Don’t Pray for the Lost to be Saved – its not scriptural! (part 2: Jesus)

This is the second in a two part series. If you haven’t read the first half, please do so now.

There are two spiritual truths that are the foundation of why there is little emphasis in the New Testament on praying for the lost to be saved.

Jesus didn’t pray that people would respond because he knew that people were desperate for Him even if they didn’t realize it. In Matthew 9: 37-38, Jesus commanded his disciples to pray for not for salvation for the lost, but rather for more workers in the fields: “the fields are white, pray that The Lord would send more workers into the fields.”

Lets consider Jesus’s “evangelistic mission” when he sent out the 72 in Luke 10 and the 12 disciples in Matt 10. When he instructed the 72 and the 12, did he give them extremely specific instructions? Yes. Did those instructions include telling them to pray? No! He told them that he had given them authority, just like he has been given authority for the benefit of the church (Eph 1:22-23). He just sent the workers into the field and knew that those the Father has called will respond.

As an ekklesia that is healthy grows and operates in unity, it will naturally produce workers that will be sent out to plant other ekklesias. This is the example in scripture, and His pattern still operates in the same manner as it did back then. I am living proof of this, as well as the other trainees currently with Milt.

Additionally, imagine if all the praying for the lost that we do suddenly turned into praying for more workers in the fields, as Jesus instructed his disciples? Would that not lead to more of the lost actually hearing the good news? Would that not also make our prayers more personal and more concrete in their application? I think they would.

Lets get back to Jesus’s view of evangelism.
John 14-17 is a window into Jesus’ heart. Its the speech and prayer he gave to his disciples the night of his arrest. I consider this his “deathbed” words, and just like someone in the hospital on their deathbed, whatever they say in that moment is what is truly in their hearts. So lets focus on his prayer in ch 17. Amongst other issues, he prays for you and me: future believers, and I will include that portion of his prayer here:

JOHN 17:20-23 I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one_as you are in me Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. [after this he prays again for the disciples]

Notice that he didn’t pray that they would have sound theology, or great ministries, or even great evangelism. He prayed that we would be ONE. Why? Because Jesus knew that the church that is most reflective of him would be the church that has the most true conversions. Right there Jesus just displayed his heart for the church AND his plan for reaching the lost. He said it clearly himself in verse 23: when we are in unity, the world (i.e. the lost) will believe. This is true because in some mysterious way, He knew that unity and oneness was an extremely effective at winning the lost. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for this, but one of them is that some people are longing for a taste of Heaven, and will convert simply on the “heavenly taste of the Godhead” that unity provides.

Imagine this: what if all the efforts we as believers have made towards evangelism in the past 100 yrs was instead put into becoming one heart and one mind? I GUARANTEE you that we would be more plentiful harvest of souls than we have had.

Lets also look at what we label as “the Lord’s Prayer” in Matt 6 {Which, by the way, is not the Lord’s Prayer, thats in John 17. In Matt 6 he gives instructions on how we should pray}. Read those instructions from Him on how to pray; is there any hint of evangelistic tone in it? I say no. The only line that could even be construed to touch upon reaching the lost is “let your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” however, lets remember that Jesus also said “the kingdom is within you.” The Kingdom of God does not exist in an unbeliever, but only in believers, so I think it is fair to interpret that line of his instruction to be interpreted in the following manner: “I know the kingdom is in my people, but let them exhibit the qualities of Heaven-love, unity, compassion, forgiveness, etc- to a greater degree” because Jesus understood that if his people exhibit the kingdom of God in their own lives, some people will be drawn to it.

Let me share with you my personal journey: the great majority of my family (including extended family, roughly 40 people) do not know The Lord, and most of my grandparents have died without knowing him. So don’t think that I’m not intimately concerned with the lost getting saved…but I must subject my paradigms to the example seen in scripture in Paul as well as the commands that Jesus gave.

Also, we must remember that in reality it is only those that the father draws (John 6:44) that will be saved, also, lets remember another unpleasant truth: that most people will not come to a saving knowledge of The Lord (John 7: 13-14). Of course, he also said that when he would be lifted up, he would draw all men to himself (John 12:32).

I am NOT telling you not to pray for the lost. “What???” you say? I’ll repeat that: I am NOT telling you not to pray for the lost. My goal here is just to give you information. What I recommend you do is to take this info, research it yourself, and allow Jesus to reframe your thoughts and actions, not just some blogger you’ll never meet.

Lastly, I final word from my heart: I only desire for the Bride of Christ to love unabashedly and worship with full abandon. If anything in this post is not Truth, scrap it. I have thought of the subject matter for over 10 yrs, and other than telling my friend mentioned above about it, this is the first time I’ve really shared. I would love for everyone to know the King, but thats just not going to happen, and we must be realistic about it (Matt 7: 13-14).

In all of this, don’t just take my word. Look for yourself :)
your brother,
Thomas

Don’t Pray for the Lost to be Saved – its not scriptural! (part 1: Paul)

By Thomas Fortson

The title of this post is not a clever trick to get you to read it: it really isn’t scriptural to pray for the lost to be saved.  I will try to show you this from scripture, and all I ask is that you think objectively about what this post says and allow Holy Spirit to lead you into all Truth.  This is a two part series: this one covers Paul and the next is about Jesus’ teachings on this subject.

[A disclaimer: I am NOT speaking of when a nonbeliever approaches a believer and asks them to pray for something; that is certainly a godly thing to do.  I am strictly speaking of believers praying for nonbelievers to become believers.]

“Praying for the unsaved is clearly scriptural!” you say?  Really?  Prove it.  You will find it is actually much more difficult to make a Biblical case for it than you think.

Think about this: if praying for the lost was so important, why didn’t Paul instruct the churches to do it in his letters?  I extoll you to verify this yourself.  Prayer was clearly part of his life and ministry based upon his letters, but exactly what did he pray?  In his letters, when he does describe how he prays for them, or when he asks for prayer, or even when he writes out his prayers in the letter itself, he never (that I have read) asks for prayer for the lost.  Think about that.

Lets go through some examples.

When he asks for the Ephesian church to pray for his evangelistic messages, he does has for prayer, but not that people would respond: he asks that his words would be clear.

Eph 6:18-19 “Pray for Gods holy people and pray that I would proclaim the message clearly.”  Ephesians was one of the last letters he wrote; if praying for the lost was something he endorsed, wouldn’t this be the perfect place to include it?

Lets consider the last letter Paul wrote: 2 Timothy.  In it he basically gives Timothy instructions on how to lead the churches in times of crisis etc…   In 1:8 he encourages him to proclaim the truth without being ashamed, but nothing about prayer.

When I was first realizing this, I did a study of the New Testament and could only find one clear example: when Paul is before Herod, he alludes to praying for it: Acts 26:29.

Paul is speaking before King Agrippa and starts evangelizing to him and Agrippa rebuffs him and Paul responds “…whether quickly or not [for you to convert], I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”  So thats it.  Thats the only example I came up with in all of the New Testament.  (I could have overlooked something, and I’d appreciate it if someone else could provide one…)  Given the amount of text that is given to prayer and the instructions of both Paul and Jesus, it would seem that Paul’s prayers for them was not nearly as frequent as his prayers for the churches.  Also, lets not forget that this was an event that Paul had anticipated for a long time, and was likely more focused on it than his daily witnessing activities.  In that sense, he would be more likely to ‘branch out’ from his typical pattern.  [It’s the same argument that surrounds whether or not Christians are to pray prior to every meal.  Simply because Jesus prayed before the last passover meal, and gave thanks when feeding the 4/5,000, that doesn’t mean that he prayed every single time physical food entered his body.]

I told a brother my thoughts on this years ago, and his response was: “Thomas, that means we don’t pray for the great commission…” implying that he disagreed with me because it was too ludicrous to imagine not praying for something so important.  To this argument, I have two things to say. 1. the “great commission” is the name we have given to Jesus’ last words to the 120 before he ascended and not what Jesus himself entitled it…also, the point of this statement has been overblown and misconstrued (see blog entitled the great assumption).  2. Even if you disagree with reason #1 and the other blog entry, think of it like this: its not that I think we shouldn’t pray for evangelism, its that I think we should pray DIFFERENTLY than we traditionally have been, to greater reflect how the Kingdom operates and how Jesus displayed.

In the second half of this 2-blog series, I focus on Jesus and his prayers and how he instructed his disciples to evangelize and pray.  Stay tuned :)

Thomas.

What is Organic Church?

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475948121_e6217d6afd_oAgain, the folks over at 3rdRace.org have produced an excellent podcast concerning the definition and nature of what some are calling the organic expression of the church.

I highly recommend that you go over there and listen to this new podcast and all future podcasts as well.  By the way, if you don’t know, these are the people that Mary and I are training to be future church planters.  They have years of experience in the organic expression of the church and I also recommend that you subscribe to their blog.  You won’t be sorry!

Click below to listen to the latest podcast:

http://3rdrace.org/the-deuce/

Infusion NorCal 2015

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 You are invited to a very special organic church event in Northern California!

Jon Zens and Myself will be holding a special conference for those interested in organic church life in Northern California.  The event will be held in Sonoma and will run April 3-4, 2015.  

If you are involved with a group that is desirous of returning to the life and purpose we see in the New Testament, this event may be for you.

If you are an individual believer who is looking to connect with others who have this same desire in your area, this event may be for you.

For more information and registration click on the link below:

http://www.infusionevent.org/

Training the Planters

3478092302_6a4f72dc25_o Many of you may not know that my wife Mary and I plant organic churches. We have been doing this for the last 20+ years. It’s been full-time for the last five years. We have planted New Testament style organic churches throughout this country (U.S.) and in Australia. We are also working with others to help see new groups established in Europe and Africa.

Recently, we have entered a new phase of this work and that is the training of new future church planters.  This is very very exciting for us!  For the last five months, four others have been with us as we plant a church in Northern California.  This has been an incredible experience for all of us involved and we ALL are learning some very spiritual and practical lessons from this experience.

One of the desires of our hearts is to present these folks that we are training to you all, our readers.  You will definitely enjoy their writings as well.  They recently did their first podcast about them being trained and you can listen by going to this blog:

http://3rdrace.org/our-first-podcast/

Enjoy!!!

 

He Himself – Being and Seeing

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Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Here, in the Lord’s prayer to the Father, Jesus reveals the very heart of God for his Church.  This is definitely the key to the Son’s glory, which was given to Him by the Father. First of all, we need to understand:

This glory is the goal of his prayer.

So, I think that we would do well to discover the essence of this “glory”.

What is the Glory of the Father and the Son?

If we look closely at this chapter of this gospel of John we will see some major points that are made throughout the prayer:

– mutual glorification (verse 1)
– authority (verse 2)
– eternal life (verse 2)
– knowing the Father and the Son (this is eternal life) (verse 3)
– accomplishing God’s work brings him glory (verse 4)
– glory is something that happens with the Father and the Son before creation (verse 5)
– God’s communication comes from the Father, through the Son to us (verse 8)
– everything is mutual within the Godhead (Trinity) (verse 10)
– the glory happens when there is oneness, which happens in the Name (verses 11-12)
– protection from the world and sending dependent upon oneness (verses 16-21)
– the glory has already been given to us for the oneness (verse 22)
– the oneness, which is based upon the love between the Father and Son, will be seen in the world (verse 23)

Now, we can combine these thoughts and get a birds-eye view of what God wants. There is a lot here, of course, but I am going to juice it down into one simple paragraph. (Tip – to see this more clearly, I suggest that you read John chapters 14-17 all the way through without stopping. This will give you a much clearer picture of God’s eternal purpose in Christ.)

The glory of God is the mutual fellowship (community life) that all three of the members of the Godhead share. This involves their mutual love, communication, attention, knowing one another, union, passion, dependency, giving and receiving, and much much more. All things within this community are mutual. They share all things, all content, all life, all love, all goals and vision, and all of the uniqueness that each one has. They share all things in common, you could say. Being three distinct Persons, they are completely one. This oneness of their life together is their glory. It is the source of their power, strength, and authority. Their goal is to share and express this glory with us! Yes, us, mere mortals! And the goal would include the expression (manifestation) of this incredible life to all realms; visible and invisible.

Wow!!!  What a goal!  What a purpose!  What a vision and dream!  Paul puts it this way:

“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:25-27)

Do you see from this passage that the “mystery” is Christ in you, the hope of glory?

Do you also see from this passage the fact that Christ now lives in you (plural)?

This fact (reality) is the key to God getting what He wants.  He cannot have the expression of His Son without this LIFE of the community of God being in us and being lived out in us and from us.

Being and Seeing

So now we come to the critical part of this prayer of Jesus to the Father.  It’s the “how to” of him getting his glory revealed:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Being with Christ is the key to it all!  Without the being there will be no seeing of the glory!  Yes, that means being with and seeing He, Himself!  And yet, all this time we have thought it was all about our prayer life and our bible study and our witness, and our church attendance, and our devotion to God!

Wow! How could we have missed the main point?  Maybe because it is so simple and so basic that it actually insults our intelligence!  We have to somehow figure it all out and then we will have something to boast about.  But God has made it so simple.  He just wants us to BE with Him!

It may be simple but it’s certainly not easy in this hyper actively complex world we live in.  It’s not easy to simply get together with God and just BE with him.  There are many obstacles and distractions that get in the way.  It’s not easy to simply “be still and know that He is God” in a noisy and intrusive world system.  But notice with me that your Lord deliberately hides himself away to be with the Father.  He was very intentional about it.  He knew that He could do nothing apart from the Father (John 5:19) and therefore He needed to be with Him.  Do we realize this as well?

Where Do We Fellowship?

Isn’t it odd that Jesus prayed to the Father that his disciples would be with Me where I am?  Wasn’t he right there standing (and praying) in front of them?  Why would he pray that they would be where he is (present tense)?  Have you ever wondered this?

I believe it’s because even though Jesus was with them in the flesh and in the natural world, he was also in another place simultaneously.  That place was inside of the Father!  I mean that quite literally, spiritually, but literally.  He was both in the natural world AND in the heavenly places at the same time!  How is this possible?  It’s possible because Jesus (just like you and I) is made up of a spirit, a soul, and a body (1 Thess. 5:23).  With his body and soul he functions on the earth, but with his spirit he functions in the heavenlies.  In fact, he is The Door (ladder) between heaven and earth! See Genesis 28:12-17 and John 1:50,51 for further insight.

Paul tells us that we believers are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places:

“… even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  (Eph 2:5-7)

Sisters and brothers, do you see that this declaration is in the present tense?  We are right now, currently, at this time, seated with Him in the heavenly places!  This means that we (the Church) are also now in two places at the same time.  Even though we are on the earth, he wants to be with us right now in the heavenly realms.  He wants us to be with him and see him in that place that is not bound by space, time, measurement or anything else.  You can turn to He, Himself who lives inside your spirit right now and see his glory.

May we all take this as our glorious occupation!

“… but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  (2Co 3:16-18)

 

Two New Books You Won’t Want to Miss!

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James with Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is our good brother and friend James in Australia. James is very happy because he has read our two newest books called New Day and The Gathering. If you are interested in knowing Christ in a deeper way and experiencing the organic expression of the Church you will definitely want to check out these two books!

Click here to find out more!

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