BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, the days of the Refresh Conference will be behind us. The conference may have ended, but the revival doesn’t have to. There will always be more fallow ground to break up, seeds to plant, and work to do. Revival may come in a moment, but revival is a process. To be genuine, it has to bear fruit. There should be a lasting, long term effect on the people.
TODAY, MANY ARE LIVING IN THE OVERFLOW. For several weeks now, our cups have been running over. God has given obvious evidences of His blessings. The altars have been full. As I write this, I do not have all the ‘facts’ because of deadlines, I am forced to write this before the end of the meeting, but the movement continues.
GOD IS MOVING MIGHTILY AMONG US. A handful have possibly spoken negatively regarding what God is doing. The carnal hate revival and the religious resist righteousness. It was the religious crowd that killed Jesus. Nothing has changed. Religious people can’t handle the truth. They want nothing of revival. It upsets their systems. They are no longer qualified to serve in a revived church. A work of God always reveals who is really on the Lord’s side.
EMOTIONS MAY WANE, but the effects continue. The highs may level out, but the mountain is there for us to see. It rises on the horizon of our lives reminding us to never settle for level ground when we’ve been to the mountain. The Law was given on a mountain. The transfiguration happened on a mountain. The Lord ascended from the mountain. The mountain moments mark us and forever change our perspective.
MEETINGS MAY END, BUT THE MASTER REIGNS. I am praying that out of these days, many will come to Christ. After the Asbury revival, two students from Asbury went to a small town in Eastern Tennessee and began to share. Within a week, over 500 high school students came to Christ. What a difference five hundred new believers would make in our community! I’m praying for God to move on public and private campuses across this region. When He does, gangs will be replaced by God. Delinquents will become disciples.
ONE MEMBER WROTE ME regarding a movement of God at an old run down camp in Athens called Pine Tops. It was during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s on the University of Georgia campus. Every Saturday night over 1,000 students would gather to pray and worship. The times were informal and most had to sit on the hardwood floor. Every week students were saved and drawn into closer fellowship with the Lord and each other. This member described the feel of Sunday night, September 7th as much the same.
IN 1983-84 HE RETURNED TO ATHENS only to find most of the leadership had graduated and moved on. The meetings at Pine Tops were now dying on the vine and had lost their edge. Read carefully his words, “Revival is a great thing, but it is fleeting. That’s the problem. Without minimizing the essential work of the Holy Spirit in such a movement, the next key ingredient is leadership. I am praying that God will preserve your wise and godly leadership in our fellowship at this time.”
A FEW DAYS AGO, I had a phone conversation with a prayer warrior in another state. They shared that while they are in a great church, they need revival. The church is too busy with the secondary to seek revival. We will never, ever solve the world’s problems at the ballot box, in denominational offices, the programming department or on a picket line. The battle is in the prayer closet. Revival will do more to solve the social ills of this land than all the legislation man can write.
THIS IS WHY THE INTERCESSORY MINISTRY of a church is so important. The most important thing we pray for is not those who are physically sick (although that is important). The most significant praying is for the spiritually sick. Read the prayers of Paul and you’ll find what a man full of God prays for. It’s not hang nails but hardened hearts. It’s not for stomach aches but sanctification. A man can get well physically and still lose his soul. A believer can lose rewards through a wasted life. In any movement of God, the prayer warriors are the front line troops. They are the leaders.
I TALKED TO ANOTHER FRIEND. He shared about a fellow pastor who has called the church to prayer and brokenness. What we are seeing, they are seeing in their fellowship. God is looking for pastors, leaders, churches who are tired of business as usual.
I APPEAL TO THE HUNDREDS OF PASTORS and denominational leaders across the land who read this article each week. Stop worrying about being relevant. Start focusing on revival and repentance. We have the latest technology but we can’t call down fire from heaven. We have Power Point but we have no power with God or man. We want to be on the cutting edge but we do not take time to sharpen the ax.
NINETY PERCENT OF WHAT I READ in church newsletters could be explained by hard work and fleshly promotion. I see or read little that gives evidence of a divine visitation (or even a desire for it). Churches no longer have revivals or Bible Conferences. We are neck deep in alligators and we’re forming committees to discuss the swamp. We’re running to meaningless associational and denominational meetings, we have no time for God. We work diligently to prop up dead ministries and compete with other churches. We have no time for God to stop us in our tracks.
IT IS PAST TIME FOR PASTORS and lay leaders to put on the brakes. Stop the madness. Quit worrying about the coffee sipping crowd. Stop playing to the carnal whose God is their appetite and whose glory is in their shame. Quit doing things to pad your resume and get alone with God.
IT’S TIME TO CLEAN OUR HEARTS, check our motives and clear our calendars. We must stop trying to grow churches at all costs and find out what God wants. Stop some programming and start a prayer ministry. The key to revival is leadership and pastors aren’t leading their churches to seek God.
BACK IN DECEMBER 2002, I called a meeting and cleared 25% of the stuff on our church calendar. I put the brakes on. I didn’t ask anyone’s opinion. I didn’t get the pulse of the people. I didn’t seek a consensus, I just did it. That’s what a leader does, he makes decisions in the best interest of the organization. Pastors lead, or get out of the way. You are preaching to a valley of dry bones, they won’t have life until you start listening to God.
FOR 2003, WE HAD A CALENDAR that would exhaust an archangel. We took off events, and programs. We changed our strategy and focus. Why? It was getting in the way of getting with God. We were too focused on doing and not on being. I called together about eight of our staff and made the changes. No more business as usual. Things were going to be different in 2003.
ON A PARALLEL TRACK, I’ve felt more passionate about the direction my preaching needed to take. I want to know, without a doubt, what that text has to say to us as a church. God has used our study in Acts to remind me the 21st century church bears little resemblance to the 1st century church. I wanted to rediscover what it was that made that church great. They didn’t need revival, they were living in the overflow. I wanted us to live in the overflow.
WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES US ENVY THAT EARLY CHURCH? First, they were people of prayer. Second, they preached Jesus without apology. Their preaching was bold, confrontational, and powerful. Third, they didn’t fear the consequences. Fourth, they focused on the Lord Jesus. They didn’t talk about the filling, gifts or healing, they talked about Jesus. Jesus was central to everything they said and did.
WE HAVE SERMON SERIES on “How to be a better Husband” but we’ll never have better husbands until men learn to be godly. Men should be the spiritual leaders in their homes. When revival comes, the men will be as concerned about prayer as their wives. They will quit trying to make Junior an All Star and start praying that Junior is a godly man.
WE HAVE SERMON SERIES on “Building Relationships” but our relationships will never be what they are supposed to be until our relationship with God is right. You can’t love God and hate your brother. We have sermon series on “How to overcome your circumstances” but we don’t teach people how to walk with God when the circumstances don’t change. We don’t teach people how to walk in the Spirit so they are empowered to handle the problems.
PASTORS, WHERE’S THE UNEXPLAINABLE POWER OF GOD in your services? In your prayer ministry? In your evangelism? We don’t have time to pray in our services (except for God to bless the offering), we’ve got to show a movie clip. Cute is more important than the cross.
LET’S GET REAL, get right and get over ourselves. The power we need is not in programming, denominations, knowing the right people or chasing key men. The power is from God. Our churches have dry eyes and empty altars. We’ve got more halter tops than prayer altars. We’ve got more softball teams than intercessors. We should not be surprised, when we stand before a holy God and our works, facilities, TV ministries and power suits are wood, hay and stubble in the eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THERE ARE NO HAVNER’S OR TOZER’S in my generation. Finney would never get an invitation to speak at a mega church – he would scare that carnal crowd off. Havner was too pointed and Tozer too harsh for today’s Christian who survives on a diet of pablum. Praying Hyde would embarrass us by his agonizing prayers. Jonathan Edwards would have no audience today. He was too brilliant. The dumbing down of America and the church means those who know how to think and ask people to think are not well received.
GOD GIVE US LEADERS who are cut from the same cloth as the men of old. God give us some tall timbers, not these shrubs who parade themselves around as leaders. They only look like leaders because no one is comparing them to what a real leader looks like. A leader is a giant among men. We’ve got pygmies leading midgets and calling themselves pastors and leaders.
SHAPE UP MEN. Get some guts or turn in your ordination papers. I’m not talking about shouting louder but about a man with a mandate from heaven. A man who cannot be silenced by the critics and cynics. A man who fears God more than his deacons. A man who will stand up to gossips and tell them they are of the devil. A man who will demand decisions not suggest they think about it. A man who puts hell on notice – we’re on the offensive.
IT’S TIME FOR LEADERSHIP and not the kind my generation is offering. We parade shields of brass and pretend they are gold. We offer substitutes and ask Him to bless. This is no time for leaders to strut, we need to weep. The church is in the shape it is in because of leadership. But we won’t change. We’re too busy, too successful to weep. We are rich and have need of nothing. God says we are wretched and blind. If a pastor will not lead his people toward godliness, he is not qualified to lead. If deacons will not be men of prayer and faith, they are not qualified to serve. If we want better churches, we’re going to have to be better leaders.
I BELIEVE MUCH OF THE BLAME for the condition of the church today lies at the feet of leaders. Like the children of Israel, we limit the holy one of Israel. We question His Word and doubt His clear leading. We form committees to check out the promised land when God said, GO! We want to go back to Egypt. We refuse to take any risks. Until the leaders are willing to put their foot in the Jordan and cross over, the people can’t go.
WE HAVE MULTIPLIED thousands of churches across our land being led by unqualified men. They compromise the Word and are content with the wilderness. I’m asking God for a mountain. Many are content with nothing more than pastoral care. But the greatest care you can give your church is to make them spiritually healthy and cut out the cancer of compromise and carnality. If you don’t you don’t love your sheep, you love yourself. Many are content to be in the funeral business. Jesus said, let the dead bury the dead. Others are content to eat the dust of disobedience. I would rather eat the fruit of fullness. They will not confront the golden calves in their congregation, I say it’s time to throw down the gauntlet. They will let their sisters in the church get away with whining and plotting, I say it’s time to tell them to zip it or hit the door and don’t come back.
THE KEY TO REVIVAL IS LEADERSHIP. Someone has to take a stand and call the church to repentance. Some prophet is needed as a voice crying in this wilderness. As my friend said, “the next key ingredient is leadership.” When revival comes, we will not boast of the revival, we’ll simply return to our first love – no, not preaching – Jesus! He will be our leader. Revival is not about revival, it’s about returning to first love. We need to stop being content with casual commitments.
IF YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE AS A LEADER, you must make sure the people don’t chase tangents, major on minors, get caught up in experiences or gifts or feelings. This is not about controlling the Holy Spirit, it’s about recognizing the distractions that Satan will send your way. The focus is Jesus. The Holy Spirit came to glorify Jesus, not Himself, not gifts, not experiences. The Spirit will only bless and bear witness to that which looks like Jesus.
THE UNHOLY SPIRIT WILL ALWAYS try to water down a revival. He gets someone to do something that makes the skeptics say, ‘I knew it wouldn’t last,’ or ‘I told you we’d go Charismatic’ or ‘It was all emotional.’ Satan hates praying Christians and hates revival.
IN A REVIVAL OR SEASON OF REFRESHING, leaders must keep the focus on Jesus. If leaders let the church get off on tangents, the revival can be quenched in a moment. God will not share His glory with anyone or anything. Even good things. The focus in revival is Jesus, not revival. The shoulders of the leader are weighted down with great responsibility. Leaders and their families need to be bathed in prayer. We’re in a war. The enemy is a roaring lion. He will do all he can to stop it. It’s up to the leaders and the prayer warriors to stand in the gap.
THE THIRD MILLENNIUM, is going to require a new and dynamic leadership. It’s going to require something that is so old and out of date, that it looks new. We need some prophets – I’m not talking about fore tellers, I’m talking about forth tellers. Men who stand in their pulpits week after week, year after year and say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’
THE GROUND OF THE LOCAL CHURCH IS HARD. Many are set in their ways. We’ve got to die to self so we can get our people to God. This is no time for Pastors to worry about Social Security or their Annuity. It is time to think about what will happen when you stand before the Judgement seat of Christ and He evaluates your works. This is no time for deacons to think they are a second Finance Committee or a board to keep the Pastor in line. This is a time for deacons to return to their New Testament office of ministering to widows and dealing with murmuring in the church. Most deacon bodies are the source of more rumors than the solution to them.
IT’S TIME FOR BIBLE STUDY LEADERS to start teaching the Word without apology. It’s time for dads to start being the spiritual leaders. Quit letting your children decide when you go to church, you’re the leader, start acting like one. This is no time for wimps, we need warriors for Christ. We need soldiers in the Lord’s army. We need men to match our mountains. We need tender hearts and tough hides. Here I stand, who will stand with me?
©2003 MCC. All rights reserved.
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.