LET’S FAST AND PRAY THE GODLY WAY
One of the things I sometimes find perplexing about Pentecostal churches is the individualism it can cultivate in its members. Whilst the Christian journey is about developing a relationship with God, it is also a communal faith, where believers are called to love each other, be accountable to one another, to pray for and serve each other. This fact came home to me whilst reading Isaiah 58, one of the Bible’s most famous treatises on fasting.
If most Pentecostals were honest with themselves, they’d have to agree that most times when they fast, it’s to ask God to deal with personal issues or struggles they are experiencing; to get directions for important life decisions and, during times of corporate fasting, prayers are said for those going through major life crises, for the local church, and anything else the prayer leader deems important. Let me state categorically: there is nothing wrong with fasting for these reasons, but sometimes God wants us to move beyond fasting for ourselves, our churches, our friends and family, and to go on fasting to see God get involved in some of the serious issues taking place in the wider world.
When last did your church say a corporate prayer, or fast about any of the following issues: persecuted Christians, domestic violence, sexual abuse, the exploitation of workers, the widening gap between the rich and poor, poverty, racism, modern slavery? The list could go on. And on. And on. And on.
Isaiah 58 makes it clear that God is not impressed with fasting just for the sake of doing so. And He’s definitely not impressed with our fasting efforts, when our behaviour is at odds with the demands of Christianity. Instead, this is what the Scriptures state are good reasons for fasting: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
It’s a biblical imperative that times of corporate fasting and prayer should be focused on issues beyond our own individual concerns – our faith demands it. And, to be honest, when we take into account all the wickedness, sinful actions and injustice that take place in our world, don’t our families, communities, and wider world need us to fast for these reasons in particular? So, the next time you feel inspired to fast and pray, remember God’s Word on the subject.
WHY IT’S MAKES SENSE TO TALK
I have a confession to make. I love social media. Not only because it gives individuals and organisations opportunities anywhere and everywhere to promote who they are and what they do for free, but also because it can provide up-to-date Christian opinions on a wide range of issues, and we can sometimes learn something new and interesting in the process.
Social media also gives Christians an opportunity to do what we don’t often get an opportunity to do in church, and that’s to engage in discussions about aspects of church life, Christian practice and theology.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes church services can be too one-dimensional. Don’t get me wrong, I love anointed singing, enjoy heartfelt worship, and could sit for hours listening to a great sermon delivered by a dynamic preacher, but what I, and maybe some of the congregation, would welcome is the opportunity to take the preacher to task, and ask questions on some of the issues touched upon in his/her sermon. Such forums (or fora) would be good for churches, as they can provide an indication of where their congregations are at; gauge whether or not they understand what is being taught; agree with what is being taught, or have views totally contrary to what is being taught.
Issues of faith are too important for leaders to just assume people in the pew understand what is being taught from the pulpit, so it makes sense for those who preach and teach the Word to engage in discussion with their congregation. And, when preachers/teachers know where the educational gaps are within their church, they can make sure they are filled.
LET’S USE OUR GOD-GIVEN TALENTS TO BUILD SOLID FOUNDATIONS
Go to any Black church these days, and you’ll find that, increasingly, congregations are comprised of individuals who are developing a side enterprise, or who run their own businesses which provide employment to others. In my view, this is the way for the Black community to go. It’s widely recognised that some of the problems we face are exacerbated by a lack of wealth, and there’s no doubt that the messages preached during the past decade have encouraged church members to fully utilise their talents to become creators of wealth, employers and philanthropists.
It’s important for people to realise that poverty is not a good thing, and if an individual can change their financial circumstances by utilising their God-given talents, then they should be encouraged to do so. I would now like to see the same spiritual energy expended in encouraging churchgoers to be wealth creators, to also be focused on helping people build strong relationships between husband and wives, children and parents, and baby mothers and baby fathers, because a community can only be as strong as the families within it.