If you study the history of revival, there are common denominators: a return to first love, a return to the authority of Scripture, and an elevation of prayer. While we have seen a few breezes of revival at Sherwood, I would not say we have seen revival on the scales I read about. There is a sense in which we have had an atmospheric revival in our midst. For years now, there has been an unusual sense of God’s presence when you walk on our campus. We did not orchestrate it. We have not manipulated it. It hasn’t been worked up; it’s been prayed down.
I know this—in revival, God takes control. The clock, our calendar, and our priorities are changed. If preaching on revival could bring revival, we would have had a region sweeping move of God by now. I’ve just been going through my sermons specifically on revival that I’ve preached at Sherwood, and they number close to 100. It takes people hearing and heeding for revival preaching to be effective.
We are a great church…in the eyes of man. After all, we are the church that makes movies. Doesn’t that give us a leg up on the competition? Doesn’t that make us special in the eyes of God? We’ve led our Association for thirty consecutive years in baptisms, Cooperative Program giving, and membership. We are in the top churches in our state in giving and baptisms. We have been in the top 50 in giving to IMB in recent years.
Add to that, we’ve built a Sports Park for the community. We are offering ministries to the inner city through the recently acquired Coke Plant. We are planting churches. We’ve embraced an unreached people group and an unengaged people group. Doesn’t that mean we are the apple of God’s eye? Not hardly. No guarantee.
WHAT MATTERS IS HOW GOD SEES US. Nothing could compare to Israel in her days of outward glory, but the hearts of the people were not in tune with Jehovah. They came to the temple, offered their sacrifices, and went through the motions, but they had other gods in their hearts. Thus, their worship was displeasing and an abomination to the Lord of heaven.
One day, by God’s grace, we’re going to see a heaven sent, Holy Spirit revival that will forever change us. It will present to us a new normal. What will the new normal look like? One, increased attendance in the House of Prayer, and two, increased movement to the altar. I rarely see people in the balcony or the far back move forward during an invitation. It’s almost predictable where the movement toward the prayer altars will come in our service. I would say, I am not the Lord of the invitation, it’s not something I desire to orchestrate, but I can observe from the pulpit and at times I see apathy and even resistance. In revival, that attitude will either be burned away like dross or it will force the person to leave and find a safe haven for their carnality.
Staying the same never happens in revival. You can’t stay the same. Either you get closer to God or you move further from Him. Either the heart softens or it hardens. By the way, that happens every time you sit under the preaching of the Word.
So are you longing for revival or are you scared of it? It might mean that our teenagers, who average 3,700 text messages a month, have to lay down their iPhones and pick up their Bibles. It might mean that the crowd that stands around in the atrium on Sunday nights talking about things that won’t matter five seconds after they die will need to get into the House of Prayer.
Maybe we don’t really want revival. Maybe we just want the blessings of God without the responsibilities and repentance required. Maybe some are comfortable with grieving and quenching revival. I, for one, don’t want to stand before God and hear Him say, “I could have sent revival, if it had not been for you!”
Will the whole church get it? No. Why? There are lost people in the church. There are carnal people in the church who refuse to get right. They have drifted from God and now they despise the Word. No matter what a preacher says, no matter what happens, they will not change. There are some folks who could stand in front of an open fire hydrant and not get wet.
But praise God, many are getting soaked. I want a downpour. I want a cleansing flood. I want a refreshing rain. As we lead up to ReFRESH®, August 26-29, the questions are easy. Do you want revival? Are you going to adjust your schedule? Are you praying for revival? Will you lay your life on the altar? Will you draw the chalk circle around your life and step inside and say, “The person inside this circle needs revival”?
God will meet us at the point of our expectation. What does revival look like? I’m looking at it like a 3,000 piece puzzle. It’s multifaceted, multicolored, and multidimensional but it is a simple picture. If you look at the box, when all is said and done, it looks just like Jesus. Revived people look like Jesus, act like Jesus, talk like Jesus, walk like Jesus, and live like Jesus. How’s your puzzle looking?
(copyright 2012, Michael 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.