Being the Church

Randy Bain

Randy Bain (Submitted Photo / March 28, 2012)

Johnstown

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”—Matthew 6:1

I heard about a church serving at a local festival by helping vendors setup, for free. They simply showed up, asked if they could help, and served. They all wore shirts that read in big letters, “Don’t go to church.” Stated in smaller print below was the phrase, “Be the Church!” How do we do that? What comes to your mind when you think about “being the Church” or consider “church” as a verb?

If you could boil the Christian life down to three practices, three verbs that would describe what “being the Church” should look like, what might they be? Jesus summed up the Old Testament law and prophets in two commands, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches the proper way to perform our “acts of righteousness.” Jesus identified, “Pray, give, and fast.” In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “When you give” (6:2), “When you pray” (6:5), and “When you fast” (6:16). Notice that Jesus said, “When you fast,” not “If you fast.”

I posed that question to my Facebook friends. They all gave wonderful ways we should act out our Christian faith, but only two persons included fasting. One person, who attended our Ash Wednesday service and heard my sermon on the Daniel Fast, replied, “Give, pray, and fast. I paid attention.” The other person was my brother. He replied, “Fast, pray, give.” Way to go, Nick. If I would have given three words to describe my practice of the Christian faith before my recent studies on fasting, I might have omitted fasting like most western Christians today.

Rev. David Cho, founding pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, S. Korea (the largest church in the world), was once asked by a group of American church leaders, “What is the secret to your growth and evangelistic outreach?” Cho replied, “Prayer and fasting.” The Americans replied, “Besides that, what is your secret?” His answer remained, “Prayer and fasting.”

Much of the western Church has ignored this spiritual discipline and forgotten our own history. The Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost after a time of prayer and waiting. The Gospel was first proclaimed to non-Jews after Cornelius and Peter each had visions from God following a time of prayer and fasting (Acts 10). The first missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, were sent out after a time of fasting (Acts 13).

The great awakenings in England and American occurred in concert with Christians who prayed and fasted. Times of prayer and fasting have preceded many movements in American history and revivals in the Church. Joel 2: 15 urges, “Declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” As we look at our nation, the election, and the state of Christianity in America, maybe we should declare a holy fast and call a sacred assembly to seek the Lord.

Randy Bain is the Senior Pastor of Oakland UM Church located at 1504 Bedford Street in Johnstown. You may reach him through the church website HYPERLINK "http://www.oaklandumc.com"www.oaklandumc.com.
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