PRAY – Growth

[If you’d like to listen to the audio recoding of this message, please CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of the post to the Spotify Player.]


Without even knowing it, this world region has been on your mind, possibly in your conversations, hopefully in your prayers. It is the World Region called Eurasia. It might sound familiar because right now one of its countries, Ukraine, has been attacked by the Russian military. Have you ever noticed that during times of great adversity, even those who do not call on the name of the Lord…call for Justice, clamor for peace, suddenly have an opinion on right and wrong.

You don’t need me to name names or point fingers. I’m sure you’ve just thought of a few big names, people groups, organizations who have raised the blue and yellow flag, standing in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. They’ve changed their profile picture on social media so people know where they stand on the issue…without really ever having to discuss it.

Believe me, I’m all for peace. I just know from where eternal and everlasting peace comes from, the Prince of Peace. I have a personal relationship with him, maybe you do too. If Peace comes from and flows out of Jesus, then shouldn’t we ALL be desiring and praying that the people of this world region come to a saving relationship in Jesus Christ? Yes, that means people on both sides of the conflict.

The Eurasia region seems to think that prayer is pretty important to succeeding in this life. So much so that on Jan 28/29 they held their 2nd annual region-wide 24 hour prayer event. The idea was to pray from Sunrise to Sunset. The “Prayer time started a hour before the sun rises on Eastern Russia and stops an hour after the sun sets on the Azores.”

A time quite literally blanketing this world region in prayer. How phenomenal. As the light touched every part of the land and the people there in, the prayers were raised, God was Praised and Hearts and lives were no doubt changed. 

I’ve got to expect the hardship that Ukrainians are currently dealing with are insulated by the prayers of God’s people. God was and is working ahead, making a way for safety and peace.

This grouping of countries, Eurasia, what is on their minds? What is their desires for their countries? What, if they could ask you and I to pray for them…what would they say? Well we don’t have to imagine or guess. They shared it through the Global week of prayer guide. There are 3 specific areas of prayer that they desire to see something happen. If I can sum it up into one word, one idea, it is this: Growth.  Church-growth is a buzzword. But what the Eurasia region churches desire is not bigger churches, high-tech facilities, higher pay for pastors and a broadcast on the national TV channels. Not church growth. Kingdom Growth. What does that look like? It looks alot like things we would desire for our own world area.

Spiritual Growth

First of all they want people to come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. They want to see salvation stories happening. People experience a complete 180° change in their life because God got a hold of them! Let’s take a look at a passage of scripture that shows this kind of movement, a revival is real and can happen…even today, even in Eurasia. 

Acts 4:1-4 NIV

1The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”

Acts 4:1-4 NIV

In the book of Acts, many things happen. This is, of course, an understate as the very name implies “Action!” Earlier in Acts 2, it’s the time of pentecost. Peter preaches a powerful message that weaves the history of the Jews and clearly claims Jesus as the Messiah. The one who was crucified, buried and raised to life. Many people were added to their number, but we don’t really get a “head-count” until Acts 4. 

Peter and John were teaching. The Sadducess were not fans of the message. But these messages opened doors for people to walk through. Opportunities for hearts to be changed. And we learned that the number grew to about 5,000! WOW!   From 11 to 120 praying in the upper room during pentecost and now they’ve accelerated  to 5,000!

When the powers that be didn’t like the message, they tried to silence it. Place hardship on these two preachers. Jail them. Punish them. But that seemed to either be a catalyst for this movement or at the very least have no negative impact on new believers. God was adding to their number those who were being saved.

In the world today, we need this kind of power and influence. The power to help nudge people with divided hearts in the right direction. Introduce them to Jesus. Pray them to the threshold of grace and encourage them to walk through that door! Prayer is powerful. It not only can miraculously heal the terminally ill, it can purify the spiritually bankrupt as well. Sinners can be the Saved. And if you’ve ever met someone who has just given their life to Christ, you know the energy and passion they have for the lost. They are some of the best people to reach others with the gospel.

So the Church in Eurasia wants this for its people. Spiritual growth. New believers coming to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We at Viroqua Nazarene put it this way:  they desire people to experience their “Fresh Start in Jesus Christ.”

What more could a group of Christians want? What more could they pray for?

Healing and deliverance from Covid? Prosperity and safe, warm homes? Freedom from oppressive governments?

Those may be on their lists, but WAY down on the list. Their next prayer request, their desire for the people of Eurasia region is their:

Personal Growth

This doesn’t just mean their people are much more organized at home. Personal growth in this context is all about moving forward in faith toward serving. Each person, young or old, big or small can contribute and help in the ministry of the faith. Here is what is says, directly from the prayer guide:

“Pray for believers to awaken to opportunities to reach beyond themselves by coming along the vulnerable people in our communities.”

The need is there. It is everywhere. The needy, the hungry, the homeless, the father or motherless. The widow or widower. The depressed. The downtrodden. Whatever group within their communities would be considered vulnerable, Eurasia churches desire the believers to move to serve these folks in need.

It seems like a very clear example right now, but the attack on Ukraine has displaced many people. These people may have lost everything they own. Only their family and the clothes on their back, arriving at the border of a Neutral or friendly country. What happens when they get there? If Christians weren’t taking them in, helping them get shelter, food and clothing…I’m not sure what would happen to them. But the Church of the Nazarene is showing up in a big way. 

These lessons on missions have opened my eyes to better understand how the Nazarene church serves people in crisis. Allow me to make a comparison. 

Organizations like the Red Cross will send teams to help those in crisis. They will help with supplies, shelter, maybe paperwork if necessary. If a disaster hits here in our country, there is a branch of the Federal Government called FEMA that works with local governments to help affected communities recover from the disaster. 

Here is where The church is different from other organizations and governmental agencies. We already have relief workers around the world. Sure, we do send teams to help, but it’s not the first line of recovery. The recovery effort is led by the local churches in each and every district and region around the world. That’s why when we give toward a specific Crisis fund, it supplies and equips those local churches to serve the most vulnerable in their communities. 

The following is from an article on the Eurasia Church of the Nazarene site: 

“Pastor Nabil, of Odessa, is housing refugees in both the church and in his family’s home. Andriy, a pastor in Kyiv, has helped coordinate deliveries of food and supplies, such as diapers, to single mothers and children. Pastor Sergei is making continuous trips to the border, transporting refugees while navigating volatile areas. Pastor Svetlana is caring for her congregation that consists largely of disabled members, delivering food and seeing to their basic needs.”

The article goes on to tell of Nazarene churches across the border giving shelter to refugees fleeing the ravages of this war.

You and I get to be a part of the recovery of so many people and communities in crisis when we support crisis funds. And the support goes straight to the people who are always on the front lines. God prepared people for ministry, got them in place. During dark times, that’s when God’s light shines SO bright through those serving in and through their local church.

In Luke 10, Jesus is preparing his followers to go out and share the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 10:2-11 NIV)

2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 

Luke 10:2-11 NIV

They were called and instructed. They came back praising God for all that had happened when they listened to Jesus, did what he said. Ministry. It’s all over the world. It’s following Jesus and serving Jesus by serving and caring for people

To give us a little local perspective, people in Vernon County are constantly caring for those in need, whether in person at the Bethel Butikk, Door of Hope, or the Living Faith Food Pantry  OR by financially supporting these organizations. It makes a big difference to bring hope and restoration in the lives of people in our community. God placed you here, called you to care for those around you…especially those in need, you and I…We GET to serve and we can do it through and in our local church. Just like our brother and sisters in Eurasia are doing as well.

So far we’ve started with the desire for folk in Eurasia to come to a saving relationship in Jesus Christ, to discover their Fresh Start. They desire a revival of new believers all across their world area. What A Prayer Request! Then we moved toward service. Growth in ministry. The movement of every Christian is to serve God and fellow man in some way that reflects God’s love and leads people close to Him. Now let’s look at their third prayer request. 

Professional Growth (Vocational calls fostered and confirmed)

The best way I could summarize their request here is by calling it “professional growth.” Their desire is that “God would call a generation of men and women, both young and old, to serve as pastors and teachers who are committed to Holiness.”     That’s a power request as well! 

For the church to succeed, for Christians to stay close to God, we must be open and actively listening to His Voice. Sometimes his voice says, “you are my messenger. Go speak my words.” Other times it is a pull at our heart strings for a specific group of people. I had a friend in college who enlightened me to the persecuted Christians in Cambodia. She wanted to serve God there in Cambodia, that was on her heart. I hadn’t ever heard of Cambodia before then! 

I will say this, Maybe God has called you to a specific vocation: preaching, teaching, speaking, organizing. Maybe it’s serving him full time in some other fashion. Whatever the case, the most important thing is that you and I say yes…and Keep Saying YES until God says no. 

After the resurrection, Jesus is doing…you know…awesome stuff. My favorite post resurrection thing he did was make a shore side breakfast for his disciples. He cooked for them. During the enjoyment of baked breakfast fishwiches, Jesus asks Peter a set of questions.

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21:15b-19 NIV

Not only was this an opportunity for Jesus to make clear to Peter that he forgave him for his denial, but also this was a call to vocational ministry.

Previously, he’d already declared that He would use Peter to lead the way. 

I tell you you are Peter, Petros, ROCK. And on this rock I will build my church. The gates of hell will not overcome it! (paraphrase Matthew 16:18)

On the shore, Jesus tells Peter specifically he wants him to “‘feed his sheep, his lambs.” Jesus calls Peter to a place of Leadership, but also a place of service. Peter will serve spiritual food. We certainly see that in action at Pentecost.

The Eurasia region doesn’t want to miss ONE single generation when it comes to salvation or vocation. If God is calling someone to do something specific with their life to serve Him, The Eurasia region desires to assist in that conversation, facilitate callings, and support them in any way they can.

Though there certainly are other God-serving, God-honoring vocations aside from Pastoral ministry; the church is thoroughly equipped to guide the call of the preacher, teacher, or missionary. We’ve been doing it for a very long time!

And that is what they desire for their people? yup..

How does it happen? You ask questions.

God calling you? Identify it.

It’s identified, now what? Nurture it.

Can we go any further? Sure. You own it. The minister owns their calling in such a deep way, they begin guiding others in their own call-journey.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,”

Col 3:23a NIV

Conclusion

The people of Eurasia are not much different than us. They have needs and desires. Praises and Prayer requests. They are all over the news, as Russia attacks Ukraine. Right now is an excellent time to join in prayer with this world area about what concerns they have. They desire for revival, a great many souls being saved. They want those folks to move forward in their walk with Christ, serving others. They want more men and women to become ordained ministers in the work of the Church of the Nazarene.

  • Your mission, should you choose to accept it is this: Pray about 1, 2 or all three prayer requests they have. 
  • You may also want to pray for peace to break out between Russia and Ukraine. That in the meantime, God will continue to provide for their needs as they become refugees in other nations.

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