Category: Ministry

Articles and updates to encourage and equip ministers as they seek to see God’s Kingdom advance through their Ministry.

How to Pray When Tragedy Strikes

By Scott Neubauer

There have been no shortage of heart-wrenching tragedies in just the past few months. 2017 has been the deadliest year for mass shootings in modern history, with Las Vegas and now Sutherland Springs, Texas, being the most recent. In addition, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico; a major earthquake devastated part of Mexico.

After each one, you’ll undoubtedly begin to see the photos emblazoned with, “Pray For (Insert Location of Latest Disaster or Tragedy)” begin to flood social media. These will be followed by another chorus of those saying thoughts and prayers are meaningless in light of such tragedy.

If we believe that our God is, “a hearer of prayer,” as Psalm 65 says, then true prayer is not trite or inactive: it’s powerful and an entirely appropriate and necessary response in the face of tragedy. But while it’s easy to post, “Pray for Texas,” it’s harder to actually do it.

“How do I pray?”
“What do I pray for?”
“Who do I pray for?”

I’d like to offer just a few ways I believe we can pray biblically when disaster or tragedy strikes:

1. Pray that those affected receive God’s comfort.

Many Scriptures speak of how God comforts the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18, Ps. 147:3, Ps. 94:19, Matt 5:4, Is. 43:2), but if you’ve ever been around someone experiencing grief, you know that they need to be willing to be comforted. The question is not whether God will comfort the grieving, it’s whether the grieving will be open to receive it.

2 Corinthians 1:5 tells us the more abundant the suffering, the more abundant God’s comfort. So when you pray, pray that those affected would be open and ready to receive the comfort and peace that only God can provide.

2. Pray against fear.

Scripture is clear that the enemy comes to, “steal, kill, and destroy,” and one of the ways he does that through tragic events like these — beyond those directly affected — is by bringing a spirit of fear.

If we are not prayerful and confident of who we are in Christ, we can easily become crippled by a spirit of fear. Afraid to go to the mall, afraid to board a plane, afraid to go a large city. Pray for courage, confidence, and peace to prevail over fear, especially in the hearts of Christians. If our Savior has truly conquered death, then there is nothing to fear, not even death.

3. Pray for restoration.

Few people in all of humanity have faced an onslaught of disaster and tragedy like Job, and yet, in Job 42:10, we read,

“And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Our God is a restorer. Our God takes the broken pieces left from tragic situations and turns them into something beautiful. We can be confident in this, and pray towards this end for those facing their darkest hour.

4. Pray for the attackers.

This may be the most difficult prayer to pray.

In situations where an terrorist or attacker has embodied pure evil by taking innocent lives — and survives — we are called to pray for them. Why can Jesus say with such confidence to, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Because our battle is not with them. They are not the enemy.

The evil powers and principalities at work in the supernatural realm are the true enemies. When we are praying in situations like these, we must ask God to open our eyes to see the spiritual realm where the real battle is taking place.

How to Pray When We Don’t Know How to Pray

Still not sure how to pray? The disciples didn’t know how to pray. They asked Jesus and He answered. I believe the Holy Spirit will teach us, if we just ask.

“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”
—F.B. Meyer


Scott Neubauer is pastor of Watershed Church in Elgin, Illinois. Read more from Scott’s blog here.

The Safest Place

by John Sprecher

The past few years have seen significant social upheaval challenging the status quo. Prejudice against African Americans mistreated by the police and others has been called out, and the Black Lives Matter movement which began after police shootings in a number of cities. More recently women have responded en-mass to revelations of sexual abuse, assault, and rape occurring in Hollywood and the corporate world.

Sadly, racism, abuse, and other injustice have occurred—some hidden, some exposed—even in the church. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that the church of Jesus Christ holds the only REAL HOPE for our world. The Apostle Peter says that judgment begins “at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17), so when we point fingers at others, we also ought to examine ourselves. For instance, have we been willing to truly obey the instructions written by the Apostle John? “If someone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4: 20-21, NKJV)

The challenge we face is to define what love looks like in a practical way in our communities of faith. Too often, those who are involved in wrongful behavior simply say, If you love me you’ll allow me to continue to do what I’m doing. Jesus’ comment to the woman taken in adultery is often quoted as justification: “Neither do I condemn you”; but his concluding statement (“go and sin no more”) is conveniently neglected (John 8:11). Real love holds us accountable for our actions and seeks the best for another person. It would probably be beneficial from time to time to remind ourselves of Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, where the primary focus is seeking the best for someone and not trying to maintain power, position, or prestige.

We can learn to love others by stirring our congregations to work for good with other believers, different denominations, and ethnic backgrounds. A number of our churches have intentionally engaged immigrants and those of color by bringing them together to understand each other better, and to care for one another.

As a result of intentional connections over the years, I’ve had the privilege of preaching at Sunday morning services at half a dozen primarily African American congregations in the city where I live. When we know each other, the suspicion goes down and the trust goes up.

I was profoundly influenced as a young teen when a black family joined our all white church in Madison Wisconsin. I will never forget my reaction when my mom told me in the early 1960s that they could not buy a house in a certain part of the city simply because they were black. Something rose up in me that has never left, and I blurted out “That’s not fair, they’re George and Doris.” It wasn’t about race; it was about my friends whose children I played with and with whom we worshiped every Sunday.

The church should be the safest place in the world—especially for the most vulnerable. That’s why we need to do all we can to protect our children, our women, our minorities and any suffering injustice. That’s why we need to truly show the love of Christ who said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). We must lay aside our prejudice, our blindness, and embody the love of Jesus Christ.

John Sprecher, after serving for decades as a pastor in Rockford, Illinois, is now the Lead Elder of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies in the U.S.

A Fresh Look at Exodus

The Exodus Case, reviewed by Sune K. Andersson

For years I’ve been fascinated with the Exodus story. The miraculous escape of the people of Israel out of Egypt and out from under Pharaoh’s oppressive slavery fired my imagination.

In my early ministry years in Sweden, I was intrigued by the ancient cultures of Bible lands. As student body president of the Community College of Karlskoga, Sweden, I coordinated a tour to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Cyprus for our graduating class, which proved to be a vivid visual and emotional encounter with biblical history and geography.

My interest only grew when I enrolled later in a Bible Geography class taught by Sam Smith at Seattle Bible College. Smith gave us an assignment: memorize copious amounts of data and pinpoint the exact locations of biblical places and events on a blank sheet of paper. Since then I’ve given the same assignment to my own students—ministry leaders in Latin America.

Even with all that history, however, I learned so much more—a number of new archaeological discoveries confirming the historical Exodus—in a fascinating book, The Exodus Case. The author is Lennart Möller, a medical doctor and professor at the Karolinska Institute, the medical university of Stockholm, Sweden. Möller’s diverse background includes studies in marine biology, limnology, and chemistry at the universities of Stockholm and Uppsala. His avocational interests, however, also contributed significantly to his research—photography, minerals, scuba diving, and archaeology.

Amazon.com offers a number of reader comments about The Exodus Case:

  • New archaeological discoveries and evidence of Exodus as an historical event.
  • Understand the location of the Exodus…[and the] Pharaoh and Moses conflict.
  • Reveals the discoveries of a team of scientists and researchers who travel in the footsteps of Moses and the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to Canaan.

The book, however, goes beyond the story of the Exodus to cover biblical and ancient history from Abraham to to Mount Sinai (Genesis 11:27 to Exodus 40:38). Some of the questions it addresses include: Is the real Mount Sinai, “Horeb,” located in today’s Saudi Arabia? Where did Moses lead the people of Israel through the Red Sea? Where was Ur? Is there a place where burning sulfur has fallen? Does Mount Sinai have a lot of water in the middle of the desert? Is Joseph in Egyptian history? What about Moses’ role in Egyptian history? What was the route of Exodus?

The book is filled with charts, tables, color illustrations, photos, and even satellite images. It was fascinating for me to read about archaeological evidence of the Egyptian army at the bottom of the Red Sea. In my view, The Exodus Case is an investment well worth it for ministers and Bible teachers who want to gain a greater understanding of the Genesis and Exodus books of the Bible. I believe it will prove to be an excellent resource for preaching, teaching, Sunday school and home school study.

Sune K. Andersson has a M.A. in Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary and has served as a missionary with the FCA since 1974.

 

Inspirational and Generational

This morning we heard from two young leaders in our fellowship who shared about the importance of having an overflow of God in our lives that impacts our lives and ministries and lasts for generations.

 

 

Daniel Johnson, Associate Pastor of Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship, reminded everybody that “In the Kingdom of God ‘Just-Enough’ is not enough. God wants to give you an overflow!”  He went on to elaborate that we are called to minister out of the overflow of what God is speaking to us, of who God is in us, of His word, and of what God has done and is doing in our lives. If we minister out of the overflow we won’t run dry or burn out!

 

 

After a brief break for fellowship and snacks, we jumped right back into it with Stephen Zarlengo, Young Adults Pastor at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. Stephen shared that the idea of generations isn’t something humanity created but is a reflection of the Trinity;  something between the Father and Son. It’s out of that overflow that we came into existence. As the church, we need all generations in order to be the proper reflection of the Father. As we value each generation and what they bring to ministry as we work together we will be able to go above and beyond from generation to generation. He left us with this challenge that the roof of the older generation’s lives would become the floors of the younger generations so that we may take the kingdom to a new level.

 

I ENCOURAGE YOU TO FOLLOW ALONG ON THE BLOG, SOCIAL MEDIA AND ON THE LIVESTREAM IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO BE PRESENT…AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ONLINE: WE’LL BE USING THE HASHTAGS #FCACONVENTION AND#OUTOFTHEOVERFLOW THROUGHOUT THE WEEK SO THAT WE CAN ALL BE PART OF WHAT GOD IS DOING IN US AS A FELLOWSHIP AND AS MINISTERS.

Overflowing Joy

Tuesday’s rainy weather could not dampen the spirits of convention goers in New York. The convention theme, “Out of the Overflow,” raised expectations that it would be God’s Spirit, not rain gutters, that would overflow this week.
Associate Pastor Daniel Johnson (Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship, New City, NY), welcomed ministers, missionaries, spouses, and their families to the opening banquet. Noting the “changing face” of the FCA, Pastor Bob Forseth (Philadelphia Church, Seattle), recognized national leaders attending from lands around the world: Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Argentina, and others.
The evening’s speaker, Brett Hollis (Washington), is a pastor/comedian. He reminded us that, “If you have the Holy Spirit, you have joy! Because the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, and all the rest.”
He spoke of “overflowing joy” for believers (2 Cor. 8:2; Phil. 1:25-26) and challenged pastors who have allowed the constraints and pressures of ministry to put boundaries on their joy. “Paul said his joy knew no bounds,” said Hollis, citing 2 Corinthians 7:3.
“When Jesus died on the cross,” he reminded them, “it wasn’t just so we could get to heaven. It was so we could have joy on the way to heaven.”
If you buy your kids a happy meal that’s missing the toy, your kids aren’t going to be happy, Hollis told the ministers. Then the zinger: “Some of you are a toy short of a happy meal.” Everyone laughed even as they recognized the truth of what he was saying.
He had everyone laughing. It was a great start to what is anticipated to be a great week of meetings!
I encourage you to follow along on the blog, social media and on the Livestream if you are not able to be present…and join the conversation online: We’ll be using the hashtags #fcaconvention and #Outoftheoverflow throughout the week so that we can all be part of what God is doing in us as a fellowship and as ministers.