a publication of Life Action Ministries
Are you in a position to lead?
Volume 42, Issue 4 www.LifeAction.org/revive
6 A Seeking-God Lifestyle Matt Bennett
4 Traits of a Leader
14 Potential Pitfalls Nancy Leigh DeMoss
2 0 Prayer-Energized Ministry Daniel Henderson
Spirit of Revival
Let’s Cultivate Desperation
I’m Still Clay
Del Fehsenfeld III
Share the Message!
24 Hard Questions Why should I lead toward revival if revival doesn’t last? 26
I think I’ll quit. This isn’t what I signed up for.
Making It Personal
Apply principles discussed in this issue.
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Assistant Editor: Kim Gwin Creative Director: Aaron Paulus Art Director: Tim Ritter Senior Designer: Thomas A. Jones Photography: Katie Bollinger, Production: Wayne Lake Joshiaverty, Duncan 189, Track 5, Gary Alvis, Anton-Mariot, Katatonia 82, AZNDC Volume 42, Issue 4 Copyright © 2011 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved. Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides, and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free of charge, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. To purchase additional copies of this issue, be placed on our free mailing list, or contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org • www.LifeAction.org/revive. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations.
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL
Let’s Cultivate Desperation
almly but with a grieving heart, a pastor from Uganda spoke directly and boldly to the panel of leading revivalists:
In Uganda we experienced a nationwide revival as a result of severe persecution. The suffering of the people was beyond description, and no one came to our rescue. But God used the opportunity to wake a nation from its spiritual coma. What we learned is that revival will come either through devastation or desperation. So my question is simply this: What are you doing in America to make sure revival comes through desperation and not devastation? Sadly, neither I nor my colleagues on the Revival Forum being held at the historic Moody Bible Institute had an answer. Yet at that distinct moment, God’s Spirit put a deep sense of urgency in my heart. I sensed He was calling me to give my life toward a massive nationwide call for spiritual awakening—one that would unite Christians across America in one cry to God to come in great power and exalt Jesus Christ . . . before it’s too late. As we have observed recently around the world, devastation comes to nations suddenly and in many forms. The ravages of civil war, the chaos of riots in the streets, and the losses of economic collapse have given us vivid glimpses of the kinds of devastation that can suddenly grip nations. And America is no exception. God’s ways have not changed. Jeremiah 18 is clear that God raises up and tears down nations based on their response to His commands. The storm clouds are already gathering on the horizon. It looks increasingly likely that our society will experience a severe form of devastation, whether economic, moral, or political. After all, why would God spare a nation that has committed and even exported so many kinds of evil and greed? We have sown the wind, and we too must reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). Could it be that it will take devastation to bring us to our knees? In Uganda, that is exactly what happened under the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. According to the Ugandan pastor who addressed the Revival Forum, the reviving work of God that transformed their country came only after the suffering became so unbearable that Christians began to cry out to God. Visit www.LifeAction.org/influence to listen to the Revival Forum panel discussion at the 2011 Moody Pastors’ Conference.
A remnant of believers went into the jungle. They gathered in underground caves. In desperation they prayed, “Lord, we don’t know what to do. But You know.” These people prayed continuously. They prayed desperate, deep, consistent, groaning prayers that never took no for an answer. As many as 25,000 pastors mobilized three million Christians to pray in 50 stadiums—one in each district of the nation. They prayed in homes, in churches, in communities, in cities, and in their nation. They prayed until they saw a change. That’s where you and I come in. The kind of leaders God will use in the next spiritual awakening here in America will resemble those He used in Uganda—leaders who admit they don’t know what to do, so they fall on their knees in desperation and cry out to God for His deliverance; and leaders who will seek to mobilize God’s people to “deep, consistent, groaning prayers that never take no for an answer.” I have asked God to give me the desperate cry of the prophet Isaiah: “Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:9 esv). Will you ask God to do the same for you? God has used individuals from all walks of life to lead the way to revival. But they all had one thing in common: God’s power and anointing. According to Jonathan Edwards, there is but one requirement to be used as a leader in a movement of revival: “They must have the Spirit of God upon them.” You may be a pastor, a teacher, a businessman, a housewife, or a child. I believe that God is calling you to be an instrument to fervently pray for and spread the message of revival. Together, let’s cultivate desperation for God in our own lives and in the lives of others. v
I have asked God to give me the desperate cry of the
Life Action Ministries was invited to The Moody Church in Chicago to hold a 4-day THIRST conference. God moved deeply to transform hearts and lives both on the staff and within the congregation. Hear what Dr. Erwin Lutzer had to say about this event.
I’m Still Clay
’ll never forget the evening a potter came to our
church. He brought his wheel and some clay he had dug out of the river behind his house. What a mess! This clay was soupy and dirty and mixed with debris. (I always thought clay came in those little plastic packages I was given in kindergarten!) In fact, the clay was so dirty that the first 15 minutes of the potter’s demonstration was spent cleaning it up. When it comes to clay, the purifying process is a big part of its ultimate usefulness. Then, the artistry began. Out of the muck gradually emerged a stunningly beautiful vase. But suddenly, the potter knocked his exquisite creation off the wheel into a heap on the floor. Without a word, he calmly stooped to gather the clay, pressed it into a ball, and began the slow work of spinning and shaping all over again. After a few moments of silence, the potter quietly said, “Most people don’t know that clay, like wood, has a grain. What you couldn’t see was that my shaping was running against that grain. Once in the fiery heat of the kiln, the clay would have expanded and cracked at this tension point, leaving it fit for nothing but the trash. I smashed this clay because I intend to make something useful out of it.” A hot tear ran down my cheek. How many times have I missed the redeeming hand of God in trials and disappointments? How often have I refused to give up control, too distrustful to submit to His severe mercy? Isaiah reminds us, “You, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). God’s grace is always at work, always shaping, always spinning like the potter’s wheel. I gained a valuable spiritual insight that day watching the potter with his clay. My tendency is to view God’s authority through the lens of human authorities in my life. If I’m not careful, disappointment, hurt, distrust, and cynicism from past experiences with people can cloud the way I interact with God. But unlike people, God always uses His power in perfect harmony with His goodness. That means we can relinquish control and trust God. He will always do what is best for us. Even when it hurts. Even when we don’t understand. It also means that, as a leader, I’m still clay. When I forget or hide my ongoing need for grace, I convey the toxic idea that holiness is achieved through performance and
self-effort. But the gospel is not that we achieve rightness by being good, but rather that because we can never be good enough, we desperately need grace. When I as a leader am unwilling to admit my utter need for God, I deny the good news of the gospel and create instead an environment where self-righteousness and selfsufficiency poison joy, freedom, and authenticity. The most important role of a spiritual leader is not to model perfection, but rather to demonstrate how to access God’s grace through humility, transparency, and a repentant lifestyle. These attitudes have no substitute in the Christian life. As Dan Allender notes, no matter how gifted or experienced we may be, true spiritual leadership must be done with a limp—the limp of brokenness and the acknowledgment of personal need. For me, the real test of grace-based leadership comes when I am faced with my own sin and failure. Of course, everything in me wants to ignore, justify, or cover my weaknesses and to project an image of infallibility and strength. My natural way of thinking is that people only follow the strong, and that vulnerability undermines my credibility. But again and again, I’ve seen how the most valuable moments as a leader come out of weakness. When a Christian leader is willing to take the pathway of humility, honesty, and repentance, they teach the central truth of Christianity—that only Jesus saves. After all, what better way to teach that Jesus is who He says He is than to demonstrate our personal confidence in His grace? And if we’re not leading people to Jesus, where exactly are we taking them? v
True spiritual leadership must be done with a limp.
Del Fehsenfeld III
Lifestyle Sadly, virtually every statistic of American Christianity reveals that we have not been seeking God wholeheartedly.
hristian leaders have widely lamented the
spiritual decline of the United States in the last several decades, so clearly evidenced by the erosion of morality and the rise of secularism in our culture. As things have grown darker and darker, many have come to believe that only a great revival and spiritual awakening can reverse the tide and bring renewed life and spiritual power to America. Yet, strangely, there seems to be a lack of explicit agreement and united action about what will bring revival. Part of that paralysis seems to be a failure to hold two biblical truths in balance. On the one hand, revival is always the sovereign work of God’s Holy Spirit. But on the other, although God’s grace is always unmerited, that does not mean it is always without condition. For example, James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”1 Or as Jeremiah 29:13 puts it, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Yes, we wait for God to move, but God has made our whole-hearted movement toward Him a condition for His drawing close to us. Sadly, virtually every statistic of American Christianity reveals that, for the most part, we have not been seeking God
wholeheartedly. A recent study by George Barna2 showed that only four in ten self-identified Christian adults had prayed during the previous week. And fewer than one in ten had fasted or spent extended time in spiritual reflection. When we compare our practice of prayer with that of our Christian peers in the international church, the secular nature of American Christianity becomes all the more obvious. Around the world, our brothers and sisters regularly pray for hours every day, and often in all-night prayer meetings. Is it any wonder that although God’s power is being released around the world as at no other time in history, we continue to experience decline and the absence of God’s power? We can also turn to America’s own spiritual history to see that when American Christian leaders turned to God with their whole hearts in prayer, fasting, and surrender, God often poured out His Spirit in incredible revivals.3 Could it be that the primary reason God has been steadily withdrawing His presence and blessing from America is that we have failed to seek Him wholeheartedly? Could it be that we desperately need to develop a truly God-seeking lifestyle?
What’s Involved? It takes consistent, diligent work to seek God wholeheartedly. The prophet explained to King Asa, “But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7). For King Asa, working meant ridding the land of idols, repairing the altar of the Lord, gathering people together to offer sacrifices and seek God with all their hearts, and deposing his mother from the position of queen because of her idolatry. Seeking God wholeheartedly takes hard work, summarized in the following seven principles for seeking God found throughout Scripture:
Humbling ourselves, by confessing our pride and acknowl-
edging our dependence on God (Isaiah 57:15; James 4:6). One biblical methodology designed to help Christians humble themselves is the practice of fasting (1 Kings 21:27-29; Ezra 8:21-23; Psalm 35:13). We know from early church documents, such as the Didache, that Christians fasted every Wednesday and Friday until dinner, which amounted to approximately 18 missed meals per month.4 In Scripture, believers also practiced various kinds of fasting for longer periods when there was significant spiritual need, such as 3 days (Esther 4:16), 21 days (Daniel 10:1-3), 40 days (Exodus 34:28; Matthew 4:2), 70 days (Esther 3:12–4:3; 8:917), and 120 days (Nehemiah 1:1–2:1). American Christians can imitate this in a variety of ways: by fasting all three meals one day a week, by fasting one meal a day for a week, by fasting the first week of every month, or maybe even by a longer fast. But we must seek God wholeheartedly by humbling ourselves with the help of fasting.
Large amounts of time praying fervently. In the first
century, Christians prayed and engaged the Scriptures two or three times daily at set times (usually morning and evening, for a total of one and a half to three hours per day).5 This is also the pattern throughout Scripture (Nehemiah 1:4-6; Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; Luke 18:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:5-6; 2 Timothy 1:3). In his reflections on prayer and revival, J. Edwin Orr states, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”6 We seek God wholeheartedly by praying fervently and frequently. And those of us in ministry must seek Him even more in prayer (perhaps imitating the apostles’ pattern of set prayer times, plus engaging in seasons of other extraordinary measures of prayer).
Significant amounts of time in God’s Word. The
importance of a thorough knowledge of Scripture cannot be overestimated—it is absolutely essential for living a righteous life and attracting God’s presence (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). God instituted the pattern of taking in the Scriptures two or three set times every day (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3). We seek God wholeheartedly by meditating on Scripture daily.
Being broken over our sins, repenting, and submitting to
the lordship of Christ. Unconfessed sin grieves the Holy Spirit, blocks our experience of God’s presence, and brings chastening, whereas repentance brings forgiveness, blessing, and the presence of God (2 Samuel 21:1-14; Jonah 3:10). Fasting and praying are critically important, but they can never be separated from genuine repentance. “‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster” (Joel 2:12-13). Christians must rend their hearts by letting God’s Spirit convict them and then fully repenting of all sins. We seek God wholeheartedly by confessing all of our sins and submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.
Obeying the Lord moment by moment, practicing holiness.
God gives special attention to those who walk with Him blamelessly over time (Jeremiah 15:1). On the other hand, God judges and draws back from Christians who do not wholeheartedly obey Him by following His commandments closely (1 Peter 4:17; 1 Corinthians 11:29-34). We know that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:14). We seek God wholeheartedly by obeying the Lord at all times in all matters.
Persevering in seeking after Him—day after day, year after
year. We must repeatedly ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:5-13), persevering daily in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). We must also persevere in living righteously so that God hears our prayers as He did Elijah’s (James 5:16-18). We cannot expect God to draw near if we only draw close to Him briefly or sporadically. But if we seek Him continuously, we should expect Him to draw near. It would be extraordinary to see what would happen if we committed even a year to seeking the Lord in this fashion. We seek God wholeheartedly by persevering in our seeking.
Gathering with others to seek Him. Seeking God wholeheartedly necessarily involves the practice of energetically calling others to seek the face of God (Zechariah 8:20-23). And gathering with other Christians for days of corporate prayer for spiritual zeal and power should not be neglected (2 Chronicles 30; Nehemiah 8:13-18). We seek God wholeheartedly by regularly gathering with other Christians for times of corporate prayer.
Christian leaders are right in wanting God to bring revival and sensing that divine intervention is the critical need of our time. And it is true that the sovereign Lord alone is the One who pours out His Spirit in revival. But I firmly believe that He is choosing to hold back until we return to Him with our whole hearts. Christian leaders at every level of the church and society must lead the way. If we as leaders don’t return to the Lord with our whole hearts, how will we lead the way to revival?
How We Began a Seeking-God Lifestyle I work for Christian Union, a student leadership development ministry at Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, and Columbia universities. Our staff consists of godly men and women, most of whom have seminary degrees and have previously ministered as pastors and missionaries. It was quite a shock to our staff when I let them know two years ago that God had put it on my heart for us to pray together two hours a day, raising the level of prayer from what had been a one-hour prayer meeting once a week. Ministry leaders are busy people because the needs around us are overwhelming, and many simply didn’t think we could afford to take that much time to pray. But we decided to make prayer a priority in our work. We initially set aside 9:00–11:00 every morning to fervently seek the God of heaven. During the first few months, we also examined the Scriptures for what it means to seek God wholeheartedly and what normal Christianity should look like. We listened to and learned from great saints around the world (most notably Uganda, Korea, and Fiji) and great saints from the past (such as Jonathan Edwards). We significantly increased our own personal prayer and Bible reading as well, but the only way to get in the two hours together each day that I desired was to do an hour in the morning and an hour at night. When I noticed the spiritual impact on myself, that caused me to examine the Scriptures, where I discovered the pattern of two or three set prayer times per day practiced in the Old and New Testaments. We also began fasting, individually and corporately, sometimes for a few days and sometimes up to 40 days and longer. The Lord had mercy on us, and we began to see dramatic change on campus within a few months at Princeton. We started our two-hour daily prayer in March of 2009, and by August, a new normal began to come over the ministry. During the worship times, God’s Spirit came into the room, and students spontaneously began to confess their sins loudly and desperately, while others were unable to stop praising God. God’s Spirit now regularly falls on student gatherings during retreats and during the weekly lecture and worship meetings held on campus. During one retreat, a student called her mom at 1:30 a.m. Her mother answered the phone in a panic, given the lateness of the hour. The student, who had never experienced the presence of God before, exclaimed, “He’s here! The Holy Spirit is here!” The vast majority of these students have never seen or experienced anything like this before. The ministry had been steadily growing every year since its inception in 2002, but everything changed at Princeton starting in the fall of 2009, and at Harvard in January of 2011. At Princeton there are now 320 students in Christian Union Bible courses, and this is the third year in a row we have had to create waiting lists. At Harvard there were 10 students in Bible courses our first year of ministry on campus, and this year there are 130. Here, too, we cannot keep up with the demand. The rigors of daily prayer have been hard work and have required many sacrifices. It has meant saying no to many evening social engagements, sometimes praying all night together, missing many meals in fasting, and earnestly seeking to obey the Spirit of Christ as Lord in all matters. But not a one of us would ever go back. The presence of God is awesome and wonderful, beckoning us to experience all the more of God. We praise God for what He is doing and deeply desire that American Christianity at large would experience the power of a God-seeking lifestyle. v All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. “Self-Described Christians Dominate America but Wrestle with Four Aspects of Spiritual Depth,” September 13, 2011 at www.barna.org. 3 See Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 4 P. Jounel, “Sunday and the Week,” in A.G. Martimort, ed., The Liturgy and Time, vol. 4, The Church at Prayer: An Introduction to the Liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1983), 26. 5 Paul F. Bradshaw, Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1983), 26. 6 J. Edwin Orr, “The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening.” Lecture given at the first National Prayer Conference, Dallas, TX, 1976, sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. Accessed from www.JEdwinOrr.com. 1 2
Matt Bennett is founder and president of the Christian Union, working to develop Christian leaders in the Ivy League and network them together to make an impact for Christ in the larger culture.
Visit www.LifeAction.org/influence to order a copy of Matt Bennett’s “Seeking God Lifestyle” Bible study course.
of a Leader What is the essence of distinctive Christian leadership? Interestingly, as we read through the Scriptures, there is no such thing as a particular leadership personality profile. There are extroverts, but there are also shy, reticent people—like Gideon, hiding from the enemy, whom God still called a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). Leaders in the Bible do not come from a certain social class, family pedigree, or educational background. There were very educated people like Daniel, and there were farmers like Amos and fishermen like Peter. However, there are four things that everyone God trusted with His assignments had in common:
1. Brokenness Every person God trusts with His assignments has been characterized by brokenness. God does not use anyone greatly who comes to Him feeling fully developed and capable. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue excellence and the development of everything God has given you (see 1 Timothy 4:12-16). But brokenness is a permanent sense of God-neediness. God does not trust His assignments to people who have not slain the desire to appear significant. Godly leadership cannot be an extension of your own need for attention and admiration. You can’t prostitute God’s assignments as an opportunity to be visible and praised. In fact, when God trusts people with His assignments, He often first crushes them. Moses is a chief example. Although born in a palace, by the time Moses was intercepted by God through the burning bush, he had zero confidence in his own abilities. He had been herding sheep on the far side of the desert for forty years. Brokenness is based on two things. First, it is based on surrender. One excuse Moses gave God was that the people wouldn’t listen to him. What authority did he have? God said, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” answered Moses. “Throw it on the ground,” God commanded. It became a snake. God told him to pick it up. It became a staff again (Exodus 4:1-8). Here’s the point: God does not use what we bring to Him, rather what we surrender to Him. God let Moses know that it is not what you have—it is Who you have—that is the authority. Always give back to God what He has given you to work with. Second, brokenness is based on a conscious awareness of the pain that personal sin causes. Authentically broken people are not self-righteous. They understand that they are but a quarter inch away from doing despicable things. This is what David had to learn. Psalm 51 is a great psalm of repentance. “The sacrifices of God are . . . a broken and contrite heart” (v. 17). Your integrity to lead is found in the constant, conscious realization that you have not forgotten what He forgave you of and what you are capable of doing. That is where the power and integrity to lead come from. God’s assignments are always about Him, and He does not want some obnoxious, arrogant person competing for His glory. So if you are going to be the vessel in which His treasure is placed, you cannot be competing for recognition. Your gifts, talents, abilities, and background are all subservient.
2. Uncommon Communion Every person God trusts with His assignments has been characterized by uncommon communion with God. Each assignment God gives is not just about His plans for history—it is itself a call to intimacy with Him. Let me tell you something that will help you avoid burnout: The very assignment God gives a leader is a primary means through which He calls him to intimacy with Himself. It is not only what the leader does, but who the leader is, that is a
picture of the reality God wants to take people toward. A leader is not just given an assignment; he becomes the portrait of the assignment. God never separates His assignments from the sanctifying process of the leader. That’s why there is always a horrendous gap between what God tells you to do and where you are. It is always way out ahead of you. Look at David. When he was too small to even wear Saul’s armor, God was teaching him that “I am the God of the gap.” This is also the reason God will never give a leader all the details of His plan. He gives him just enough to trust Him for right now. He tells him enough to let him know that he does not have all he needs, so he has to keep coming back to Him. The very nature of the assignments God gives us is a call to His heart. When I began to understand this, I stopped wrestling so much with burnout and feeling overwhelmed. Too many of us make too big a distinction between our ministries and our walk with God. If you begin to think about your ministry as being one of God’s primary tools for your spiritual development, I guarantee that you will not feel nearly as conflicted. Philips Brooks, the famed New England pastor of the nineteenth century, says, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.” There are four jewels in the leader’s development that God uses consistently, besides the magnitude of the assignment, to keep us running back to His presence:
Failure—often a part of God’s plan if we will ask Him to grow us through it
Struggles—“My grace is sufficient for you, for my
power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Suffering—brings a heart connection to people that nothing else can do
Hardship—endure hardship, stop whining, watch your priorities, and don’t get entangled with the things of this life (2 Timothy 2); the real fruit of ministry comes from your endurance
3. Servanthood Every person God trusts with His assignments has been characterized by servanthood. Watch out for borrowing from the world’s definitions of servant leadership. Usually their definition means, “I’ll serve you to accomplish the goal, but you owe me.” It becomes utilitarian—serving to get something in return. Biblically, we serve because we are servants. We give out of the identity of serving. In the Bible, leadership is not spoken of as a position. The position is given as a platform to serve. You are not given a position of leadership because you “paid your dues.” You lead because God is trusting you to serve.
4. Radical Obedience Every person God trusts with His assignments has been characterized by radical obedience. It is as if they would rather die than disobey God. The calling of God is sacred to them. I have traveled a great deal, served on a number of boards, and been involved with a number of national organizations. Something that grieves my heart is to see the mindset that God’s work is a series of selected options and career paths. This is killing us. The sacred calling has been pushed aside. It almost seems as if there is no big difference between the church and a commercial organization. We have our own little career path, our plans, our profiles. We consider what we seem fitted for, and we choose what organizations line up with our talents, gifts, abilities, and preferences. The spiritual dynamics of understanding God’s heart, mind, will, and calling; our stewardship responsibility; the things that make us endure but cannot be measured; the voice of God—these are often disregarded. As I read the Scriptures, God’s assignments are sacred. In fact, one’s life is viewed as the arena for God’s activity in human
history. Every person is called by God to passionately seek what He wants done. I fear we are missing this. As a pastor, I sometimes weep over something I see in our churches. I see good Christian parents raising their children so they can be proud of them . . . instead of celebrating God’s calling. The truth of the matter is, often we don’t even model it. We are not portraying a compelling portrait of a Godward life centered on divine purpose. Ringing in my ears are words Bill Bright gave to a group of us young men years ago: “I’m going to take pressure off every one of you. None of you has to be successful. But you do have to be obedient.” To godly leaders throughout Scripture and church history, you get the sense that this is no game. It’s not a job, a career, or a self-seeking. It is a sacred stewardship. v
Crawford Loritts is a senior pastor, author, and host of Living a Legacy. Adapted from a message given at the Heart-Cry for Revival conference in 2011. It can also be found at www.SermonIndex.net under the title “Qualities of Godly Leadership.”
Guiding Principles for Leaders Guiding Principles for Godly Leadership • Do not tell God how to use you. Stay open. Stay flexible. • Do not compete or compare. No mortal being can take from you what God has for you. Just pursue what God places in front of you. • Do not live by your rights, but respond to what is right. People who live by their rights only grow to the level of their demands. • Do not operate from giftedness; operate from brokenness. Your gifts are not a statement of your identity— they are only something God uses. Your real identity is found in Jesus. • Do not make decisions based foremost on your gifts. God wants to grow you and bring about new things. He may want you in a situation outside of your gifts so He can do something greater in your heart and life.
Visit www.LifeAction.org/influence to purchase Crawford Loritts’ book Leadership as an Identity.
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
inistry is an awesome privilege. It is also a weighty responsibility. The longer I am in ministry, the more I realize how vulnerable we as leaders are to falling, and how it is only by the grace of a faithful God that we can stay faithful and finish well. I am so thankful for the example and encouragement of those who remain faithful to the end. Their lives preach as powerfully as their preaching. On the other hand, Iâ€™ve seen many servants of the Lord who ran the race well for a while but ended up becoming disqualified. Today they are out of the ministry and, in many cases, have discredited the message and the Savior they once served. We have an active enemy who is determined to cause Godâ€™s servants to stumble. Iâ€™d like to share several of the most common pitfalls I have experienced in my own service for the Lord. This list is not exhaustive, but it represents what I believe are recurring areas of vulnerability in the lives of most of us as Christian leaders.
This may be the most common pitfall. It is certainly one of the most subtle and dangerous. It is so easy to lose the wonder of . . .
• what it means to be a child of God • the great theological truths of our faith, which we repeat so often that we cease to be amazed by them • the God we serve • what we’ve been called to do • the message that has been entrusted to us • the fruit of ministry
Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, but it also breeds neglect and complacency. The supernatural becomes commonplace—one more marriage saved, one more conversion . . . Yet we see in Scripture that heaven rejoices every time a sinner repents (Luke 15:7). The danger is that ministry becomes a job, rather than a passion for the person of Jesus. I have a holy dread of losing the freshness and the passion. The apostle Paul never lost the wonder. In 1 Timothy 1:11, he speaks of the “glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” He considered ministry a great privilege: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, putting me into service” (v. 12 nasb).
The bride in the Song of Solomon laments to her beloved that she has been busy tending the vineyard of others but has neglected to care for her own vineyard (1:6). Isn’t that a picture of what is often a tendency for those of us serving the Lord? We are constantly tending the vineyards of others—counseling, proclaiming the truth, praying with and for others—but often to the neglect of our own spiritual well-being. We face the danger of failing to cultivate and prioritize our personal walk with the Lord, of taking shortcuts, of trying to live on yesterday’s experiences with God, of offering service without practicing devotion. In the account of two sisters in Luke 10, Martha is busy serving the Lord, but she is distracted and anxious about her “much serving” (v. 40 nkjv). She forgets the one thing that is absolutely vital, and that is to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His Word. Robert Murray M’Cheyne reminds us that “no amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for neglect of the King Himself.”1 Activity for God cannot make up for lack of a relationship with Him. The unending intrusion of media, distractions, and other (even good) options available in our high-tech age has made it even more imperative that we be intentional about eliminating unnecessary clutter, finding a quiet heart, and actively pursuing and protecting intimacy with God.
You may have heard it said that doctors are often the last ones to get physicals, and lawyers are the last ones to write wills. Could it be that those of us who handle and proclaim the Word of God to others are the last ones to know when we have a spiritual need ourselves, or to deal with those needs? A. W. Tozer said that one of the greatest curses of his day— and how much more true it would be today—is that we think because we know something, therefore we have it, when in fact that may not be at all true. Would we not be better off to hear less truth and take time to work it into the fabric of our lives, than to pile one unheeded message on another and another? It is foolish self-deception to hear the Word of God but not do it: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Paul was able to say to the believers and churches he served: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He didn’t say, “Follow my sermon notes or my books or my blog.” He said, “Follow my life.” It is not just the life I have in public on the platform that matters; it’s who I am in private, where no one else sees and no one else knows the choices I make. It’s what I do with my free time. It’s how I respond to my family, to our staff, behind the scenes. Who I am in those obscure and hidden times has much to do with whether I will stay in the race all the way to the finish line. To live a life that is inconsistent with what we proclaim to others is to risk the spiritual sinkholes that inevitably result when what’s under the surface is unable to support the message we claim to believe and the public image we portray. Oswald Chambers reminds us: “The message must be part of ourselves. . . . Before God’s message can liberate other souls, the liberation must be real in you.”2
There is a danger of relying on our natural gifts and abilities. And the more gifted we are, the greater the potential danger. Or, we rely on man-made tools, programs, and resources. These are useless and have no power to impart life, unless they are in the hands of a man or woman of God who is exercising them in dependence on His supernatural power. We come to the place where we are no longer utterly dependent on the grace and power of God to enable us to serve Him and to change people’s lives. Though we’d never say it aloud or maybe even consciously think it, we get to the place where we live as if we can “do ministry” without God. The apostle Paul said, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 esv).
Dependence on the natural—our own gifts, abilities, resources, programs—is a cheap and ineffective substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit of God coursing through our souls and impacting the lives of others. “The only work that will abide for eternity is that which is produced in humble dependence upon the power of God’s Holy Spirit.”3
Years ago, I began to ask the Lord, if it would please Him, to give me the privilege of serving Him with a whole heart and whatever energy He would grant, strong in the battle, until the age of eighty-five. However long He gives me, it is my heart’s desire to keep pressing into the realm of faith rather than settling for the status quo.
We all face the danger of pride: becoming self-absorbed, self-enamored, self-centered. The prophet Samuel said to King Saul, “When you were little in your own eyes . . . did not the Lord anoint you king?” (1 Samuel 15:17 nkjv). From that humble start, Saul ultimately began to think that he could be the exception to God’s rules. He developed “I” trouble. We too can become proud of what we know, proud of what we’ve done, proud of our reputation as a ministry. We start to read and enjoy our own press reports—or worse yet, to write them. We secretly relish hearing our name mentioned, and we want to be sure we get due credit for our accomplishments. Pride makes us blind to our own needs; it keeps us from soliciting input from others and from having a teachable spirit when we are challenged or corrected. The more people there are who look up to us, the harder it is to be truly transparent about our failures and needs, to be honest with others about where we are in our walk with the Lord. I have often been challenged by these heart-searching words from the 17th-century preacher William Gurnall: “Knowing your strength lies wholly in God and not in yourself, remain humble— even when God is blessing and using you most. God’s favor is neither the work of your own hands nor the price of your own worth. How can you boast of that which you did not buy? If you embezzle God’s strength and credit it to your own account, He will soon call an audit and take back what was His all along.”4
We all know the two greatest commandments: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as ourselves. If those are the greatest commandments, then what would be the greatest sins? To love God with any less than all of our being. To fail to love others. Scripture reveals a God who loves His people passionately and who grieves when His people reject Him and pursue other loves. How will the world know the love of this passionate God if they don’t see us loving Him and others? There is a danger of leaving passionate love for God and people in exchange for simply having right doctrine, right action, right behavior, everything orthodox. It’s so easy to lose the love that restores, the love that overlooks, the love that assumes the best of others, the love that is kind. It’s easy to become annoyed with difficult people we encounter in ministry, to see them as obstacles. When we become filled with the love of Christ, we want to love those difficult people to maturity and see them restored. We want to lay down our lives for others. If our service doesn’t spring out of a love for God and a love for people, it’s worthless. I don’t want to just give messages to people; I want to love people. I don’t naturally have that kind of love in myself, but God does, and He pours out His love in my heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
This is the danger of walking by sight rather than by faith, of resting on our laurels, of becoming content with what we have seen God do in the past. As a result, we no longer seek and trust Him for God-sized things. We can come to the place where we no longer exercise faith; we are content just to keep the machine going. I can remember hearing my dad quote John Haggai: “Attempt something so impossible that unless God is in it, it’s doomed for failure.”5 I’m often tempted to just settle for what is, for the status quo. I’ve been challenged over the years by the account of Caleb found in Joshua 14. He’s going hard after God, but when he comes to the age of eighty-five, he wants another mountain to conquer for God.
Losing sight of the big picture is a recurring challenge in most of our lives. It happens in two ways. The first is forgetting how big God is, which leads to discouragement. We lose heart and think, “What’s the use? The enemy is too great.” We focus on what is going on around us, and in the process lose sight of Christ. I love this reminder from G. Campbell Morgan: “The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God. Seeing Him, all else takes on proper perspective and proportion.”6 In 2 Kings 6, we read of when the Syrian army came and surrounded the house of Elisha in Dothan. His servant was distressed when he looked out and saw all the powerful chariots, horses, and soldiers. All he could see was the enemy.
Isn’t that where we end up so often? All we can see is the enemy surrounding us—all these godless laws and lawmakers, all those sinners both in and outside of our churches . . . We become consumed by the vision of evil and of the enemy. Elisha wisely prayed, “Open his eyes that he may see” (v. 17 esv). When God opened the servant’s eyes, he saw that the hills were filled with chariots and horses of fire, the angelic heavenly host! They were there all along; he just couldn’t see them. The power of God and His heavenly host is infinitely greater than all the combined power of evil and Satan. We need to lift up our eyes in faith to our source of strength. Our strength comes from the Lord our God, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2). Instead of obsessing with the sight of the enemy, our hearts need to be filled with a picture of how big God is. The second way we lose perspective is by forgetting how little we are, which leads to pride. The fact is that apart from Christ, we have nothing, we are nothing, and we can do nothing (John 15:5). “We have this treasure [the life of Jesus] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 esv).
The longer we’re in the race, the greater the risk of growing weary in well doing, if we have not been drawing our energy and enabling from God’s Spirit within us. We are also more vulnerable, after years of faithful service, to wanting to coast, to feeling we “deserve” greater comfort and convenience in exchange for all we’ve “given up.” After years of dealing with the demands and difficulties of ministry, there are times when I don’t want to have to do anything hard ever again. I get tired of denying my flesh and don’t want to keep pressing on in this race. I’m just being honest. This desire for comfort leads some into sexual sin. It’s David the king staying home in the palace when it’s time to go to battle (2 Samuel 11:1). The battle didn’t need David as much as David needed the battle, and it was when he began to coast that he committed adultery with Bathsheba. There is a danger of riding the spiritual coattails of others, of lacking vigilance, of letting down our guard. For me, having to pack my suitcases one more time and having to get on one more airplane and stay in one more hotel and eat in one more restaurant and meet one more group of strangers—those things that weary my flesh are the very things that keep me needing God and that keep me pressing into Him for grace. Hard as they are at times, I need those things. My heart is often strengthened and encouraged in the battle by reflecting on the lives of those who have gone before me and have found His grace to persevere:
“Let us press on, in patient self-denial, accept the hardship, shrink not from the loss; our portion lies beyond the hour of trial, our crown beyond the cross.”7 Ezra 8 records the account of the Jewish exiles who made the 900-mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Twelve priests were entrusted to carry the gold, silver, and precious vessels that had been donated for the temple in Jerusalem. They were exhorted by Ezra, “Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests . . . within the chambers of the house of the Lord” (v. 29 esv). We are on a journey to the Jerusalem above, and God has put into our hands an incredible treasure: the ministry of the gospel to those we have been called to serve. If we do not have the hand of God on us on this journey, we won’t make it. But God Himself is accompanying us, going within us and alongside of us, in front of and behind us, to deal with the enemies along the way. Soon we’ll be at the heavenly temple in the presence of our Great High Priest, and oh, the joy that will make every burden here on earth seem as nothing, if we can hand Him the treasure He entrusted to us and say, “Lord, by Your grace it’s all here; it’s all accounted for; I give it to You.” May God keep His hand on us and keep us faithful—all the way to the finish line. v www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?1020 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 10. 3 William Gurnall (1617–1679), Exchanging Our Self–Life for Christ’s Life. 4 www.rap-con.com/forum/a-solemn-warning 5 www.great-quotes.com/quote/948392 6 G. Campbell Morgan, A First Century Message to Twentieth Century Christians (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004), 24. 7 William H. Burleigh, in Lyra Sacra Americana, 1868. 1 2
Nancy Leigh DeMoss—author, radio host, and conference speaker—has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman Movement, calling them to revival and biblical womanhood.
• Do I have a genuine passion for Christ and for ministry? • Have I lost the wonder of my relationship with Jesus and of the call to ministry? • Am I just going through the motions?
• Do I have a vital, growing, intimate, love relationship with the Lord Jesus? • Am I cultivating God’s presence through daily times in the Word and in prayer?
• Is there any issue God has revealed to me in His Word that I’m not obeying? • Is my private lifestyle consistent with what I proclaim to others? • Can I say to others, “Live your life as I do, and God will bless you”?
• How does my life evidence a dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit? • What is there about my life and ministry that cannot be explained apart from the Spirit of God?
• Do I have a teachable spirit? • Do I have a servant’s heart, or do I look to other people to serve me? • Do I esteem all others as better than myself? • Am I amazed that God would use me?
• Am I exercising faith in God’s power? • Am I seeking God for fresh vision and opportunities to glorify Him? • What am I believing God for that only He can do?
• Is my service motivated by genuine love for God? • Do I genuinely love others?
• Does my life demonstrate a conviction that God is powerful and in charge? • Do I act as if believe He is big enough to solve every problem I face?
• Am I self-seeking or self-denying? • Am I surrendering my “right” to comfort and convenience? Condensed and edited from a message given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference, April 2004, at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Copyright © 2004 by Revive Our Hearts.
Visit www.LifeAction.org/influence to hear Nancy DeMoss’ message on potential pitfalls in ministry.
Prayer-Energized Ministry Daniel Henderson
few weeks ago, I had lunch with my friend Woody. He is
a seasoned, unassuming pastor whom God has used to lead an incredible church in the community where I live. Woody’s journey is an inspiring example of how God can change the hearts of leaders and radically reshape their ministry approach. I have heard Woody say on numerous occasions that for many years he made his strategic plans for church ministry, hoping God would bless and join the leaders in what they were trying to accomplish. (By the way, this is the predominant approach to church leadership today.) He describes it as trying to “breathe life” into all the programs he came up with. Woody and his team would attend national conferences to see how everyone else was doing ministry, then try to duplicate those success stories. Soon it seemed he was trying to wear someone else’s ministry clothes. A year later, he would return to the same national conference, only to discover that the “model church” had already discarded the approach Woody’s team was trying to imitate.
A few years ago, God spoke to Woody in his industrious, clever, but weary state of being. He challenged Woody to resign as “God” and let God be God. Woody decided that from that time on, he and his leaders would seek the Lord first (and for as long as necessary), until they had clarity about where God wanted the church to go. As he describes it, “We had been trying to make Acts 2 happen, but we suddenly realized that Acts 1 comes before Act 2.” I have enjoyed the privilege of praying with Woody and his leaders. When they pray, they get on their faces and stay there until God is finished with the prayer time. Three times a day, the staff leads a prayer meeting at the church. Every month, they have multiple church-wide prayer services. Before making any major ministry decisions, they spend significant amounts of time praying together to find the mind of Christ, not just drum up their own ideas. And no new initiative is launched without a week (168 hours) of continuous church-wide prayer.
Since this profound transformation of their leadership approach, God has blessed beyond Woody’s imagination. The campus is overcrowded to the point that they are now praying about what Jesus wants next. Satellite campuses? Additional buildings? New churches? They really do not have an agenda about the next step; they just want the will of God. I believe they will find it on their knees, as is their pattern.
Creating a Prayer Culture Woody’s journey and the fresh reality he is enjoying in his church illustrate some key principles to creating a prayer culture in a church. A prayer culture: • is not a prayer program. Many leaders wanting a quick fix decide to start some new prayer events. Often these activities simply attract the same praying minority but do not infect the rest of the church. There may be pockets of prayer energy, but not a prayer culture. • is always transmitted from the epicenter of church leadership. Pastors cannot point the way to a prayer culture; they must lead the way by example, by praying regularly and passionately with their fellow leaders and the congregation. The prayer level of the church never grows beyond the personal example and passion of the senior leaders. These leaders are always characterized by substantive time spent praying together. This pattern sets the culture and transmits a passion for Christ’s presence to every department, ministry, and gathering in the church. • is fueled by experience, not explanation. One pastor friend preached on prayer every Sunday for a year. Later he confessed that all of those sermons did not ignite a culture of prayer. In fact, this abundance of information without corollary practice probably broadened the gap between knowledge and true obedience. Prayer is more caught than taught. The life-changing prayer virus spreads as leaders and people spend more time together praying, not talking about the idea of prayer. • is sustained by the right motive. Our motives must not be approval, church growth, or even revival. Ultimately, the only enduring motive for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought. As we seek His face, not just His hand, we experience the power of Scripture-fed, Sprit-led, worship-based prayer that continues to fuel the hearts of a grown army of prayer-energized saints. • is ultimately the secret to supernatural mission achievement. Prayer is not the only thing we do, it’s just the first thing we do. Prayer leads to the ultimate thing we do, which is making disciples of Jesus Christ for His glory. Real prayer brings us close to the heart of God and transforms us to become world-transformers through the demonstrated and declared gospel message.
What Could Happen? I am praying for the day when Woody’s journey becomes the norm for the vast majority of pastors in our nation. God has given me a vision for “pastor-led, local church-oriented movements of worship-based, Christ-exalting prayer—leading to a full-scale revival, supernatural evangelism, and cultural transformation.” The heart of this vision is the experience of pastors like Woody who accept responsibility and embrace the effective realities of leading their co-leaders and people to encounter the glory of Jesus Christ. As I speak in prayer conferences and churches, I see a growing passion for Jesus’ ideal of the church as a house of prayer. Pastors across the land are indicating a holy dissatisfaction with anything less than a prayer-energized ministry. A real desperation is arising in hearts, leading to a deep resolve to discover direction, power, and impact at the throne of grace. As together we do our small part in forming cultures of prayer, we can look forward to what Christ will do in fulfilling His BIG part in reviving the church and transforming our sinful society by the power of His truth. v
Daniel Henderson is the president of Strategic Renewal and co-founder with Jim Cymbala of the 6:4 Fellowship. His books on prayer, including The Transforming Power of Prayer, are available at www.StrategicRenewal.com.
Visit www.LifeAction.org/influence to hear Daniel Henderson teach on prayer.
One Prayer. One Voice. One Movement.
A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening
Launching February 2012
OneCry is based on this urgent premise:
Revival is our only hope. To prepare for revival and spiritual awakening, we must:
PRAY – passionately plead with God
We are calling forth 50,000 prayer warriors to unite in ongoing intercessory prayer for revival.
SHARE – spread the message
We are enlisting 5,000 voices to creatively communicate the truths that lead to revival.
LEAD – mobilize God’s people
We are praying for 500 leaders to mobilize Christ’s church toward revival.
To learn more about joining the OneCry movement, go to
Copyright © 2011 OneCry: A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening. All rights reserved. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
revive 23 OneCry is a partnership led by Life Action Ministries.
? ? ?
Hard Questions Why should I lead toward revival if revival doesn’t last?
Wouldn’t it be more valuable to spend all my time on “lasting” pursuits like discipleship or leadership training?
Dr. Richard Fisher
often wonder if I’ve wasted my efforts on revival. Why should something that is inherently temporary be a major focus in my ministry life?
credible evidence of salvation. Some didn’t even attend church. The spiritual fervor of the churches cooled, and it wasn’t long before unbelievers populated the pews (and the pulpits!).
• Joshua led the Israelites in revival. Joshua 24:14-15 summarizes this great moment. However, by the third generation (Judges 2:10-12), the Israelites had turned their backs on God to serve the gods of Canaan.
In fact, the spiritual backsliding in New England set the stage for another great revival, the First Great Awakening. Men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield began to speak boldly about the necessity of true conversion, and revival fires again swept the colonies for a few years. But that revival didn’t last either.
• Look at the kings of Israel. They made reforms . . . only to see idolatry come back into vogue within one or two generations. Even two generations after David—under Rehoboam and Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:7-11, 21-24)— idolatry was reinstituted in Israel.
Most recently, we might even look at the American response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. For a few brief months, churches across the nation were filled to capacity. We would stop short of calling this revival, but people (even politicians!) were praying and seeking the counsel of God.
•Jonah was used by God to spark a great awakening in Nineveh (Jonah 3). Within a few years, Assyria was knocking down the walls of Israelite cities, mocking the name and power of Yahweh (2 Kings 15–18).
So why should I bother leading people toward revival in the first place?
After all, even revivals in the Bible didn’t last:
Nor did revivals in America. The first generation of New England Puritans were wholeheartedly committed to God and His Word, and they experienced remarkable seasons of grace. But soon afterward, the “Halfway Covenant” was introduced to extend church voting rights to members of the community who did not demonstrate
Bruce Wilkinson wrote a tremendous book called The Three Chairs that deals with how the baton of faith is passed down from generation to generation so that a family or community maintains a godly lifestyle. In particular, the book highlights the typical generational slide away from commitment to God, with each successive generation after fresh faith (first chair) cooling in their passion for God (second- and third-chair believers). Unless there is a resurgence of fresh faith that starts the cycle over again, true faith eventually fades entirely.
For Wilkinson, the first chair was the place of commitment, or first-hand faith. The second chair was the place of compromise, where those sit who receive faith from their parents but only partially make it their own. The third chair was the place of discarded faith, where only a form of faith is preserved, if that. When I read The Three Chairs: • I remembered Samuel, who restored faith in Israel during the time of the judges (1 Samuel 1ff). • I remembered Hezekiah and Josiah (2 Kings 18–19; 22–23), godly kings who brought revival to Israel. • I remembered Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, who sparked revival in New England among the Puritans during the 1740s. • I thought about several individuals I know whose lives are still on fire for God as a result of a turning point during the 9/11 crisis. And that’s the point—God doesn’t give up on us, so He sends revival! It is His Word of hope to us in a sin-cursed world. Revival is a refreshment of God’s glory when we need it most. It builds up, restores, restarts, and transforms. It moves people back to that first-chair experience of vibrant, active faith. It is so easy to become discouraged, cynical, and sidetracked by failure and frustration in the ministry. It’s so easy to forget that God sent His Son to bear the penalty of sin for mankind, so that all who have discarded their faith can be revived. It is so easy to forget that God calls us to join Him in the rescue mission, knowing the difficulty and the disappointment of our task (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Philippians 1). (It’s also easy to forget that each of us needs revival from time to time—just as much as those we serve in ministry!)
Skewed Perspectives on Revival Some leaders treat revival like a spirituality “drug” that induces a spiritual “high,” and each time it is administered, it requires a higher dosage to make an impact. They fill their calendars with events called “revivals” that are calculated to have thrilling and emotional effects, but no one expects lasting results. The problem with this approach is that the results of revival are sought rather than the Reviver.
to this new way of life provided by a season of revival, but the long-term objective is not just to “lose weight” and then go back to normal. The objective is to become healthy!
True Revival True revival—according to Psalms 80 and 85—involves acknowledging our dulled spiritual senses, asking God to restore the joy of our salvation, and committing ourselves to walking with God. The great movements of spiritual power in the Old Testament followed this pattern. And when we call out to God for transformation, revival is the beginning of His answer! Revival is the igniting fire that feeds into the lasting flame. As in a stove, revival is the pilot light that ignites the burner so its flame can heat the pot. The lasting flame is the transformed life of the disciple, which burns brighter and brighter as he or she walks with Christ. Revival will always be short-lived when people choose to ignore or disregard the ways and truth of God. But knowing about the three chairs and the tendency of human beings to drift away from God, we see that there will always be a need for revival. This need is punctuated when we begin to notice that whole churches and even whole denominations are sitting in the second or third chairs rather than first-chair commitment to Christ. This motivates us to pray with urgency as we watch our culture deteriorate around us, and as we see churches powerless to respond. Like the Great Awakenings of America’s past, we need a sweeping movement of transformation that only the Holy Spirit can bring. On a grand scale, we need revival! Perhaps God will use your leadership or influence to jumpstart a work of revival in the hearts of a congregation, a family, or even one individual. Your prayers, dedication, and willingness to yield to the Spirit may pave the way for those who follow you to have a fresh, first-chair experience with God’s power. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). v
Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
Some view revival like a spiritual crash diet for soft and flabby churchgoers to get back in shape. But revival is about establishing a lasting lifestyle that is worthy of our calling in Christ (Ephesians 4–5). There may be a temporary jumpstart
Real World I think I’ll quit. This isn’t what I signed up for.
Set Up Guardrails
The Scenario When my wife and I were called to pastor this church, we followed a pastor who had covered up a moral failure for eight years. The church was facing a $25 million lawsuit and had been diminished to half of its size. This is my first senior pastorate. Between the lawsuit and the people who have been so embittered over the previous pastor covering up his sin for so long, this has turned into a situation where people are trying to get rid of me. There have been false allegations, endless meetings, and vicious personal attacks. The bottom line is, after four years of this, I’m now looking at other careers. While the details vary from pastor to pastor, this account is representative of the bone-wearying pressure and opposition facing many in ministry. Thousands of Christian leaders and pastors are leaving the ministry every month. It’s time to talk honestly about dealing with discouragement in ministry. Byron Paulus, Executive Director of Life Action Ministries, asked a panel of veteran Christian leaders, “Have you ever thought about quitting? Also, how do you get through the tough times while maintaining integrity in your life and intimacy in your walk with God?”
Have I ever thought about quitting? I quit every Monday! This was true especially when I was preaching four services every Sunday. In fact, once when my discouragement came to a real crisis point, I remember calling Ron Dunn and crying on his shoulder. But after about a minute, he said, “Michael, stop. You’ve lost your perspective. Remember this: Anything that makes you pray is a blessing. God may actually send troubling people to you to humble you and get you on your knees so He’ll find out if He can trust you with greater ministry.” Satan uses discouragement to destroy. But God took that evil and turned it to good. If I had left the ministry then, I would have missed all the blessings I’m enjoying right now. In the ensuing years, I’ve put up some guardrails to protect my life and intimacy with God. There are two men who have been in my prayer group for thirteen years. We meet every Wednesday morning, and I’ve told them, “If I’m ever not authentic—if you feel like there’s a blind spot or a speck or a log or anything like that in my life—you have permission to walk in unannounced and confront me with it.” This is because other people often see things in our lives before we see them. I also never counsel a woman alone. And I have pictures of my wife and children all over my office. That’s my unannounced way of saying, “I’m not interested; I’m off limits.” Besides daily times with the Lord, I try to get away three times a year for a break, just to get alone with the Lord. Vance Havner said, “If you don’t come apart and rest awhile, you will come apart.” There is much truth in that. We are so busy. We’re busy doing good things, but sometimes we’re busy with the busyness of the church, and we’re not taking care of the business of God in our own lives. Michael Catt is the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and executive producer of Sherwood Pictures.
Keep Short Accounts
Stay Ready Spiritually
As a result of being greatly defrauded by a group of Christian leaders, I became extremely angry—first at them, then at God for letting such a wicked thing happen. Then I got angry at myself for having gotten mad at them and at God! I got so low that I decided it was all senseless and that I had just been spouting off a lot of foolishness that had no meaning. I even began to doubt God’s existence. One day in sheer frustration, totally incapable of doing any genuine work, I went upstairs in our home to paint some bedroom ceilings. While I was on a ladder painting a ceiling . . . I wouldn’t say it was a voice, but it was as real as if it were . . . God spoke to me and said, “You’ve got it all wrong.” You see, I had concluded that because some well-known and supposedly godly men had defrauded me, that proved that Christianity was a lie. “What do You mean, I’ve got it all wrong?” I demanded. The Lord said to me, “What has happened to you is confirmation of My truth, not denial of it. I have made it clear that all men seek their own, that all are wicked, that none seek Me. You’ve given this completely the wrong interpretation.” By God’s grace, over the next few hours, an incredible revival occurred in my own life. In terms of guarding intimacy with God, I frequently speak publicly about keeping “short sin accounts,” and I have found this absolutely mandatory. I have sought (not always successfully) to practice immediate repentance. Intimacy is broken by sin, so I seek to walk with God in such a way that there is no accumulation of sin or even any time lag in dealing with sin.
I have several men who stand with me in different ways. One friend calls me every week and asks me questions. Some are nice, like, “How are you? What are you doing? How are things going?” Then some of them get tougher: “Are you living out what you’re preaching today? How’s your prayer life? What are your spiritual disciplines? Have you been looking at anything you shouldn’t be?” Sometimes, after a hard conversation, we’ll pray together, and then he’ll call back a few minutes later and say, “Hey, Dave, did you lie about anything you just said to me?” He is of more value than gold to me. Another man for years has followed me on the Internet. With my permission, he gets a report of every site I visit. That’s been a great safeguard for me. Those are the sort of things we need to ask God for in our lives. To me, morning is the key to victory for the day. When I travel, my regular routine is messed up. But many years ago I developed something in my life that sets a guardrail. Every morning, regardless of where I am, I still have to get ready physically. That takes a certain amount of time, so I’ve tied that together with what I do spiritually to get ready for the day. My physical getting-ready time is also time set aside for me and Jesus. I’m not necessarily praying for anyone else during that time. It’s time to put on my armor, to die to myself, to tell God that I want to dwell in His house today and all the days of my life, to gaze on His beauty and seek Him in His temple. This helps form a foundation for the rest of my day.
Richard Owen Roberts is a former pastor and a lifelong student of spiritual awakenings. He has published numerous books on revival, including Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel.
Dave Butts is the chairman of the National Prayer Committee. He has authored several books on prayer, and he co-leads the prayer segment of the OneCry movement.
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Making It The People God Uses The lives of those God has used to lead in revival illustrate the key ingredients that should be present in all our lives if we long for God to visit us in our day. In this exercise, we have adapted material from Brian Edwards’ book Revival: A People Saturated with God (Evangelical Press, 1990). As you answer the accompanying questions, ask God to search your heart and reveal any areas of your life that need to change if He is going to use you as an instrument of revival.
1. The people God uses in revival have encountered God in a powerfully personal way. No one is used in leading revival who has not first experienced personal revival. • Have I had times of meeting with God in a powerfully personal way? Y/N • Do I sense my own need for personal revival? Y/N 2. The people God uses in revival are humble. They are always concerned that God get the glory for anything He chooses to do through them. • Am I being honest with God and others about my true spiritual condition? Y/N • Do I turn others’ attention away from myself to God when He chooses to use me? Y/N 3. The people God uses in revival strive for purity of heart and mind. They are prepared to break every unhealthy or sinful habit. • Is there any change I would be unwilling to make, any item I would be unwilling to get rid of, any habit I would be unwilling to break, in order to walk in purity of mind and heart? Y/N • What steps do I need to take to purify my life or home? ___________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________ 4. The people God uses in revival are surrendered. They go all the way in obedience to Christ. • Deep down, are there any reservations in my surrender to God? Y/N • Do I love God more than I dislike anything He might ask of me? Y/N
5. The people God uses in revival are obedient to God’s Word. They are diligent in the study of Scripture and in its application to their own lives. • Am I diligent in studying God’s Word? Y/N • Do I personally apply the Word to my life, and am I obedient to its commands? Y/N 6. The people God uses in revival have an all-consuming passion to minister to others. Loving and ministering to others is more than a job or a hobby; it’s an identity. • How would others perceive my attitude toward ministry? ______________________________ • How is my attitude toward people reflected in my daily schedule and choices? ______________________________________________________________________________ 7. The people God uses in revival are willing to face discomfort in order to be faithful to God. God rarely uses those who are afraid of hard work, because He would not be able to trust them with the commitment that revival demands. • Is there a root of slothfulness in my life? Y/N • Am I willing to sacrifice personal comfort and convenience for the sake of Christ? Y/N 8. The people God uses in revival are determined to keep on seeking God until He answers them. They don’t give up or get distracted from their pursuit of God. • Am I determined to seek God for revival no matter what happens? Y/N • Is there anything I have allowed to distract me from persevering in my pursuit of God? Y/N 9. The people God uses in revival are men and women of prayer. Almost every Christian today laments a lack of personal prayer, but very few are determined to do anything about it. • In an average week, how much time do I devote to praying for revival? ____________________ • What radical alteration in my schedule might be necessary for me to fervently seek God? ______________________________________________________________________________ 10. The people God uses in revival seek God wholeheartedly. Often when we ask God for something, it is half-hearted and insincere because our motives are wrong (see James 4:3). • Why do I want revival? ___________________________________________________________ • Do I long more for the benefits and blessings that revival would bring to me than for the glory that God would receive? Y/N
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. . . . But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).
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can hardly imagine what Isaiah must have been feel-
ing when he was caught up in a vision so glorious that it overwhelmed his senses (Isaiah 6). The blinding brightness and awesome spectacle of heaven brought the prophet to his knees in utter terror. He thought this must be his last moment—surely no human eyes could endure the sight of such majesty. Yet to this “ruined” man who lived among a people of “unclean lips,” an angel brought a symbol of cleansing and renewal. Then, a divine question from the King of heaven: “Whom shall I send?” Who will speak the truth without compromise? Who will testify to My glory and live for My honor, no matter what the world says or does? Who will go out from this glorious place as a voice for the revival My people need? Isaiah—humbled, undone, but now cleansed—spoke up. “Here am I. Send me!” The exclamation point tells us this was a shout, not a whisper. Yes, God! I’m in! It’s curious that God asked for volunteers, even though presumably Isaiah was the only person involved in the vision. Sometimes God will knock you off your horse, like Saul of Tarsus, and say, “You’re My man!” But sometimes He’ll call out, “Who will go? Who will obey? Who will sacrifice?” Today, churches are in desperate need of revival; nations are languishing without spiritual awakening; a world is perishing in darkness and deception. “Who will go?” God’s voice thunders across the heavens. What if we answer as Isaiah did? What if you or I step up and say, “God, since You’re calling, I’m answering: Here am I; send me!”? What if we leave status-quo ministry behind and pursue revival with all our hearts? Like Isaiah, we’ll need to know what to say.
Revival 101 In the same way that God gave His message to Isaiah (“Go and tell this people . . .”), Jesus Himself has given us the essential message of revival. In Revelation 2–3, Jesus shares His heart explicitly and personally to believers and churches that have grown lethargic and lukewarm. Tradition supposes that John penned the book of Revelation around 90 A.D., and it is obvious that in the second-generation early church, revival was already needed.
To the church of Ephesus, our Lord said, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (2:4). To the believers in Sardis, His words are chilling: “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (3:2). And who can forget the disgusted feeling our Lord had when considering the compromise of the Laodicean church? “Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (3:16-17). For those of us seeking to share revival truth, we dare not ignore what Jesus identified as the root of the problem: • If you don’t love God the way you did at first, you need revival. • If your spiritual life is defined by activity rather than by intimacy, you need revival. • If you don’t sense your desperate need for God’s help, you need revival.
God is seeking those who will speak and lead boldly.
In this light, 21stcentury problems seem awfully similar to 1stcentury ones. Christians who have lost their fervor for Christ, or who are going through the motions of service without a life of inner holiness and connection to the Lord, or who have simply grown content with their current spiritual status, are all in desperate need of revival. Jesus warns these churches that everything they stand for is at stake. The need is drastic and immediate. Without revival, nothing else is going to matter. Their activities, their reputation, their doctrinal stand for righteousness, their wealth—without the life of God in these places, what is the point? The very existence of these churches is on the line. This is the urgency that fuels the message of revival: For a church that has lost its way, revival is our only hope. Then Jesus the Revivalist gives specific instructions on what needs to be done:
• “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (2:4-5). • “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent” (3:2-3).
LEADING YOUR CHURCH TOWARD REVIVAL
• “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:19-22).
• Preach a series on revival truths (perhaps from Revelation 2–3) or on biblical revivals.
Remember. Wake up. Repent. Listen. Obey. These are the action verbs of revival.
• Have small groups and/or Sunday school classes unite around a revival-themed resource for an extended period of time. (Visit www.SeekingHim.com to order Life Action’s 12-week study on revival truths.)
Who Will Speak Today? Just as in the days of Isaiah, we as revival messengers don’t generate our own content. Jesus has told us what is required for revival, and He has modeled for us what it looks like to call His people to new, refreshed, repentant life. In revival, Jesus Himself speaks to His people. In these last days the Spirit is moving in unprecedented ways— saving, convicting, propelling, awakening. God’s Word is poised to flood the world with hope and truth, and the eyes of the Lord are searching across the earth for those surrendered few He can use to proclaim it faithfully. God is seeking those who will speak and lead boldly for revival, regardless of the consequences. Those who will set aside lesser things and give their all for the glory of God. “Whom shall I send?” Let’s not make our King ask again. v
Daniel W. Jarvis
• Introduce revival themes into your prayer meetings and on your prayer request lists.
• Lead your staff, elders, and other ministry leaders through revival teachings, books, or even a prayer retreat. • Host a Life Action summit or THIRST conference in your church. As a pastor, I have hosted two full-length summits, and there is nothing I’ve ever done in my church that had a more dramatic impact for revival, both corporately and individually. (For scheduling details, visit www.LifeAction.org/summit.) • Pray about sharing revival and awakening truths with your city, not just with your church. Consider getting a creative team together to strategize outreach, or call in like-minded pastors from your area for revival prayer meetings.
Dan Jarvis is managing editor for Revive and leads a team of revival voices for the OneCry movement. You can join them at www.OneCry.com.
Visit www.LifeAction.org/influence for suggested resources to help lead your church toward revival.
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