Every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him; therefore also through him the “Amen” is spoken, to the glory we give to God. 2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV
Two volunteer church planters arrive by bus in a small town ten kilometers away from their homes, sent by their cell group to start another such group. They descend the steep steps, their Bibles and tracts hidden in shoulder bags. As the vehicle roars away in a cloud of diesel smoke, they lay hands on each other’s shoulders and pray. “Lord Jesus, we believe the Father has chosen folk in this place, for whom you died, and whom the Spirit is drawing to you. Please, lead us to them, open their home to receive us, heal their diseases and grant them repentance leading to Life. We agree, right now, that you will plant a new cell in this town this week. Amen. Amen.”
Presumptuous? Naïve? Weak theology? Unbiblical?
Jesus asserted, “I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.” — Matt. 18:19-20, ESV
This astounding promise that Jesus made to his followers has proven true, across many centuries, for those who fulfill its conditions:
- Assemble together in Jesus’ Name.
- Agree together on what you are going to ask for.
- Ask the Father for it.
If you want to see more of the power of God manifest in your work for Jesus, then agree with one or two others, in prayer, about what you believe God wants to do. Agree on one simple, definite point, shaped by faith. Expose your motives for asking God to bind your request, namely, that you want to obey Jesus’ commandments, not seeking your own glory or to manipulate God in some mechanical way.
Much of the powerlessness and fruitless activity of Western Christians can be attributed to two causes:
- Extreme individualism. Western Christians too often try to live and work independently of others. They feel that others’ ideas are too wishful, trite or manipulative, so they will not agree with them. Even missionary teams from the West can be so rent with conflict, competition or jealousy that members will not agree. “If you continually bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:15).
- Excessive rationalism. It does not seem reasonable to Western Christians that Almighty God would stoop to be obligated to act according to the wishes of a small number of mistake-prone humans. Furthermore, their theological doctrine of ‘divine decrees’ tells them that God always does as He Himself pleases, regardless of what humans may ask or think.
Yet, the promises of Jesus stand, and it is up to us feeble humans to test those promises by meeting their conditions. How to do so?
Suppose that you are a member of a cell group or ministry team that wants to start new cells in a region that resists the gospel. Perhaps you have worked there for years and seen little or no results. How could you apply Jesus’ promises in order to see a needed break through followed by steady progress? Together with your team or cell members, follow these steps often:
- Come together with your cell group or ministry team, and spend some time praising Jesus.
- Identify specific needs that require God’s help, regardless of how impossible they seem.
- Agree verbally with each other about what you believe God should do.
- Formulate very specific requests and express them to the Father.
- Say a hearty Amen all round.
But, but …
But “assemble in Jesus’ name” seems to imply a whole church, doesn’t it? Well, it can, but Jesus said, two or three are enough. Victor Choudherie, who has trained 1000s who have planted 10s of 1000s of house churches in neglected regions of Asia, teaches even new believers how to agree and ask, in binding the devil, when evangelizing and when planting churches. He observes that it is very difficult to get needed agreement amongst more than two or three, even in communal societies.
But, in the context, Jesus was teaching on how to deal with sinning brothers when he made that promise. So the promise is only for church discipline, isn’t it? Well, the promise certainly applies to church discipline, which is clear from the wider context. However, the phrase “whatever you ask” seems unrestricted and the promise in verse 18 recalls that of Matthew 16:19 which is not restricted. Furthermore 18:20 starts with “For,” not with “Therefore”; that is, Jesus is always present amongst two or three, not only during church discipline.