Summary: The top priority of the church is prayer. More than anything else, we must pray for people’s salvation. Pray that they come to the Father through Jesus, the Son, and pray that they find freedom through Jesus, the Savior.
Several years ago, because of all the tornados in the area, a developer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, offered an optional tornado-safe room in the new homes he was selling. Nine of the first ten buyers opted to pay the extra $2,500 for the room, which can also be used as a closet, bathroom, or vault when not needed for safety. The tenth couple, the developer said, were 75 years old and opted for a hot tub instead. (“Americans Are Facing More Disasters,” USA Today, 5-23-00; www.PreachingToday.com)
Their priorities were different. Given their age, they were not concerned about prolonging their lives all that much longer. They just wanted to live the rest of their lives in comfort.
It makes me wonder about our priorities here at Bethel Church. Founded in 1865, we are 145 years old this year. Do we just want to be comfortable in our old age, or does God have something much more important for us to do?
1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all [i.e., of first importance, above everything else], that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (NIV)
God wants us to offer every kind of prayer (vs.1) – requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving – for every kind of person - i.e., for everyone, including kings (vs.2) and those in authority.
And what does God want us to pray for? Verse 4 says, He wants everyone “to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
That’s our number one priority. That’s the first thing God wants every church to be about – not working for the comfort of its own members, but praying for the salvation of those outside the church.
Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a crude little lifesaving station on a dangerous seacoast, notorious for shipwrecks. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night, tirelessly searching for those in danger, as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. After awhile, it became a famous place.
Some of those who had been saved, as well as others along the seacoast, wanted to join this little lifesaving station. They were willing to give their time and money to support its efforts. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude began to grow.
Some of its members were unhappy about the unattractive and poorly equipped hut, so they tore it down and built a more comfortable place. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded, and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. By then, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place. It was now used as a sort of clubhouse where people got together just for the fun of it.
Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do the work. Lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club’s decorations, but beyond that there was not much lifesaving activity in the clubhouse itself.
Then a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, terribly sick and very lonely. The beautiful new clubhouse suddenly became messy and uncluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there were strong words and angry feelings, which caused division among the members. Most of them wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities and all involvement with shipwreck victims. “It’s too messy,” they said. “And besides, those dirty people ruin the atmosphere of the clubhouse.” There were a few, though, who insisted that saving lives was still their primary objective, that their only reason for existence was helping those who were drowning. They were voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of people who were shipwrecked, they could start their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did!
As the years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club…and then a third lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself…and if you visit that coast today, you’ll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.