First Things First: Priority Defines Culture

By Ryan Delling

“Priority defines culture”. 
These words, spoken to me by my spiritual father, Robert Stearns nearly knocked me over when I heard them. We were standing together in Manaus, Brazil as he was about to preach to 25,000 people during a revival gathering that was being held. I was not struck by his statement because there were 25,00 people gathered in one place, nor that there were hundreds of busses outside, a huge lighting and sound system, or over 3,000 pastors attending. I was struck by the fact that all of these people were crammed into a tent with no air conditioning in the middle of the Brazilian summer and that their services went 16-18 hours per day. Most of the services consisted of 25,000    people singing to Jesus at the top of their lungs for hours at a time. These people were desperate for the presence of God to find a resting place among them…and God showed up big time. Healings, miracles, signs and wonders were the norm and were expected.  
     "Priority defines culture."
     After that trip, I was deeply troubled in my spirit for several months.  I thought about the American church at large. How we have more buildings, finances, and resources at our disposal than any other place in the world.  I thought about how we try to fill our pews by marketing our multimedia capabilities to people, competing with the pastor down the street.  I thought about how most “worship services” consist of 2 fast songs, 3 slow songs, and a 2 minute closing prayer.  I thought about how trying to get people to gather for a    special Friday night worship service is often times like suggesting that they get a root canal. I thought about how we fill church schedules with programs, clubs, breakfasts, and sports activities and try to attract teenagers to youth group with video games.  I reflected on the culture of Western Christianity that we have created… and I was sad.  
     "Priority defines culture."
      Then I remembered King David.   
      3,000 years ago King David defied the culture of his time and completely unraveled the status
quo.  With great courage he risked his reputation, personal finances, and even ability to move forward important initiatives in order to establish a resting place for the presence of God in Jerusalem.
      And establish a resting place he did… quite literally.   David’s first act as King of Israel was not to conquer a nearby nation to demonstrate his military might.  It was not to count the funds in the Royal Treasury. No, what he did was ridiculously radical and had never before been done in Israel’s history:  King David erected a tent and proceeded to hire 4,288 full time people to sing, play instruments, pray, and write music (the Psalms) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without ever stopping. This structure was called the “Tabernacle of David” (1 Chr. 15:1–17:27).  Why did he do such a thing?  Because David knew that the most important thing he could do was to create a tapestry of non-stop worship and prayer that would serve as the foundation on which his entire kingdom would be built and would dictate the spiritual atmosphere for the entire nation of Israel.
      "Priority defines culture."
      Because of his heart for “One Thing” (Psalm 27:4), and his boldness to prioritize relationship with the Lord (worship and prayer) over everything else, God Himself actually called David a man “after His own heart”.  There was something so unique about David’s life in the eyes of God that even today in 2012, the star of David is the symbol on Israel’s national flag and Jerusalem is still called the “City of David”.  David had his priorities right, and I believe that there is an opportunity  in this hour for the Body of Christ to get its priorities right as well.  God defined His house not as a house of preaching, programs, or peripheral activities.  He        defined His house as a “House of Prayer for All
Nations”  (Isaiah 56:7). 
       While 24/7 prayer or "laus perennis" (which is latin for "perpetual prayer") has been happening for the past 2000 years of church history,  the last decade has seen an absolute surge in this movement.  I believe that what is happening is that God is inviting us to redefine our priorities as a people.  I also believe that it is God’s desire for this to happen as the different churches, ministries, and “tribes” located in the same geographic region come together with one voice.
     In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” –Amos 9:11
      What if all of the churches in Western NY became committed to creating a resting place for the presence of God in the spirit of the Tabernacle of David? What if our region became a region “after God’s own heart” because "laus perennis" was taking place? We are closer than you may think to this becoming a reality.
     The Prayer Collective, announced last issue (December/January 2012) is something I am excited to be a part of because what I just described is what Prayer Collective is all about. The Prayer Collective is a collaboration of musicians, singers and intercessors working together to offer Jesus perpetual prayer in the Elmwood Village leading to greater intimacy with Jesus in his Church and greater effectiveness in missions and outreach.  Prayer Collective invites churches, ministries and/or musicians to cover one two hour segment once a week collectively covering 12 hours a day, 6 days a week with more to come. See www.prayercollective.com for more details and to get involved.
    “Priority defines culture”.  David didn’t just give lip service to God, he defined culture by his priorities.   What will the culture of the Church in Western New York Be?  It’s up to us…