As I sit at my desk in my home study, I am reflecting on our ReFRESH™ Conference that “ended” Wednesday night. Actually, this conference never seems to end. It annually takes us to a new normal in our longing for God and for seeing hearts turned toward Him. The services are “over,” but the effects linger.
I don’t want to say too much, as I don’t want to advertise or talk it to death. The best way to kill a meeting is to talk too much and stop letting God do a fresh work on a daily basis. I can’t begin to get my arms around what happened this year, first and foremost in me.
I am a revival preacher in need of revival. I never want the passion for seeing God do a mighty work to wane as the years go by. I can get older—I just don’t want to get old in my vision, passion, and longing for God’s mighty hand of power.
This year we had more people in attendance than we’ve ever had. We averaged well over 1,000 people each night, filling the floor, the choir loft, and moving into the balcony. That has never happened before. We filled the Fellowship Center for our noon sessions to overflow, and some had to stand up and eat. We saw the altars filled each night as people got areas of their lives right.
We saw people saved who thought they were already saved. I know of one of our young adults who surrendered to a call to ministry after battling it for 10 years. I know of families that resolved issues. I know of people who came to full surrender to the lordship of Christ. Every night, even during the preaching, people were moving to the altar. No longer content to sit and soak, they had to respond.
Revival demands a response. This is why I believe an altar call is so important. I see, to my sorrow, more and more churches dropping the altar call. I’m not a denominational historian, but as I’ve watched some mainline and even evangelical denominations drop the altar call, I’ve also observed their drift toward liberalism, loss of evangelistic fervor, and failure of their people to openly confess Christ inside and outside the church.
I would strongly encourage you to read a blog written by Tom Elliff a few months ago on the need for the altar (www.tomelliff.com). It’s a much needed word in a church culture that leans toward, “Let’s not offend or make people uncomfortable or cause anyone any stress.”
Here’s a question Tom asks: Why would you plead a case and then not call for a decision? Good question. My oldest daughter and her husband are searching for a new church. They’ve been in the same church for the last seven years. The church rarely extends an altar call. They’ve visited seven other churches, and most of them don’t give an altar call either. They attended ReFRESH™ this week and told me, “We were about to settle on a church, but they never give an altar call. We just can’t settle.”
Jesus called people to confess Him. For years, we’ve called people to respond to Christ. The Scriptures are full of altars. God invites us to Himself. Revelation closes with an invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (22:17).
Why are we forsaking the altar? If you study revivals, you find that people in revival fell on their faces at the altar. If we just dismiss a service and send people out on their merry way, where is the moment when we demand that they die daily, take up their cross, and follow Christ? If we can’t ask people to confess Christ in church, how can we expect them to confess Christ at work or even at home?
If we want revival, we must see preachers return to calling people to respond to what has just been said. The man that won’t demand a response doesn’t deserve the opportunity to demand a salary because he’s not fulfilling his calling.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23
3 thoughts on “The Need for Revival and a Response”
I attended almost all the ReFresh conference meetings this year for the first time. God has done a powerful work in me, and I just want to see it happen in all the churches in this country! I grew up with altar calls, and I do believe it makes a church stale and dusty without them.
May we continue to pray for the Holy Fire of God to move in each our lives, in each of our towns, in each of our churches. May we see a stirring that can’t be stopped! Burn with Your power in each of us O Lord!
Thank You so much for being obedient to the word of God and holding ReFresh and may it continue to reach across this country in all denominations!
Hello Michael: This past ReFresh was my wife and my first! We were hungry for revival and were not disappointed. I purchased your book, Prepare for Rain, while at the conference and have read it. While at Sherwood we met many, many wonderful sincere people. You have something special at Sherwood – God is there. We truly need a Sherwood in the area where I live. Wes Allard – Mansfield, Texas.
Churches, alter calls, revival, Christianity… As I was discussing with my pastor, I have been attending church for over 45 years. I have lived through many sermons and some of them seemed like a lifetime themselves. As a leader of the men’s sunday school class, I like to delve into the depths and explore the concepts of the Bible. I like to be challenged to change and be more like Christ. Sometimes the pastor’s sermons just do not stir me anymore. Three sentences into the sermon and it is quite evident where the pastor is going. For me there is a lack of stimulation in the Sunday morning service, yet I believe and pray that the Spirit moves on the ears that need it, I pray to be moved in my spirit to be challenged to be more like Christ. Our pastor came in with the idea he would have an Alter call every Sunday… But none of the same faces, that have been there year after year and have been living in faith, go forward anymore. When you have a stable and faithful congregation, is a salvation message what is needed? Or should a message that challenges us to be more like Christ be spoken. For a pastor of a small stable congregation, it becomes difficult to give an alter call every week to the same people and see no one step forward for salvation. Our pastor has stopped givng alter calls, Salvation messages are very rarely preached on Sunday mornings. And the board gets together to discuss how to build the Kingdom. This was once a spirit-filled evangelical church when I was a teenager, the fire is fading. We need prayer, we need revival, we need Jesus! I often ask myself, am I the problem? As I sit unmoved during the sermon, is it because my heart is wrong? I wonder…