Is your church experiencing the power of God in weekly worship services and in the ministries of the church throughout the week? When the people in your community look at the church, do they immediately think of the mighty power of the God you serve?
I gave some serious thought to these questions as I listened to Mel Blackaby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., preach from Matthew 17. At the Baptist State Convention of N.C.’s “Beholding His Glory” regional prayer conference recently at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, Blackaby gave some convicting insights into the biblical text.
In verses 15-16 Matthew tells the story of a man who came to Jesus because his son was regularly harmed by severe seizures. The desperate father begged for mercy from the Lord Jesus. He had turned to Jesus’ disciples for help, but the sad truth was summarized with these words, “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” The disciples were powerless.
Since the focus of the conference was prayer, Blackaby pointed to the vital role of prayer in this story. Jesus responded to His disciples’ powerlessness with a statement about their unbelief in verse 20 and an essential truth in verse 21. He said, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Blackaby said, “There are some things in this world that require prayer and fasting, and nothing else will help. There are some things in this world that will never change unless we get serious about prayer. No matter what we are doing, it will be ineffective unless we have adequately prayed and fasted.”
He shared a personal experience that illustrates the powerlessness of God’s people.
“One Sunday my daughter and I went to KFC to buy some chicken to take home for lunch. When we walked in, the girl behind the counter immediately said, ‘Can I help you?’”
He said, “Yes, I want a family size bucket of chicken.” The woman said, “I’m sorry sir, but we’re out of chicken.” He tried to understand. “Do you mean the chicken is cooking, just not ready to serve?”
“No sir,” she said. “We are actually out of chicken today. We have green beans, mashed potatoes and many other side items. What can I serve you?”
Blackaby said, “Are you kidding me? There is only one reason I come to Kentucky Fried Chicken and that is to buy some chicken.
“If there is no chicken, why are the doors open? Why don’t you just lock the door?”
She said, “I’m sorry sir. We have no chicken.”
The circumstance begs the question: Why would anyone want to come to KFC if there is no chicken?
“Let me ask you something,” Blackaby said. “Ought people expect when they come to church they will find the power of God? There are many things people can enjoy when they come to church, but the main reason they come to church is that they might meet God.”
The power of God is as essential to the church as chicken is to KFC. The church is not a community organization. The church is not simply a religious institution. We are the people of God, responsible for demonstrating the power of God to a world that desperately needs divine intervention.
Like the man who brought his son to the disciples for help, and found no answer, Blackaby said, “We’ve lost a generation of children because their fathers brought them to church to be set free, but there was no power.”
He emphasized that wherever Jesus is, His power is present. No church should operate apart from Jesus or apart from His power.
We may look at the condition of our nation and ask, “What can we do?” Blackaby said, “Well, Jesus told us. There are some things that will never change in our nation unless God’s people get serious about prayer and fasting. If there was ever a time in America when we needed God’s people to pray, it is now.”
Some are praying for revival. Revival comes when we cry out to God in desperation and there is no other remedy to the problems that engulf us. “Jesus is the head of the church and wherever He is, His power is present,” he said.
While we may think revival will come through the blessings of prosperity, it is a fact that God has never brought revival through prosperity. Prosperity tends to drive us away from God, not closer to Him. Blackaby pointed to the drift away from biblical teaching and godly living in the church. The drift is clearly reflected in the world around us. He said one evidence of the social drift is that a person is “fined $25,000 for destroying an eagle’s egg, but you get government assistance for destroying human life in the womb.”
Sexual sin, confusion about marriage, crippling debt – all of these show how the church in America is powerless, compromising God’s Word, lured into the temptation of the world, abandoning the place of prayer, Blackaby said.
“We cannot blame our problems on Hollywood anymore. It’s us!”
The people around us need a place where they can experience the power of God and be set free. Will our church look like the powerless disciples, or will we listen to Jesus? This kind requires prayer and fasting.