(February 28, 2018) Robert and Maureen McQuillan write…
Like this Gypsy Smith quote below? It’s from the cover of Stuart Reynold’s latest book, Getting Ready for Revival.
A challenge for every Christian, not to think ’Maybe I’ll do something later’ but to act on now!
One of Oxford Dictionary meanings of ‘Revival’ is: ‘A reawakening of religious fervour, especially by means of evangelistic meetings.’
It’s been many years since the days of genuine ‘religious fervour’ in churches with regular testimonies of sinners saved, lives changed, growth in one’s faith, sick people healed at every meeting.
Something has been missing for some time; church life has definitely changed! We’ve become too sophisticated, too locked into restricting ‘in-house’ systems, and the absence of the unchurched.
That golden oldie, Give Me That Old Time Religion, declaring salvation being good enough for everybody; loving one another; taking us to heaven; and ‘it’s good enough for me’ had something going for it!
In respect of something being missing in many churches (not all of course, praise God!); perhaps the following is on your mind too …
- Tired hearing about how many people came to ‘our’ church last Sunday when you really want to hear how many got saved?
- Concerned that no clear salvation altar call is given, possibly because leaders feel all present were already saved?
- Disappointed at the absence of the anointing (eg the presence and power of God), especially during worship?
- Little or no sense of the Spirit moving across the auditorium touching hearts?
- No heart-warming invitations to positively, prophetically pray for the sick and those with other needs?
Hey, it’s not all up to the pastor!
Don’t blame leadership for everything! Especially if your church isn’t growing, if meaningful-to-the-kingdom things aren’t happening!
If we really long for a revival with the unsaved genuinely repenting of sin and accepting Jesus as Saviour; realistic Christianity demonstrated in love; the power of the anointing in our churches, let something fresh begin in us!
This will mean change and probable personal cost as the Spirit works on us afresh making us stronger Christians filled with spiritual fire… especially in sharing Jesus with others.
Gone are the days when Christians regularly invited unsaved friends/neighbours to church to hear the gospel and the needy to be prayed for. As evangelist Ray Comfort has written: ‘A church waiting for sinners to visit its building is like the police waiting for criminals to visit their station!’
If the church of Christ is to grow, it’s up to every Christian to play our part and
a) Be an active witness for Jesus!
b). Strongly believe for the Spirit’s moving in our own circumstances as well as in our local church.
Some concerns that have come to the surface recently…
1. Troubling testimonies
’Testimonies’ by supposedly ‘changed’ individuals that talk rather loosely about finding ‘faith’ but never mention a Calvary-centred conversion experience.
‘Faith in what?’ we wonder, not hearing about Jesus and his cross in their ‘testimony.’
What a pastor shared with us recently comes to mind: ‘I look to and through the cross at and for everything. I look beyond challenges and problems and see these already covered by Jesus’ finished work on Calvary. It’s amazing how things then work out and I move ahead in faith under God’s grace.’
The days are gone when churches boldly proclaimed Paul’s 1 Corinthians 1:23 declaration: ‘We preach Christ crucified’ across the platform’s (called ‘the stage’ these days!) back wall!
Naturally we’re not against modernised churches (Maureen has decorously designed/decorated some churches!) and we’re not against testimonies but we long to hear about repentance and finding Jesus, faith in him and his blood, leading to a new lifestyle.
Paul unashamedly declared: ‘I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central… Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20 Message).
2. Christians not really knowing God
Or what they really believe about ‘their faith’ or the Bible and God’s promises to his born-again children (promises we need to be able to quote and hang onto in times of need… such as 1 Peter 2:24 when sickness hits!).
In a year where there is a God-directed emphasis on witnessing, how can such Christians witness strongly and confidently to not just the ‘usual unchurched, unsaved’ but to those of others ‘faiths’ – such as Muslims who know what they blindly believe?
A reporter once asked the late Billy Graham if he ever got sick of the Bible. Quick as a flash the 61 times named Gallup’s Top 10 ‘Most admired man’ responded passionately: ‘Sick of it? Never! Every time I read a scripture, I get something new out of it, something that speaks to my heart.’
Dr Graham knew his God and trusted God’s word!
Major Daniel Whittle’s 1883 chorus of inspired Christian assurance comes to mind… ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed …’ (See 2 Timothy 1:12).
We live in dark days in a dark world… which is going to get darker. We need to really know our God, what our faith really stands for, who we trust in and that his word is for real!
Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted when trouble hits. But in respect of knowing our God, check out the three verses following: ‘When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.’
3. ‘How can we witness?’
This was asked this of us recently adding, ‘We believe what you say about God-given opportunities popping up unexpectedly, but how do we approach unsaved people? What do we do? We’re not evangelists or pastors.
But isn’t every Christian a witness? And isn’t our very lifestyle supposed to be a witness, one that influences others to consider what makes us tick? Aren’t we all ‘The fifth gospel’?
Jesus was naturally relational – he delighted to connect with people and share about Father God’s heart of love and care.
As we be natural (relational, not religious!) and share caringly with the unredeemed, believe for an opportunity to share the gospel message of salvation and the need to pray the sinner’s prayer.
Our testimony is what Jesus means to us, what he has done for us. Our aim now is to see lives changed!
It’s up to us who are ‘out there’ in the community; the marketplace of life… pastors/evangelists will never cover the territory we do! They’re leaders, the encouraging ‘ones’ – whereas we are the witnessing servants, the ‘many.’
We need to understand that just as the days of churches displaying 1 Corinthians 1:23 (above) are gone so are the days when sinners come rushing to churches to be witnessed to – even if the notice board outside declares ‘All Welcome.’ It’s up to us, the ‘insiders’ attending our beloved local church – we must touch the lives of the lost ‘outsiders for whom Christ died!’
Confidence? Remember Jesus’ Acts 1:8 promise: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…’
The Spirit is the greatest encourager of all! Empowered by him, and with a grateful heart for all Jesus has done for us, we’ll be able to share confidently when witnessing opportunities arise!
4. ‘But we’ll be called religious!’
No! Not if we be ‘ourselves’ – not religious fanatics but relational individuals! Let our character and concern for those in need and don’t know the Lord speak for itself!
Personal example: Today a professional called regarding a home maintenance matter. Out on our porch as he was leaving, knowing he’d been unwell, we enquired about his health. It was a fortuitous opportunity and we took it! As he shared we gently placed our hands on his shoulders and quietly praying a simple short prayer for good health… in Jesus’ name.
No big deal evangelist crusade meeting! We spoke assuring relational words not religious jargon that let him know we cared and Jesus cared for him. And it was evident his heart was touched and he thanked us.
But then he told us something that encouraged us! He reminded us how a few weeks back we’d entered a particular restaurant for lunch and spotted a large number of people seated in the garden area, recognising them as from the builders he works for (Company insignias on their apparel although we hadn’t spotted him).
Without really disturbing anyone we’d come over, smiled warmly and praised their company, the top work they did and the assurances that were stood by; wished them a good day and turned to quietly leave. Nothing religious in that!
But, this gentleman told us, afterwards his ‘unchurched’ boss present there was asked, ‘Who are those guys… praising our work, our company? We don’t know them.’ The manager had cheerfully responded, ‘Oh they’re nice people… before I was made manager I was just a traddie doing a job at their home, happened to mention I needed a managerial job and they quietly prayed to Jesus for me. Three weeks later I got the job!’
Who knows what happens when we take opportunities to encourage people and pray for them without preaching; what goes on in their minds, where it can lead and how kindnesses can reach others and give them something to consider. God does! At that restaurant God was mentioned, not by us, but the one we had prayed for… God was honoured, not us!
5. Days of fear or of fortuity?
Leading on, here’s a reality – We live in a fallen world due to our sinning!: ‘We’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners’ (Romans 3:23 Mge).
Don’t be deluded… in 2018 the world will get even darker as sin increases! It’s already March tomorrow… from the opening weeks of this new year crime has escalated, wars and rumours of wars arise, the media reports tragedies around the world; old prophecies are coming to pass.
Witnessing today calls for an understanding of one simple but powerful truth… Christians are light in this dark world, powerful lamps not to be hid away in a drawer but ‘put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they’re going’ (Luke 11:33 Mge).
As kids we sang a cute little chorus – one so relevant today: ‘Jesus wants me to be a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for him.’ In these dark days we adult Christians need to let ‘our light’ shine more than ever!
After church recently some people remarked that with all the trouble going on in the world – we’re living in fearful times – terrorism, difficulty in trusting strangers especially middle easterners. We’re living in days of fear.
We surprised them by stating positively, ‘Oh but what great days of opportunity to be bright lights in the darkness, to shine for Jesus. We have a God who cares and we have his Spirit within to assist us be bold in our witnessing! (John 16:8).
6. Lack of the anointing
Christians who know there is a blessed all powerful Holy Spirit, who sing about him, and claim things about him, but have never sought discover him in a meaningful personal to way are another kingdom concern.
In John 14, 15 and 16, Jesus made a point of explaining some things about the Spirit. He emphasised in John 14:18 that one aspect of his impending return to heaven was to request his Father to send an incredible friend so that his followers would not be orphans!
John 14:16-17a says: ‘He’ll provide you another friend so that you will always have someone with you. This friend is the Spirit of Truth.’
We’ve just celebrated Christmas; At March end we’ll remember Good Friday! In May churches will remember the Acts 2 coming of this friend in anointing and power, causing Jesus’ followers to hit the streets to share the gospel!
Earlier we mentioned that the Spirit’s anointing indicates the power and presence of God… there’s so much we could write about this but space doesn’t permit!
Let’s just say that we’re picking up a longing in a number of Christians to know more about this friend, to know more about moving in faith in the supernatural, to see more ‘old time religion’ where the sick are regularly prayed for by ‘ordinary Christians’ just not leaders, and other anointed things to happen in churches!
In 2018 we need a fresh outpouring is so many churches!
7. Christians not trusting Jesus
The ever present inability of so many who cannot fully trust Jesus and let go of problems and challenges by leaving them in his hands.
We’ve written before about this… how those who don’t know what the Bible promises, how so many Christians are weak in this area, how they worry about giving their worries to God!
Let’s simply say ‘You’re disappointing Father God!’ Psalm 115:11 NLT commands, ‘All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord!’
Maybe non-trusting Christians have lost that old time religion fear (awe, reference of a Holy God! For such there’s Proverbs 3:5 Mge is firm: ‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.’
Wouldn’t it be good if we all drew that Gypsy Smith circle?
The end goal is discovering Jesus as friend in every sense … we’ll find we’re helping others as well!