The following is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of The Rogue Christian: The Rogue Church
For the moment, forget about everything you know about church, and read these verses:
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
When Peter realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
I notice the following from the early church:
It was founded on, sustained, and empowered by prayer. They prayed constantly.
They worked together as a community. They prayed together, ate together, and studied God’s word together. The early church wasn’t built around one man. Acts 2:42 says they were devoted to the Apostles teaching.
Ground-shaking events, including the filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) were sparked by prayer. Peter, the uneducated fisherman who denied Christ and was restored after the resurrection, gave the first sermon (Acts 2:14-36) immediately after the early church believers were anointed with the Holy Spirit. Peter’s message was barely five minutes long, but had such Holy Spirit-fired power that 3,000 came to Christ. Peter didn’t say a word about the love of God; the essence of his message was you crucified Christ (Acts 2:36), Jesus is Lord, and if you repent and are baptized you will receive the Holy Spirit.
The early church was persecuted. Some were arrested, others were martyred; James and John were killed to please the religious leaders. They were mocked and accused of being drunk. They encountered people who were demonized. The spiritual battles they were drawn into were fierce, yet when they prayed for boldness, God shook the place where they had gathered.
They were scattered. They met in homes, places of prayer, and other non-descript buildings.
Think about what they didn’t have. No Bibles (!) other than a possible copy of the Old Testament. No worship bands, choirs, or organs. There were no senior pastors to build the name of the church around—no “Peter’s church” or “James’ church.” There were no denominations. They were described as the church, the way, and quite often, they. We don’t read of isolated believers or one-man shows. There were no Christian books, concerts, or conferences. Travel was by foot, giving more time for meaningful conversation and prayer while opening the door for unexpected ministry opportunities along the way. In essence, they had little more than each other and God.
The early church believers were all-in. They were willing to die for their faith, and put everything on the line. The church exploded, and many were brought to Christ. We don’t read of anyone who avoided a prayer meeting because it made them uncomfortable.
Acts 2:42 sums up their focus:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (emphasis added).
Want to go rogue and reboot your weekend services to the Acts 2:42 version? Start with 20-30 minutes in God’s word, and then break up into small groups of two to four for the purpose of support, confession, and prayer for those in the group. Spend the last 20 minutes in corporate prayer, with everyone on their knees.
In this way, God’s word is taught, no one leaves without being cared for, and your church is a powerhouse of prayer. You have now transformed your church from the isolation-fostering, performance-based version of Chapter 1 to a vital, prayer-powered, ground-shaking, community of believers.
Some of you are reading this and thinking, “There’s no way my church would go that far.” You may be right; many won’t. A church that takes people out of their comfort zones and isolation bubbles by asking them to share and pray with others will quickly lose a chunk of their members. Americans have been trained that church is about watching the show and going home. Isolation is our way of life.
We’ve become accustomed to loud noise in church. People are uncomfortable with silence and start fidgeting. We’re not used to facing our hearts. Rather than coddling the lukewarm because we don’t want to turn them off, our focus should be on growing those who are serious about their faith, just as Jesus did.
Every six to eight weeks, the rogue church would devote one weekend service to prayer. We desperately need this for revival. Remember the businessman’s revival of 1857? Our churches must become houses of prayer:
…These I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
We need strong leadership in this hour, tough yet loving shepherds who are so passionate about the Lord and becoming a church of action that they’re willing to set aside “this is how we’ve always done church” and risk losing some of their flock to reboot their weekend services to the Acts 2:42 way.
Can you imagine what would happen if Elijah and the Apostle Paul were to walk into one of our churches and see the condition of the believers as I described in the first part of this book? Especially when they saw we don’t pray as a church because it makes people uncomfortable?…
…This excerpt is the first half of the chapter.