Scripture Passage for Daily Reflection
Acts 4:32-5:42 (NIV, via biblegateway.com)
Thoughts for the Week
This week we make a shift in our prayers together. During our final three weeks of this prayer season we'll still be following the same daily outline and will continue to have an overall theme for the week (partners/community this week, then mission/commission and harvest/fruit in the final two weeks respectively). However, up to this point, our prayers each day have been somewhat general in nature, often pointing each of us to look into our own neighborhood, community or church family.
We began this way because the goal of Intentional People and our efforts in planting churches are not merely to seek God's blessings on us here. Ours in a kingdom focus; we prayerfully seek the in-breaking of God's reign in all corners of creation. We wanted our first season of prayer to be marked by a concern beyond our own local success or failure.
My prayer is that with a month of this type of communal prayer established, we'll each continue to pray with an eye toward what's happening in our context as well as what others are experiencing as well.
Going into these last three weeks leading up to the official fundraising launch of Intentional People and our formation of a new missional community in Burleson, I am grateful to have this community of prayer partnering with us. The prayers will focus on specifically lifting up Intentional People and our church plant with regards to the weekly and daily themes. However, I encourage you to continue in practices which lead you into similar connections in your neighborhood.
In Acts 18 there's a story that has been the inspiration for referring to bi-vocational ministry as "tent making." When Paul arrived in Corinth he met some tent makers. Since he was a tent maker also he stayed and worked with them. We get the impression from several of Paul's letters in the new testament that this was one of his common strategies. We know from other passages that his reasoning (at least, in part) for this approach was that he didn't want to give any unbelievers or new believers a reason to claim that he was only ministering to them in order to receive a paycheck - and he also didn't want to be a burden on these young communities, many of which consisted of people who were (or soon would be) struggling themselves.
There is another common understanding about the value of this type of bi-vocational work. Those who are supported by the system can easily become co-opted by the system. (This was part of what Alan Hirsch shared with Chris and I during our podcast interview - which you can listen to at missionalmonks.com) I worked either part-time or full-time for established churches for a decade before launching into church planting, so I've seen this first-hand. There are many ministers who want to challenge unhealthy aspects of "the system" but since doing so may lead to the unemployment line, they are often pressured to hold back a necessary prophetic challenge. I think this is a valid point in the whole bi-vocational conversation.
However, we live in a broken world where wisdom is often corrupted by sin. In our desire to support ourselves financially so that we can speak truth into the lives of others we can easily begin to remove accountability and connection to others, claiming that we are only accountable to God. While this is technically true, many of us have discovered that without others to keep us focused on Him to whom we answer, we actually begin answering only to ourselves...which is dangerous at best and idolatrous at worst.
It is easy to miss the verse following the "tent making" paragraph. In 18:5 it says "When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah."
When Paul's partners arrived he apparently gave up the bi-vocational approach, at least for a time. Not only did Silas and Timothy's arrival mean friends and co-laborers, it also meant the arrival of financial support from other churches; support that would allow Paul to devote himself exclusively to preaching. Notice that Paul first preached exclusively to the Jews - and it didn't go that well...it says in verse 6, "But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
Later in the chapter, Paul receives a vision where God says: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
No matter how we are supported in ministry, there will be difficulties - but there is strength, blessing, support, encouragement and protection that comes from partners in the community of God.
This week we pray for partners and community. While we desire not to be a burden on those to whom we're reaching (and we pray that Intentional People will very soon fill the bulk of our financial support needs) we do not want to operate in isolation. We are grateful for those of you who are already surrounding us with prayer and encouragement. We pray for those who have partnered with us financially over the last three years and those who will do so in the future. We pray for those who will lend their voices, hands and talents to work with Intentional People in different ways; for the partnerships we're are developing with other organizations and individuals. We are also praying for another church planting family to join us in our work in Burleson.
We're already blessed to have friends and co-laborers in this area who are going out with us; a community of faith sharing life on mission with God. As we begin planting the gospel in new neighborhoods, we also pray that God will raise up a family trained and called to ministry that can help with teaching, community organizing, guidance and training of others in discipleship, etc.
We are also praying for the possibility of one or more partnering churches with whom we can enjoy a relationship of mutual edification and support.
Thank you for joining with us in lifting these prayers to the Father.
Prayers for Sunday - God the Community of Love
God, Community of Love, in the beginning you created the heavens and the earth, but before the beginning, you were. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we acknowledge you, the Three-in-One as the source of our longing for community and connection to others. Holy God, as we long to understand how we are to live as the gathered church in community, we have to look no further than to your revealed nature; as we seek wisdom in living as your scattered church in the midst of the larger community, we have to look no further than to your revealed activities. Since the very beginning Lord you have sent yourself repeatedly into our midst. In the darkness you have been there with us, a guide, companion, protector and friend. Lord, we pray that you will guide the work of Intentional People as it seeks to encourage and inspire your children to live bold lives of adventure on mission with you. God, we pray that you will lead us into the neighborhoods of north Burleson and the south Fort Worth area to plant the gospel in community. We follow you with full confidence that where your seeds of hope are planted, healthy churches will grow up by your power. Bless us O God, Community of Love, for in you alone does true community find its origin.
This week our prayers are focused on partners and community - both for Intentional People and our new church planting work. In addition to the communal prayers, would you take a few moments each day to ask God to raise up partners for us? We need financial partners, prayer partners (we thank you for already serving in that capacity), and others who will serve as resources and collaborators in different ways, according to their gifts. With regards to our church planting work, we are praying for one or more partnering churches, with whom we can have a mutually edifying relationship and we are also seeking another church planting family to join us in this work.