems that from the first week to current, very few packets have been picked up by anyone. The understanding that the Lord gave me from what He spoke to my heart was that His people are only praying the typical everyday prayers any family would pray; prayers for their daily needs, for their overall protection and health and for His general guidance in their lives. Those were the “Christian prayers”.
He then went on to show me that what were not being prayed were prayers for the lost, prayers for ideas on how to reach out within our community and build trust and loving relationships so that we might find those whose hearts are ready to hear the Gospel. There are no disciples praying for ways to take new ground for God, no cries to break through the gates of Hell that have people bound and no prayers for courage to be willing to endure persecution locally when preaching the Gospel of Christ. How many true biblical disciples make up the average church? How many of us believe we are merely called to be Christians? Jesus way or ours?
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.