According to Acts chapter two, the earliest converts to Christianity led a fairly simple life. They gave up all personal possessions and lived communally. They devoted themselves to learning from the writings of the apostles (bible study), fellowship (pastoral care and friendship), breaking of bread (communion), and praying.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2: 42
And it is recorded in verse 47, “praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” In fact, the church continued to grow throughout the Roman Empire for 300 years despite terrible persecutions. There are loads of stories of people going off to torture and martyrdom with joy in their hearts and faces. The joy that they proclaimed when facing death was more compelling than the grotesque scenes of death. This was true to such a degree that many people became Christian after watching the execution of Christians!
Christianity became legal throughout the empire in 313 C.E. Conversions continued, but so did conflicts. Once the religion was intertwined with the empire, things like power and greed became just as prevalent within the Church as any other imperial institution. We have never quite been able to shake them off. But, we have had a lot of prophets throughout our 2,000-year history that have worked to pull us back to faithful living. My personal favorite (with a wink), would be Martin Luther, who fought the greed and power of Pope Leo X. But, more recently, in the first decade of the 20th century, there was a Pentecostal or Charismatic revival all over the world.
Without knowledge of each other, prayer circles began meeting in Wales, Argentina, India, and Los Angeles. These groups each prayed for the Holy Spirit to baptize them with power to do the work of God. They prayed for revival! This has led to the kind of conversions that haven’t been seen since the earliest days of Christianity. There has been a faith explosion all over the world, but especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It isn’t only in Pentecostal churches, either. Methodists, Catholics, and other denominations have had charismatic movements sparked by prayer groups in their churches.
As we work to roll out each of the goals for Ascension in 2020, I am thrilled that the very first one, on March 7, will be our prayer ministry. Our church, our neighborhood, and our nation are in need of a revival – not a moral revival – a spiritual one. Anxiety, stress, and frustration are not likely to be cured by the “best” presidential candidate. But, true peace, and yes, even joy, can be found in Jesus Christ. The path to finding that joy is in bible study, fellowship, eating together, and PRAYER. I am honored to be on this path with you all. Believe me that there are others that would love to be with you too. They are just waiting on the invitation.
- Vicar Kimberly