the shape of leadership

5 Benefits of a Corporate Fast

How fasting together can help your church grow this year

Influence Magazine on January 4, 2018

Christians often think of spiritual disciplines as personal exercises. But the Bible really doesn’t make that distinction. Not only do spiritual disciplines bear growth for the entire congregation, many of them are intended to be followed in community by believers acting together.

Fasting is one of those spiritual disciplines. The personal benefits are obvious, and the teaching from Jesus on this matter seems to place it in the realm of the private rather than public (Matthew 6:16–18). But there are times in Scripture when a corporate fast is called. One of those is recorded in the Book of Acts:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (13:2–3). 

Here are five benefits that come from fasting together as a community, whether within your church, your small group or even just your extended family.

1. Heightens your sensitivity to the Spirit
Notice that for the believers in Antioch fasting was connected with worship. The two go hand in hand. Why? Because when fasting we form a natural sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. In fact, for those believers in Acts they heard from the Holy Spirit while worshiping. The corporate fast led to a corporate sensitivity to – and then a response from – the Spirit. What can a heightened sensitivity to the Spirit do for your church?

Fasting has the potential of helping your church get on board with a singular vision as selfish ambition is held in check.

2. Increases your unity
Much like the experience in Acts 2, the Antioch believers were in one accord. They heard from God as a group, not individually. Fasting will get your church on the same page. When fasting, we are physically denying our flesh. Our egos and self-centeredness take a backseat. Fasting has the potential of helping your church get on board with a singular vision as selfish ambition is held in check.

3. Uncovers your potential
What did the Spirit say to the believers in Acts 13? He had them set apart two of their own “for the work to which I have called them.” Saul and Barnabas found their deepest God-given abilities and ministry. And they stepped out to fulfill that potential.

4. Prioritizes prayer
Notice that after hearing from God, the Antioch believers set an additional time of fasting and prayer (Acts 13:3). Prayer is the partner of fasting. When you fast corporately consider allowing a regular place and time for corporate prayer. It may be daily or weekly, but you should encourage both private and public prayer. God moves when His people pray together. 

5. Broadens your reach
Finally, Saul and Barnabas were commissioned to continue the work of telling others the good news of Jesus. The two may have been content to stay where they were. After all, having reached Antioch it could be argued that they fulfilled Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” But fasting led Saul and Barnabas to see new avenues for ministry and new people who needed to hear the message.

What could your congregants do if their potential was unlocked, their horizons broadened, and their spirits made more sensitive to the Holy Spirit? Maybe a corporate fast will be the key to taking your church to the next level this year!

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