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Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-07-15-1I confess. I have no sense of rhythm. When our church gathers for corporate worship, I want to clap with the music, but I have no business getting the clapping going. I look to praise team members to learn when to put my hands together. In other words, I have to borrow the beat. And I must continually keep my eyes on the musicians. If I am not careful, my clapping will trail off into confusion and chaos.

Luke is interested in giving us lessons in rhythm. In the first chapter of Acts, he starts the metronome and calls us to follow the beat. At first, Jesus’ apprentices were a huddled mass living in between the Ascension and Pentecost. Following Jesus’ orders, they waited together in Jerusalem. While waiting, they had prayer meeting: “they all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Then, in Acts 2, the Spirit came and propelled them into the streets to proclaim the message of salvation through the resurrected Jesus.

The events of the first two chapters of Acts set the rhythm in motion. From there, we feel a two-beat rhythm. The metrical movement goes like this: Prayer/Proclamation, Prayer/Proclamation... After the prayer in Acts 1 and proclamation in Acts 2, the rhythm continues. You can tap your toes through the rest of the book. In Acts 3, Peter and John were on their way to prayer meeting when a paralytic was healed, making an opportunity to proclaim Christ to the crowds. In Acts 4, Peter and John spent the night in jail. It is not a stretch to speculate they prayed through that night. The next morning, while on trial, Peter transformed the witness stand into a pulpit as he proclaimed Jesus to the religious authorities. Upon their release, Peter and John returned and reported to the church. The church responded by raising their voices “in prayer to God” (Acts 4:24). When the prayer meeting adjourned, they “spoke the word of God boldly” (4:31), which is to say they proclaimed the word of God. And the beat goes on from there.

When the Spirit of God gets hold of the people of God, He draws us into the two-beat rhythm of prayer and proclamation. Prayer is the tick; proclamation is the tock—both are necessary, both are critical, and each of them necessitates the other. Prayer leads to proclamation. Proclamation leads to prayer.

The book of Acts is often referred to as “The Acts of the Apostles.” More properly, the book of Acts is about “The Acts of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the primary agent. Throughout Luke’s telling of the events of the Early Church, it is the Spirit who summons and sends. The Spirit gathers the Church for prayer and propels the Church into proclamation. The Church then responds by living into the measured movement of the Spirit.

I know of churches who pray well. They hold prayer meetings and engage prayer ministries that are regular and rich. But they don’t always see themselves as sent to proclaim Jesus. And I know of churches who are serious about the work of evangelism, compassion, and justice. They are faithful in their labor, but they don’t always make time for much-needed prayer. Emphasizing one at the expense of the other fails to live up to the calling of life in the Spirit, which ultimately causes us to trail off into confusion and chaos. I also know of churches who live in rhythm, faithfully going about the work of prayer and proclamation. These churches are most faithful to the Spirit who continually summons us in and sends us out.

I sympathize with churches who have trouble with the beat. It is not as easy as it seems. That is why we look to Luke to learn the rhythm. We feel the pattern of the Spirit’s pulses in the life of the Early Church, and we borrow the beat.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

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