Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Stories of how blessing brought revival
ARGENTINA in recent decades has been changed by a nationwide revival, a significant factor in which has been the practice of blessing.
In 1980, about one per cent of the largely nominal Roman Catholic population had a personal relationship with God and saw His Word as true and normative for life – in other words, evangelical. Two decades later, 15% of the nation had come to faith in Jesus Christ. Losing a war and economic collapse were circumstances that prompted people to seek God. However blessing prayer – which in its effect is both intercessory and spiritually confrontational – played a significant part.￼
Ed Silvoso, an Argentinian, had been director of evangelistic Crusades for Billy Graham and Luis Palau throughout South America – overseeing huge budgets and events. After years of this, he felt prompted to try a different tack. He went back to Rosario, near Buenos Aires, and the third-largest city, and organised people to prayer walk in twos around every block in the city praying for every person in the city to be saved.
This was the start of a something different. Most evangelists at that time emphasised negative preaching against sin to bring conviction, but Ed knew that “the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2.4). He decided to bless the people with the goodness of God.
After the intercessors had walked around each block, praying for the people, Ed instructed them to go door to door with a notepad and say: “You have seen us walking around – we are praying for every person in every dwelling on this block. How may we bless you? What do you want God to do for you?” They were to write down the answers people gave them. Later, they prayer walked city hall while the city council met, and asked the mayor, “How can we pray for our city? We want God to bless our city.” Similarly, they went to police stations, schools and other public buildings.
At the time it was a simple, God-given strategy and Ed Silvoso and his team were simply being obedient to what they heard and sensed. However, it became apparent that God, supernaturally, used these prayers, words and questions – these blessings – to create an appetite for God nationally, and spiritual renewal was the result.
Evangelists and probably churches have mostly been concerned about the sin of the unsaved, and in a former age, preaching against sin brought change. In a less sin-aware society, drawing people by proclaiming the goodness of God, and showing them that there is a better way to live in which God blesses their lives is radical – but equally biblical.
Often it starts with just making people’s lives easier, and the unsaved people may not perceive the spiritual dimension of what is going on until, later, they find themselves brought into a covenant relationship with God.
When you say, simply, “God bless you”, you are praying for God to be with the other person in a special way. There are two dimensions of this. One is the blessing of presence. God goes with the recipient to activate in his or her life the blessing that was spoken. There is a faith dimension, even if it is a very little faith that the person being blessed can muster, but it is added to the faith of the person praying and there is a sense of receiving and acting on the blessing in some way.
The second dimension is salvation blessing, which releases people to receive Jesus for themselves. As John writes in the introduction to his gospel, “For as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12). When that happens, the blessed person can identify with Paul who spoke of “Christ in you, the hope of glory“.
The blessing of God’s presence is not unlike what happens when we receive the bread and wine at communion. “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it” (Mark 14:22) and that blessing extends to those sharing in the bread, the blessing of His presence whereby Jesus enters our lives afresh.
When we bless people, we add strength to their lives and magnify the best in them. I like to think of it as asking God to do more of what He is already doing in their lives. That might play out as clarity in confusing circumstances, enhancing their spiritual gifts or ministry potential or removing a blockage such as their becoming aware of an unforgiveness issue and wanting to put it right, or another sin issue. God’s intention – shown in Jesus – is healing, delivering and saving. That is what He does – the question is where He is already doing it. Blessing is an incremental way of making that connection in people’s lives.
Brian Burton in Phuket
Ardent Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter Brian Burton planted a church in Phuket, Thailand, and for a couple of decades it made slow progress and grew to a congregation of about 100. At this point Brian met Ed Silvoso and began to be coached by him. Blessing as a main plank of the biblically-rigorous but highly practical strategy which Ed Silvoso advocates has seen Phuket Christian Centre and a huge number of village offshoots grow to a church of many thousands, which also has a lot of favour with the local authorities, according to a talk I heard him give. I have even seen a picture of a spacious room in the hospital set aside for Christian intercessors, who are welcomed there to bless the patients, the medical staff and the operations.
Let’s bless those who are drawn to Alpha – but inevitably also caught up in a spiritual battle of confusion and circumstances and busyness and negative thoughts. Bless those, too, who are hosting and facilitating and serving in various ways, including HTB team and speakers
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An Alpha blessing
Father God, as You have blessed us in Jesus with new life, hope and the joy of walking with You and participating in your work, so we bless those we know have been invited to Alpha, others we may not know, people from other groups and areas and those looking after them. As we have received your love, so we bless them with Your love. As You have given us renewed minds, so we bless their thoughts with protection against the lies of the enemy, and their whole lives with Your order and purpose and enabling. We bless them with a hedge of protection against all enemy schemes, especially confusion, distraction and busyness. We bless them to know your love and Your invitation, and we bless them with freedom to respond to it. We bless them with Your purposes of salvation in every meaning of that word. We bless them by putting the name of Jesus on them. Jesus, take these words and good intentions of ours and may they become Your blessing on this event and these precious people, as we pray in Your name. AMEN. (Add to this and adapt it as you feel led by the Holy Spirit).