Why Every Church Must Fast
By Bob Rodgers
When my father suddenly died of a heart attack in 1988, the church voted that I succeed him as pastor. The church, having just come through a building program, was hopelessly in debt.
Not knowing what to do, I asked the people to join me in fasting 21 days, fasting one meal a day for 21 days. For the past 18 years I had fasted 1 week during the Christmas-New Year period. So I fasted for 7 daysthree meals a day. I felt I had completed the fast. However, the Lord spoke to me to continue, so I fasted the entire 21 days with only liquids.
Immediately I noticed a change in my life. I preached with greater power and authority. Our church began to grow, and finance began to increase. Then the Lord impressed upon me to have our church fast 3 days every monthwe took the first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday each month.
It was easy to get several thousand people to begin fasting on Monday, but when Wednesday came I was fortunate to have a handful still fasting. After several months I initiated a miracle service on the third dayintending to have a goal for the people to reach so they could complete the 3 days.
When I arrived for the miracle service on Wednesday morning I was shocked to find the chapel totally packed and people standing around the inside walls. Some could not get in the door. I preached a very simple message and at the end began to pray for the people. Two were present with terminal cancer. Both were healed that day. Another lady had a growth the size of a grapefruit on her leg. After prayer she went home; the tumor had disappeared. The power of God increased in our church, and that year 37 people were healed of cancer.
The next year, beginning the first Monday in January, I asked the people to join me in fasting for 21 days. At the end of that period 15 people completed the fast on liquids only. The next year 50 people fasted the entire 21 days. The following year 79. The next year 89. Last year over 3,000 fasted something, but 263 fasted with only liquids.
The results in our church have been startling. Our income has multiplied over threefold. We have restructured our finance and are paying our bills. In the past months we baptized 73, and 87 joined the church. All these are the result of fasting and prayer.
I believe there are five reasons why every church needs to have a regular fasting time.
1. JESUS URGED IT.
Throughout the Bible the emphasis is on public fasts. Joel put it this way: "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly" (2:15). Jesus also put an emphasis on fasting corporately. He declared, "Then shall they fast in those days" (Mark 2:20). He knew the church would be assaulted by the enemy from every direction and, therefore, urged the church to fast. Thus the primary form of fasting is a corporate fast. Secondary fasting is individual fasting.
In Matthew 6, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught three fundamentals of Christianity: giving, praying, and fasting. We should give not to be seen of men but privately (verse 3). We pray both privately and with other people (verses 5,7). Jesus implied primary prayer is to pray alone. Secondary prayer is to pray with other people. Some things are too private to pray about with othersthey are only between God and the one praying.
Fasting individually is secondary because (1) it is easier to fast with other people than alone; (2) fasting corporately brings the most powerful unity a church or body of believers can ever witness; and (3) a corporate anointing is released in a church. Even though some may not be praying for a particular situation, they will benefit from the anointing others receive through that fast. I have seen countless families get better jobs and receive promotions in their businesses during our 21-day fastings, and they were not even praying about those matters. However, someone else was and they received that blessing from the others prayers.
2. fasting helps produce faith.
Faith must be released out of our mouths (Romans 10:310). Our source of faith is the Word of God, but we must speak it with our mouths.
The same organ we speak with is the same organ we eat withthe tongue. Fasting and faith are first cousins. The tongue speaks faith and eats food. Some unbelief cannot be broken without fasting.
God spoke to Joshua to tell the people as they were ready to invade Jericho, "You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, Shout" (Joshua 6:10, NKJV).
There are different types of fasts. In this situation God commanded the people to fast by not speaking. For over a week they could not speak.
Fasting increases faith as we allow Gods Word to saturate our minds.
3. fasting is the spiritual method to bring revival (Joel 2:28).
This passage speaks of a revival that affects the young and the old. It will come to pass "afterward." After what?
Afterward is used much like the word then. If you will do this, then these blessings will happen in your life. Some requirements are necessary before afterward can take place: (1) "Blow the trumpet in Zion, (2) sanctify a fast, (3) call a solemn assembly" (Joel 2:15).
Fasting must occur before the blessing of afterward can happen. Joel was saying if we will fast and have the people seek God with public fasting, then afterward He will send a revival. Peter quoted this verse in Acts 2.
I have always believed that on the Day of Pentecost the Early Church was fasting in the Upper Room. The reason is not only because of the verse of Scripture Peter quoted from Joel but because of Jewish orthodox tradition.
Up through the fourth century the Early Church, following Jewish tradition, fasted on communion days until 3 oclock in the afternoon. An orthodox Jew would fast on the sacred feast and holy days of the Jewish calendar until 3 oclock in the afternoon. They would say their prayers and prepare themselves spiritually for the events that were to happen later that day.
When Peter said, "These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day," he was actually saying they were not drinking wine. This was a holy day, and they were fasting until 3 oclock; it was only 9 oclock in the morning.
If your church will begin to fast, you have Gods promise from His Word that He will send a revival.
4. fasting puts us in a position to find the perfect will of god (Romans 12:1,2).
We are to present our bodies unto God. One way we do so is through fasting. When we fast we do it as unto the Lord. We experience hunger and sacrifice pleasures so we may draw closer to God. Fasting is not the answerJesus is; however, fasting puts us in a place to receive more of Jesus.
God promises to show us His good, acceptable, and perfect will. Many wonderful pastors are not in the perfect will of God. They were in churches in cities where God put them, but difficult times came. Attacks came upon their ministry and the churches, and they decided it was time for them to leave. They moved out of the perfect will of God.
Ministers must renew their minds so they know what is the perfect will of God for them. If they do not, they will always be square pegs in round holes and never accomplish Gods call upon their lives.
To renew your mind, first begin devouring the Word of God every day. Secondly, you must fast. Fasting is much more than suffering a few hunger pains and not eating food. Hunger begins leaving after 3 or 4 days. If you can fast 3 or 4 days, you can fast 21 days or even 40 days.
Fasting is a mental discipline. It is much more difficult to fast mentally than it is physically. Through this process comes a renewal of the mind, a discipline of the mind, a desire to know the perfect will of God.
5. Fasting brings victory.
If this were the only reason to fast, it is enough. Victory is sweet and wonderful. Many would rather suffer defeat and not fast than come out of their comfort zones. Fasting takes you out of your comfort zone but leads you to victory.
For almost 20 years I have fasted between 50 and 75 days each year. I hate to fast, but I dislike being defeated by Satan more.
When you fast and pray, you can defeat even the strongest devils. They flee from you. You dont have to be afraid. You have the name of Jesus. The power of that Name becomes greatly multiplied in your life when you seek Him in prayer and fasting.
Unless there is a breakthrough in their lives this year, many pastors will not remain in the same church, and some will leave the ministry. For many, 1996 is a pivotal year. I encourage you to add a disciplined, regular time of fasting and prayer to your life and to your church. Victory belongs to you, and fasting is one of the keys to help bring it into your life and ministry.
Bob Rodgers is senior pastor of Evangel Christian Life Center, Louisville, Kentucky.