Preaching from Prayer: Reflections from C&MA General Council in Long Beach

I spoke last night to our C&MA General Council, to thousands of pastors, missionaries and church leaders. My topic was “Proclaim: the Authority of God’s Word.” The text was Luke 9:1–6. Francis Chan spoke the night before. Our President John Stumbo spoke that morning. And I was up for tonight. When I asked our president, “Why are you asking me to speak?”, he said, “Honestly, we asked Tim Keller, and he wasn’t available, and you were the next name on the list!”  Wow. Pressure.

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Whenever I preach, I am a trumpet through which the prayers of God’s people blow. I always feel this, and I felt this keenly during this trip. I received so many texts and emails from people who were praying. As I read each and every one of those messages, I could sense the weightiness and intentionality of those prayers. At the conference, a number of different people prayed for me. Ron Walborn, the dean of Alliance Theological Seminary, enveloped me with a hug and prayed that God would release power through me. Richard Bush, a mentor, prayed for clarity and discernment. As I was kneeling down in prayer during the worship before I preached, our president came and laid his hands on me and prayed for a significant period of time. I began to weep, feeling a transfer of power and anointing through his prayer. He prayed not that the spiritual burden would lift but that there would be joy and strength to carry that burden. When I got up to preach, I could feel the power of God’s Spirit through the prayers of God’s people rushing through me, and I could be my corny self to share God’s Word. God’s presence ministered to His people.

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Afterwards, so many people came and shared such encouraging comments. The president of the Australian Alliance was encouraged to minister to his people there. An Indonesian missionary said that she just felt a deep hunger for “More!” because of the message, with greater courage to return to the field. A pastor of Ohio asked me to pray for greater fire. And on and on.

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I am very grateful to be a part of this C&MA family. As our president shared the vision that God has laid on his heart for our movement, I could not resonate more deeply. We are one of God’s end time for his purposes. As a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, we will love one another, proclaim God’s Word, reach people on the move and of all ages and those lacking access, and launch new waves of church planters, greenhouse churches, multicultural churches, threshold churches, ministry students, artists, strategically minded donors, women to use their giftings expressions of multigenerational ministry, expressions of lay ministry, and international workers.  This work is too big for any individual or any church to do alone. His compelling and inspiring vision was grounded in real soil of the present challenges of our denomination. With every point that he shared, my own spirit deeply resonated as he gave expression to the unique work that God desired to do in this place at this time. Each point was punctuated by exclamations of “Yes” and “Amen” in my wife and me as we listened.

Over thirty years ago, the C&MA took a risk on my father to support and send him to Japan as a missionary. Though my father was too old and had too many children to be appointed as a missionary, the C&MA saw the call of God on his life, took a risk and sent him anyways. When the national church blocked my father’s appointment as a missionary to Japan because he was Korean, the C&MA courageously overrode that decision and sent him anyways. Over thirty years ago, this family took a risk on my father and invited him into the family. Thirty years later, I am grateful to still be a part of this family.

And it really is a family. It is a joy to meet with so many wonderful people from around the country who reflect God’s presence so clearly and powerfully. I love and am loved by so many. Grateful. Simply grateful.

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