In the aftermath of Easter the disciples stared into the sky, when two angels appeared and said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” And so began the mission of the church. A mission to announce that light has come into the darkness. That the powers of fear no longer rule. That even death itself has been defeated. The old ways are broken and a new life has begun…
The church formed not as an institution, but a community marked by four traits: the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Over the coming weeks we will dive into each, beginning with the last. And our hope is the blessing of the final verse, “And the Lord added to their daily those who were being saved.”
During seminary I worked at a small church and slowly built a student ministry from a couple students into ten to fifteen. During this time I planned a big event, with many friends from seminary. We invited all the area churches to join us. Most replied they could not come, but the night of the event a van pulled up and out poured 7 black girls. I mention their race because this small town still lived with a legacy of racism. The town was literally divided, with a white and black section (on the black side you would still find unpaved roads…).
So in my mind this was a grand opportunity. A chance for a small step, with the students to connect under the banner of Christ. The evening was a little awkward, I was not blind to miss that my students were uncomfortable. But I considered this good… yet, the following Wednesday only one student arrived for church. I asked where everyone was and he announced they were not coming back after I invited black students to an event.
Over the coming weeks I pursued the students, but they always had excuses. So at church it became me, Megan, and Eric. Occasionally, just me and Megan… Of course with an empty room and a lesson prepared, prayer flows much more easily. So we prayed and prayed. In our minds we pictured each student and asked God to change their hearts…
One Saturday evening the pastor ran up to the church to grab his sermon notes. Of course at that time there is normally no one at the church, but as he was there the phone ran. He answered and a girl announced she wanted to come to church the next day. So Taylor gave her the information and the next morning she arrived.
In the coming weeks, through Kirstin, new students arrived. Soon my group was a large as before and more consistent. Even greater, black students were now welcomed into the group… This was not what we expected, but God had answered our prayers! (I would love to say that all of my original students returned, but most did not.)
Crisis has a way of drawing us into prayer. In those moments we realize the truth of reality, that there is no hope apart from Christ. Most of the time we live the delusion of control – that we can fix the situation. Rather than hours of prayer we have strategy sessions…
The early church meet daily in the Temple. Not for a worship service (at least as we understand worship, built around songs and a message), instead they gathered for the scheduled hours of prayer (“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer.” Acts 3:1. ). Scheduled hours of prayer seem strange today, something more Muslim than Christian. Yet the early church prayed at specific times and enjoyed the blessings that only come from God!
Over the coming weeks I have challenged the students to pray and I invite you into this challenge. They have all received a card (see right) and it asked them to each pray between 2nd and 3rd period. I do not expect them to get down on their knees – unless God leads them. Instead as they move to the next class I want them all to pray for four things – for their school, the church, themselves, and that God will do the unimaginable. So across the area students, wandering in school halls, are offering prayers together to our God.
I am also joining the moment of prayer. I had each student fill out a prayer request card and each day I will pray for one or two students.
May God add to His Kingdom!