“God is attracted to our weakness.” – Jim Cymbala
In all the accounts of revival I have studied, I have never once found a case in which revival was born without weak and trembling people desperately crying out to God in prayer. The desert of thirst is the birthplace of all revivals. I see much more hope for genuine Holy Spirit revival among a few desperate prayer warriors than a mega-church that has become fat and musclebound.
Lets look at a few historical examples of revival briefly:
The Scottish Hebrides revival(1949): Two old sisters began to pray for revival in their church and the lost state of the young people on this tiny Scottish isle. Soon the entire island was swept with revival and the presence of God. (Here is an eye-witness account of it by Mary Peckham)
The Chinese Revival(present day): birthed in persecution and in desperate need of God a revival in China has swept millions into the Kingdom accompanied by astounding miracles.
The Welsh Revival(1904-1905): The humble Wales, was set aflame by a young bible school student named Evan Roberts who led his youth group in repentance and seeking God. Over 100,000 were swept into the Kingdom in the space of two years.
A word to church leaders
I’d like to speak to men primarily here because men tend to struggle with pride in matters especially related to church leadership(myself included). Men tend to “own” what they are responsible for. This is good, but it also leads to denial of problems that they have willingly or inadvertently created.
Pastors/elders may be very successful at growing a church numerically purely through good business and leadership principles…good music/entertainment, promotions, dynamic preaching, children’s programs…etc. Joel Osteen is a prime example.
Sooner or later, though, someone in a church like this will come under the heavy conviction of God over the superficiality of it all. These ones are baptized in anguish for God’s glory and the Bride of Christ. “God help us!” they cry, “We say we are rich, but we are wretched, poor, naked and blind!”
But this is a difficult word for an outwardly successful pastors or elders to hear. They will often take offence to this, because its a word of rebuke to the very foundation of their “church growth model” Years of hard work are called into question. I need to emphasize here, that most pastors and elders are honestly doing their very best and are not intentionally deceiving people. They are often worn thin by constantly dealing with recurring unstable individuals and their crises. Then there are the ever present critics with chips on their shoulders, divisive people and gossips. So when a God inspired call of repentance and prayer comes to them it can get brushed aside with a frustrated response like “You can’t please everyone.”
Leaders often sweep these prophetic words under the carpet to protect their pride. To be fair, its a terrifying prospect for leaders to openly consider that their years of hard work may largely be chaff in the wind or wood hay and stubble that will not survive for the fire test. It takes a courageous and humble leader to receive this word, evaluate it and act on it.
Since the Lord has regard for the weak, God often sows the seeds of revival among a few humble saints in the pews. It can be a hard pill to swallow as leaders when God chooses to begin a movement of revival under their feet instead of through them. This also leads to the Holy Spirit being squelched by leaders who ought to be promoting revival most. Again, pride gets in the way.
A word to those who see the problem
What will you do with this conviction? If God has confided in you these things, it is by no means a license to run out there and finish in your flesh what God began in you by his Spirit. Wait on Him to know how to proceed. Far to often we assume our job is to ram this down peoples throats. Much damage has been done because people have had genuine words from God, but mishandled them. What if God wants you to fast and pray over the matter instead of creating a big stir?
It takes a courageous and humble servant of God to effectively confront leadership. This is where character and testimony matter most. As mentioned earlier, the Hebrides Revival in Scotland was birthed by two godly old sisters. They were well respected, they had a godly track record. They were prayerful and carried the fruit of the Spirit. That is why when they gathered the elders and told them what God has showed them, the elders actually believed them and gave themselves to fasting and prayer! Your character and testimony have enormous pull!
I’ve met a lot of people in churches that are thin on character and fat on confrontation (ie..short tempered, sneaky, and gossipy). They are quick to confront church leadership on large and small issues. These folks are quickly ignored due to the glaring hypocrisies of their life- a serious case of plank-eye if you will. No doubt they very often are right, but they don’t pull much weight. These folks tend to pick too many battles so their frequent protests lose value and frustrate leadership.
Do you really love the church? When you look at your local assembly of believers, do you weep over its state or are you generally disgruntled and angry at its leadership and the direction of the church? Do you love the church like Christ loved it and gave himself for it? Would you die for your local assembly even in its wretched, naked and blind state? Jesus did. Before you bring any word, let it be only in a deep and broken spirit of love. Implore your elders as children appealing to their fathers.
What happens if they don’t listen? Well, what did Moses do when the people refused to enter the promised land? He walked the desert with his people, his reward was the presence and fellowship of God unlike any man has ever experienced. If you love the church and would die for it, you very likely will not leave the church and skip over to the next one. You’ll stick it out or get kicked out. I meet a lot of people who have left one church or another for some pretty weak reasons. Instead of bearing with their church’s weakness and being an agent of change they chose the easy way. When I ask them why they left, they often justify it by pointing out how unlike the church of Acts it was or something about personal taste. I keep wanting to say(I say it in nicer terms), “Well, I’ve got news for you. You’re new church has issues too, and its full of sinners just like your last church. Good luck, get ready to be disappointed again.” (Note: this is in the context of speaking to mature believers. However, it is often better for “young lambs” to find well balanced churches that feed them in such cases it is better for them to move or they will shrivel up. Lambs are often too weak to feed themselves and cannot sustain long periods of time in unhealthy churches.)
Seeing the problem isn’t the problem. You are the problem. I know that seems harsh, I’m sorry. We are very quick to chide our churches saying, “This church isn’t anything like the New Testament church!” On the other hand, when did you last sell your big ticket belongings to help your brothers and sisters in need? When were you persecuted for preaching the gospel? When did you last spend a entire night in fasting and prayer.
A man of God was once asked, “What’s wrong with the church today?” He wisely responded, “I am.”
Its time we own our responsibility in this mess. You are revival. Stop waiting for your church or leaders to be revived first! When the genuine fire of God is upon you, people will know it and they will actually begin to ask you for help.
So then…fan into a flame the revival fires in your own heart. Stir yourself up! Seek God earnestly, fast and pray. Love the church. Give your life for her even if she has sunken low. Be a living demonstration of Holy Spirit revival whether or not your church gets on board. Speak to your leaders in love. Plead with them. Do not wait for your leaders if they don’t get on board neither cause purposeful divisions. Run after Jesus. Soon enough, you might just look back and see others following you as you follow Jesus.
Don’t flee your desert, you may be standing in the very birthplace of revival!
Would love to hear from you, comment below.