Last night, Debra and I experienced an unexpected, remarkably invigorating expression of Christ’s Church. We knew we were going to meet with other believers to pray for spiritual awakening in the city of Los Angeles. If you had asked me ahead of time I would have affirmed that, yes, as a gathering of believers we will be an expression of the Church. What caught me off-guard and turned a time of fellowship into an interactive encounter with Jesus was the readiness and spontaneous willingness of everyone there to be sweetly responsive to the prompting of Christ’s Spirit.
21 of us were gathered in a modest apartment in the heart of downtown L.A. Many of those present only knew one or two others in the room. The common link to our group was our friendship with the convener, Dustin Lang (RevivalLA.org). We began with simple, heart-felt, solo guitar worship of King Jesus. Dustin shared a brief message on Christ’s observation of a plentiful harvest but the need for additional laborers (Matthew 9:35-38). What happened next transformed our gathering from a group of friendly strangers into members of Christ’s family who were passionately devoted to one another.
Dustin invited all of us to stand. There were five of us present who serve the Body of Christ in pastoral roles. Dustin, one of the five, invited the other four of us to stand in the center of the small living room. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Dustin informed the group that the five of us were going to circulate around the room and spontaneously pray for different ones. He then prayed a brief prayer and released us to minister.
I immediately motioned to my wife, Debra, to join with me (I love partnering with her) and we instinctively moved toward a young couple. Ann and John are in a dating relationship. They care deeply for one another but it’s too soon to know if they will be life partners. Debra and I prayed for them as individuals and as a couple. Topics of prayer on their behalf flowed freely – their personal spiritual vitality, male models of devotion to Christ for John, expressions of creativity and compassion in ministry for Ann, and that they would protect each other’s purity so that regardless of the outcome of their relationship there would be no regrets. As Debra and I prayed for this sweet couple I became aware that the apartment was alive with fervent prayer conversations. The room was filled with vibrant ministry huddles of intercession. As prayer concluded in a huddle, there seemed to be a Holy Spirit orchestration of rotation as pastors moved from person to person and group to group. At any given moment you could hear words of prayer, sounds of laughter, and see tears of tender appreciation. As Debra and I transitioned from Ann and John we both knew who God wanted us to pray for next.
Hannah is a vibrant young pregnant woman who is only a couple weeks away from her due date. She and her husband, Jason (another one of the pastors), have already named the little girl in her womb, Elizabeth. Debra and I joyfully prayed for Hannah and Elizabeth. Again, the prayer topics flowed – rest for Hannah in these final weeks, a safe delivery and health for little Elizabeth. Knowing that God knew and named Elizabeth before the foundation of the world, we were prompted to pray that Elizabeth would place her faith in Jesus at a young age and fulfill the calling of God on her life.
Next, Debra and I were able to pray for Jennifer Lang (Dustin’s wife). Jennifer and Dustin are a choice ministry couple. We prayed for Jennifer’s unique giftings of creativity, hospitality and compassion as she partners with and encourages her husband who is a dynamic Kingdom visionary and proclaimer of God’s truth. Dustin and Jennifer have a calling on their lives to raise up 15,000 revivalists who will pray for and proclaim the gospel to the city of Los Angeles. (Now you know why I am so drawn to this couple. Our hearts resonate with the same desire for spiritual awakening and visible unity of Christ’s Church.)
The prayer ministry ended with the five pastors standing in the center of the living room, surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who were joyfully and appreciatively inviting God’s blessing on our lives and empowerment for the ministries he was calling us to fulfill. As the evening drew to a close, there was a strong sense that, just as Hannah was pregnant and soon to deliver … that apartment had been a spiritually pregnant place and something wonderful was being birthed in our time together.
I have experienced the same vibrantly alive ministry dynamic I have sought to describe on one other occasion in my life. It was in 2014 at the World Wide Conference of a ministry organization that is having a global impact. The shared traits of that group of 500 and the apartment gathering of 21 in Los Angeles are exactly the same. People coming together who share: 1) A deep love for Jesus. 2) A willingness to spontaneously engage one another in prayerful personal ministry in a way that turns friendly strangers into passionately devoted family members. And 3) A fervent desire to see Jesus exalted and for lives (marriages, cities, nations) to be transformed. That is Church!
I came away from the gathering last night with the exact same thought in my mind I had in response to the ministry night in 2014 – “This is what the church is meant to be! This is what every local gathering of believers is meant to experience on a regular basis but rarely ever does.”
I’m writing this blog as a testimony of gratitude and praise for how Jesus moved in our midst last night. I’m also writing in the hope of stirring a hunger and desire in the hearts of God’s people to pursue Him and be willing to spontaneously engage one another in prayer and ministry in response to the Spirit’s prompting. God desires that our personal oneness with Christ and our corporate unity in Christ not only transforms our lives, but fuels our hearts to passionately engage one another in the shared pursuit of seeing Jesus lifted up and all people be drawn to Him. That is Church!