Those who know me well would not be at all surprised that this morning there was nowhere else I would rather be than listening to my own pastor, Tope Koleoso. Lex Loizedes was very warm in his introduction to my leader and dear friend. Tope began by reading some verses on Exodus 25.
He said he was planning to speak on
- The importance of prayer
- The place of worship
The importance of prayer
The atmosphere you are in when you get saved sets you up in the Kingdom of God. In Africa, the theology is not known for its depth. But it knows a few things well: God is big, he is good, there is nothing he cannot do. You learn to be comfortable in an atmosphere of faith.
The preachers would almost dare you not to believe in God. They would boast about God, then you would see that God really was doing what they said. The gap between NT life and what his experience as he was growing up wasn’t so large. In Africa they know of all their small “gods” and so they think this huge God will do stuff. The Western Church spends too long trying to escape the God who did mighty works then, and will do them now. Tope said it was only when he came to the UK many years ago that he came to realize that there is a tame version of God who is very quiet and “behaves himself.” Coming to the West he feels he has learnt a lot of things theologically. He knows that there is a danger of over-realized eschatology, and that we must have the Scriptures in its entirety. We need a balanced walk, but not one that is bringing everything downwards but upwards. We want all that Jesus came to teach and do as the Scripture says. It is not enough to teach, there has to be a doing.
Tope continues to be expectant about what God will do in this land. We have to press into all that God will do. He went to some villages to preach the gospel in Nigeria after university. You explain the simple truth of the gospel, but you have to back it up! Now its prayer time. These people are like children. If you tell them Jesus heals, then they want you to pray for them immediately. They brought the blind man in the village. He was nervous. This isn’t migraine, he can’t see! Trusting God and scared at the same time. Those mixed emotions are inside you. You have to come to the end of yourself. Your job is to have egg on your face on account of Jesus and then he shows up. Having boasted about you Jesus, I am now about to die, but at least I am dying on your account. When the man said he could now see, Tope was shocked. The Lord will move despite you.
Tope’s faith does not just come from those things. There is a theological foundation for faith. You have to either believe this stuff or you don’t. All Scripture is profitable, including the healing and deliverance part. The miracles are crucial. In the book of John the miracles are a sign to point people to a person. Jesus sends messengers back to John saying “tell him there is healing and the gospel being preached.”
Bringing the gospel to people is the pinnacle of it all. Jesus ministry had four aspects. We must capture all those aspects. We need to demonstrate power, but do it in a way that engages culture. Sometimes we can capture a sense of the presence of God but it becomes a holy huddle that unbelievers don’t come to. Our position as charismatics is not just a theological position that we have theoretical acceptance of it. That is not being charismatic, that is not being people of the Spirit. We should not only love the miraculous we need to seek it. It must not, however, be disengaging to the very people that Jesus came to save. It can be unhelpful, untasteful. There is a way that we ought to be that the power of God is there, yet there is nothing happening that the unbeliever can’t stand it. The plan is not to have a happy holy huddle party. We must connect with people who stray into our services who are engaged and say “I don’t get it all, but I want it all.”
There is a tension: how do we do the charismatic without diluting it or despising it but in such a way that culture is engaged.
The Kingdom of God Nothing to do with medieval gothic castles. A better kingdom would come the OT is told. John the Baptist comes and says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus says, “the Kingdom is in your midst, it is amongst you.” When we are hungry for it, we should expect to always see his presence among us. The kingdom is a realm of authority with rulership.
A realm – where you know that God is working here. God is everywhere but there is a focused demonstration of his presence. The lines fall in pleasant places. God is everywhere but there is a specific manifestation of his activity.
A rule where the presence and power of God has rule. His law has sway. If the power of God is here, what will he do? If Jesus is here, what do the “better things” look like? The Kingdom is invisible. You know it exists because of what Jesus does. Things are happening. The invisible kingdom through you and I is constantly being made visible. Everywhere you go you have a realm. When Jesus is in the synagogue someone breaks up the meeting by shouting out. Jesus silenced him. Dealt with him, cast it out. Jesus put the demon out of the man, very often we put the man out of the church. The Kingdom of God goes beyond powerpoint and all that stuff. The presence of the Lord is where it is at. We are agents of the Kingdom. Darkness gives way to light.
The reign of his kingdom there will be know end. It is enduring, unshakable. Matthew 4 says preach, teach heal and deliver. The Western church only wants to do the first two. Often the signs come and then the explanation. If we want to hold to the full-orbed beauty of the gospel then we should embrace this. Salvation is not just a destiny, “I am saved.” That is true, it is everything. But it goes beyond a destination to a destiny. Christ being formed in the inside of you and you become an agent. Not just a lovely church. Not enough to be lovely sheep that get cared for, put to sleep in the evening, woken up in the morning and pastored well. In some churches nothing happens. Sometimes leaders get in the way of what God wants us to do.
How do we do all this stuff?
It is all initiated by prayer
Cultivated by worship
Culminates in preaching that brings it together.
Corporate prayer is dropping out of the diary in many churches. There are different kinds of prayer. We need to learn to grasp intercessory prayer. It is like getting pregnant with something. You travail in prayer until this thing is brought forth. It is not about going strange. The weird stuff comes form the weird one, the devil. It is not all about shouting and gesticulating. However, when you are pregnant with a burden for signs, especially as a leader, it ways you down to your leads and you get to the end of yourself and you have to travail in prayer on and on and being persistant in sustained fervent prayer. The people in church history who moved in the Spirit’s power were all men of prayer. There comes a righteous indignation. Not just vented out as a politician. You do the job in prayer first. The prayer house becomes the engine of the church. IF we forfeit corporate prayer, we forfeit a lot. We will see churches that look like God is there, but he is not. A woman giving birth doesn’t look like Mrs Bucket drinking her tea. It all goes kind of crazy for a moment. There is groaning and weeping. Crying out to God. There will be raised voices. There is a sense of doing business with God. Effectual, fervent prayer. There comes a point where you know it’s done. In side you know it will be fine. When you are crying out to God for the signs and wonders we have to do it like this. HE is God and you are not! That is a good big lesson learn. Do what you say Lord. Sometimes things wont turn out the way you think it will. We don’t always see the full fruit. How long does this take? It can take months. Things we do back at Jubilee are birthed in prayer not just a good idea.
Binding and loosing is Biblical. It was all done at the cross. But we are bringing it down. Hinder, confine the work of the enemy. Ushering in a very concentrated way the Kingdom of God to a place. There can be areas of life that have had demonic intrusion. Jesus dealt with all of these things.
Isaiah 37 shows that you can have the vision but not enough strength to push through. Prayer is the lacking ingredient. Romans 8:26 Spirit helps us. At the very least that verse is about energizing. But a lot of that is done through speaking in tongues. Tope starts counseling sessions with prayer. Sometimes you can speak for one hour but perhaps one line which came from God is what really helps. Pray before worship session. Prayer meeting every Saturday morning 8am. Not the whole church but 120 people or so. We thank God for all that he has done. We seek his face. We worship. We pray for his presence. Sometimes we ask people to walk through the room we meet in and pray. It is not that we are praying for chairs. It came from Tope seeing Jesus walking in the rows. We are saying “Lord come, would you. Someone is going to sit here. If they are a Christian bless them, if they are a non Christian please happen to them, let hands go up.” Prayer is the engine in the background. We also have 10pm to 2am prayer meeting monthly. Pray for the nations, mission, our church, personal situations. That is the travail time. Our people learn how to pray. If you are not careful we do practical things in clever ways and God no longer goes out with our armies.
2. Our worship time
What are you looking for? It is not primarily miracles. You have to go to the miracle maker. You have to go to the real powerpoint! It is Jesus that you want. It is his powerful pervasive presence you want to see. Sometimes non Christians say, I just couldn’t stop crying. God is doing something inside them. They don’t get everything that is going on, but they get enough. And nothing that happened scared them off. Call the people who’s heart moves them. It won’t be all of them. If you build the offering, God says he will come. If you build it for me I will come. Not if you will build it for the miracles. Not if you build it for the unbeliever. I will dwell with you. V22 I will meet you there, I will speak to you there, I will give to you there. Gifts of the Spirit will come. How do you engage the culture? When people come and they sense the presence it is everything. Where his presence is he moves. You don’t have to become a man in a white suit. I am a charismatic with a big C and all that stuff tires him out despite being a Nigerian! It doesn’t have to look like that. You have to get beyond the styles. I don’t want anything that distracts people from Jesus. When it is him it can even look weird, and it doesn’t feel weird. That is the problem with certain kinds of prophecy and screaming out. Nothing will shock him. We do want people to cry out to God, but I want it to be God. When it is the enemy or human flesh it has the tendency to freeze people into their seats. When it is of God it frees them. We must not let anyone make us forfeit the real thing because they are have not been taught right. Focus people back on Jesus. The prophetic changes the climate and moves people on. We need people to be free in the presence of the Lord. Get their hands out of their pockets somehow. People are tougher than you think. You are in a safe place. Sometimes they spend a whole week without touching another human being. That shouldn’t be the case at Church. The expression fo the charismatic need not be foaming at the mouth, to be weird. We are not trying to dumb it down, we are trying to release the real thing. It goes beyond the blessed thought. We should offer to pray for people boldly even back at work.
Jews want a sign, Greeks wisdom, we preach Christ. It is all about Jesus. Jesus really is better. What is it you are doing? Preaching is not just about communication. It is not just about presentation. It is not just about giving instructions to people. All these things matter. At its root it is a delivery system for the word of God to bring the life of God into people. You are wanting that Christ be formed in them. They know that their redeemer really lives. Jesus is worshiped. There is an atmosphere of faith. When it is just doctrinal cold theology it can be arthritic, calcified and dead. They become students of you and not disciples of Jesus. Draw men to him.
Paul goes to Ephesus in Acts 19 and he finds a handful of believers (which is how some church plants start) He asks “When you believe, did you receive?” He wouldn’t start the church plant until they are full of the Spirit. Then he rents a hall and stays for 2 years. They became disciples, and mouthed the gospels everywhere. The church grew. Its not just clever methods its about a mighty God who says I want my kingdom to come amongst you. These things don’t happen over a weekend. It is accumulated truth over ythe time. If the power goes out and church dies then we know where you get your power from! It was never about that power, it was about Jesus.
In our churches the point is that we need to pray more, and let the power of God be pervasive.