Building a United House of Prayer

This Monday just past, 22 October 2012, I was invited to a dinner to honour those who have worked and forged the way for unity in the church of this city.

The setting was perfect: Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park. Frasers has a reputation for good food, and being a bit of a foodie myself, I couldn’t really resist accepting the invite. My first thought was that it would be quite intimidating going to a meeting where there would be some well-recognised leaders of the church, many of whom I did not know personally. But then I thought: hey, free meal at Frasers – why not? And as I sat there at my table, the sun just setting and the lights of the city coming on building by building, I thought, “wow, for a meeting to honour the leaders of church unity in this city, there is no better place.”

Pastor Candace Lahr of OneChurch opened the meeting by saying that this dinner was first and foremost about honouring those who had gathered; those who had worked tirelessly over many years and some (like me) who were newer to journey because somewhere along the line, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 had gripped us all:

I pray … for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I think the profundity of that moment caught me off guard, and tears began to well up.

We all know to some extent that God honours us and esteems us – for no other reason than that He loves us. I have always thought, and you may have heard others say many times before, that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more. It’s true.

But what struck me about what Candace said was this: in this moment, in this gathering of leaders, God was honouring us because of something we were doing!

Think about this: Jesus’ heart for unity was so important that it was one of the last things He prayed before He was arrested and crucified. In a sense, it was His last will and testament. And he linked it to the church’s credibility as far as the world was concerned: if we would be one, then the world would realise that Jesus was sent of God and that God loves them.

And yet, this prayer of Jesus for centuries to this day remains unanswered – held ransom to man’s will because God refuses to violate our free choice.

And I then realised that this moment was more than God’s honouring a group of people because they were His children and He loved them. He was honouring them because they were labouring to answer the cry of His heart.

Later on that evening, Pastor Candace shared about her God-given vision to establish a United House of Prayer Perth (UHOPP), where worship and intercession would take place 24/7 for the city and the nations, and recognising God’s destiny for Perth as an Antioch city to send missionaries and resources into the 10/40 window towards fulfilling the spread of the gospel back to Jerusalem.

I was reminded again of the pivotal verse in Acts 15 where James echoed the words of the prophet Amos: that one day, God will restore David’s fallen tabernacle – a place of continuous prayer and praise – so that the remnant of men may seek God’s face. When that day comes, Amos says, the plowman will overtake the reaper!

I was excited by Candace’s vision and what that would mean for the transformation of the city.

And I was even more amazed when Candace’s senior pastor Paul Botha challenged those who were gathered to give of their best to UHOPP project. He set the example by giving his best, a pastor on his staff roster, to the kingdom of God in the city.

I left the dinner that night feeling more excited and encouraged than ever before – that in this city, Jesus’ prayer can and will be answered in this generation: that we will be one so that the world will know….

From the 10/40 Window to the 4/14 Window

As a person who feels his calling is worship, I actually get simultaneously excited and intimidated by missions.  On the one hand, I believe that missions and worship are completely interconnected in the way that John Piper describes, that is, worship is both the fuel and the goal of missions. So it excites me whenever I hear about how God is moving in different nations around the world.  But it also freaks me out to think that one day, God may call me out into the field.

For now, I have reached a compromise.  I’m good to go on short-term mission trips to urban centres where there are at least some modern conveniences.  It doesn’t have to be a four-star hotel, as long as there is running water and I don’t have to bring a shovel.  So, I’ve been on mission trips to Hong Kong, Singapore and Sapporo, and yes, there are unreached peoples in those cities, would you believe.

Yesterday, I was really moved and excited when Pastor Benny Ho shared on “New Megatrends in Missions” as part of Faith Community Church’s Missions Month.  The message was prophetic, futurist and visionary, not only because Pastor Benny was able to clearly dissect the latest trends in missions, but because he put Faith Community Church right into the frame in terms of how, as a church, we can also flow with those trends.

One of the trends he shared was that the missions movement was shifting emphasis from “the 10/40 Window” to the “4/14 Window”.  This was the first time I had heard of the 4/14 Window.

Essentially, it was referring to the age group 4 to 14 years of age.  The idea here is that it is easier for a person aged 4 to 14 to come to Christ than an older person.  Allied to that concept was that a person’s effectiveness and impact in the kingdom of God shouldn’t be limited because the person was young.

Pastor Benny shared about the 8-year old preacher, Moko, from Sulawesi Indonesia.

In an area where persecution of the church is rife, Moko’s preaching is drawing crowds. Many are giving their lives to Jesus.  As Moko conducts his rallies, he is accompanied by another 8-year old named Selfin who is anointed in the working of healings and miracles.  So whilst Moko preaches, the preaching of the Word is accompanied by signs and wonders as Selfin ministers.  As a result of their ministry, communities in Sulawesi are being transformed.

I think for too long, the church has marginalised our kids. We relegate them to classes where they can colour in pictures, watch colourful performances and earn smiley-face stickers whilst they complete worksheets.  I think God is restoring the rightful place of children in our churches and giving them a mantle for ministry that will well excel those of adults!

I think about this in the context of worship.  Years ago, I was teaching on warfare worship at my church training school.  I observed that one of the trends in worship was that we would begin to “bring in the little ones” and realise their potential.

In the classic text on warfare worship in 2 Chron 20, the chronicler notes in verse 13 that all generations participated in worship and intercession before the Lord (to which God responded by routing the enemy forces):

 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

This makes it very clear that “little ones” participated in enforcing God’s victory.

Look at Psalm 8:2:

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise, because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

And Matthew 21:14-16:

The blind and the lame came to [Jesus] at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.  “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?’”

I can think of worse things children can do than to shout “Hosanna to the Son of David”. And yet, many churches today are like the chief priests and teachers of the law who see the children as disruptive, rather than leaders of worship (or any other ministry for that matter).

The word “ordain” means “to establish”.  My reading of this is that God has established a capacity to praise in people from a very young age. In fact, I believe that He has established the capacity not just to praise.  Jesus, as a twelve year old taught in the temple courts and astounded his hearers.  Josiah became King of Israel at the age of 8 and was a reformer of worship.  Despite his age, he was able to lead an entire nation in following after God.

I have seen footage of Indian children in an orphanage engaging together in militant intercession and travail.  I have seen pictures of children in the SuperKids Church in Malaysia laying hands on older folks and praying for healing.  And now, I have read about Moko and Selfin in Sulawesi.

I believe that the 4/14 Window is more than just a new megatrend in missions but that a revival is starting to spread around the world that will unleash a new harvest force of children whose anointing and spiritual impact will surprise us all.


Worship and the Marketplace Part 2

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I was led to Ezekiel’s vision of the river flowing from the temple in Ezekiel 47. As I read that passage, I had more thoughts about the connection between worship in the temple and transformation in the marketplace.

To fully appreciate the connection, we have to get an understanding of what I mean when I say “worship”. To me, trying to define worship is like defining the undefinable. In a later post, I will attempt to do so using Harold Best’s thesis in his book Unceasing Worship. Suffice to say for present purposes, worship encompasses our entire life. When we talk about worship in a church setting, it is simply an intensifying of what we are already doing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In this sense, the expression of praise that takes place on a Sunday could be said to be a subset of “worship”.

So we need to think about worship as a continuum. Praise/seeking God/waiting on Him etc sits on the more mystical side of the continuum; work/going to the office/house chores etc sits on the practical side.

So, in this context, let us go back to Ezekiel 47.

The Outworking of Worship

In the first few verses, Ezekiel describes how the river gets deeper the further it goes from the temple.

This is the outworking of worship. A holistic vision of praise starts and ends in the temple, because God is the beginning and end of everything (as one Biblical writer says, “in Him and through Him and for Him are all things”). But God is in the business of reconciling to Himself all things, which is an action directed towards the “outside”, i.e. towards the world, its people, its systems etc. So worship begins in the temple, but then is propelled out to the world with the mission of bringing “in” those who are “out”.

Colossians 1:19-20 says this:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Second Corinthians 5:18 says:

But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].

This is the same pattern we see in the book of Acts. As the disciples waited and sought the Lord in worship in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit fell on them on the day of Pentecost, propelling the church out into the marketplace to answer the prophecy of Joel 2, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved”.

The Impact of Worship

Going back to Ezekiel 47:6ff:

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.

When we take the presence of God into the marketplace, it brings with it a divine flow of life into the areas of which are spiritually dead. That goes for people who are dead in their sins, and systems/values/mindsets which are corrupt and perverse.

Even the Dead Sea becomes a place where swarms of living creatures will live and thrive! The salt water will become fresh. Like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3, we become the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of life to those who are perishing.

The Reach of Worship

Ezekiel’s vision ends with this, in verse 12:

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

Indeed, this year is the year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. For those who worship God, our leaves will not wither, nor will be fail to bear fruit.

But notice this: the presence of God is our source “because the water from the sanctuary flows” to us. And further still: the purpose of our fruit is not just for our own sake and prosperity. Rather our fruit is to feed others! This is where worship and justice meet: to lift the poor and feed the hungry.

And our leaves will be for the healing of the nations. Where once the nations have turned away from God, true worshippers will carry an anointing to see the fulfillment of the day when the kingdoms of this world, will become the kingdom of our Lord and King.

Worship begins in the sanctuary and worship flows out into the marketplace to bring transformation. As my friend Adrian Lim once put it (and recently reminded me), true worshippers worship through the 24/7 window, the 9/5 window and the 10/40 window. Worship begins as a 24/7 lifestyle, but then must be manifested in the 9/5 window of the marketplace. And the end game: to see the nations, represented by the 10/40 window (being the most unreached of the nations) transformed and revived.