There are many factors that limit revival. We must remember: revival is a church term. It’s a church need. Revival is different from awakening. Only after revival sweeps through the church will we see awakening sweep through the culture. God has an order in how He works. He doesn’t work in chaos or confusion; He works to create the atmosphere where men and women hunger for HIM.
He is to be first and foremost. Revival is about Jesus. It’s not about having a better church or a larger church; it’s not even about evangelism. Evangelism is the outgrowth of revival. The reason churches are dying and baptisms are down is because carnal church members could care less about lost people. Carnal people think nothing about their carnality or the fact that a carnal church is pushing people toward the gates of hell. Why would anyone want to give up their Sunday to go to a church that fusses and fights all the time?
Carnal church members must repent. That’s a hard word. It requires an admission of offense, error, neglect, or resistance. It’s admitting God’s right and I’m wrong. Not just wrong like “Oh, I’m sorry,” but wrong like dead wrong. Fatally wrong. Hindering the Spirit wrong. Grieving the Spirit kind of wrong. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Christianity starts with repentance. D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones said, “You cannot drive repentance out of the teaching of Christ without destroying His teaching utterly and entirely.” Spurgeon wrote, “Repentance and faith are like Siamese twins. If one is sick, the other cannot be well, for they live but one life.”
Repentance does not allow for excuses, self-justification, or playing around the edges. Repentance is like surgery—it cuts to the problem and removes it, and then the healing begins. Repentance is hard. No one wants to repent. Our fallen nature and self will hate the thought of it.
Saul could never bring himself to repent. He blamed others for his own choices. He died tragically. David found that repentance was the only thing that could bring relief to his body, mind, and spirit. David was a greater sinner than Saul, but David was an even greater repenter. That’s why He is still known as a man after God’s own heart.
One of our “favorite” sins in the church is murmuring. Thomas Adams wrote, “The frog and the murmurer, both of them are bred of the mud.” Thomas Brooks wrote, “It is better to be mute than to murmur.”
We must repent of murmuring. Murmuring cost a few folks their lives in the wilderness. It led to leprosy. God hates it. It is a work of the flesh, which means a person who murmurs is on the opposite side of an issue with the Holy Spirit. Again, they are grieving, hindering, and resisting the Spirit.
Murmuring is subtle. We let people get away with it. The church in Acts had power for miracles and evangelism because they were one. When a couple in the church decided to lie about their giving, God killed them. No, they weren’t killed for murmuring, but just think this one through. There would have been murmuring in the church because someone, somewhere would have known the truth about their lies and would have started talking about it.
Any leader can tell you that murmuring never accomplished anything. You hear murmuring everywhere. For instance, sports events. Out of shape, overweight inebriated fans who never even attended the university curse and complain about the coaches’ calls. They think playing a video game and watching ESPN makes them an expert on play calling, recruiting, and game strategies. Murmuring sometimes happens under the guise of second guessing the decisions of a leader.
The problem is that the people who murmur don’t have the guts to say it out loud, for they know they will be shot down for their pettiness. So, they resort to murmuring, trying to pull a few folks into their cancerous accusations in hopes that people will agree with them. The way to kill murmuring is to pretend those people are dead – they don’t count, they have no voice, and they certainly aren’t representing the Lord, the cause of Christ, the focus of the mission, or the good of the team.
When there was a major decision to make in the church, James, the pastor, said, “It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit.” Anyone who would have argued with that decision would have been guilty of murmuring. If a church is not in one accord—on the same page, committed to the same thing—it will have murmuring. It will not have the manifest presence of God.
(Copyright, Michael C. Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.