Last year, I did something I rarely do as a pastor, I preached two consecutive Bible Conferences. One was in Oklahoma and the other in Tennessee. While the meetings were different, there was a common denominator between the two churches. There was a hunger for God to move and speak in the heart of the pastor.
Every week I receive several pieces of mail from someone trying to convince me their conference will (a)make me a better communicator, (b)help me to raise money, (c)give me the tools to double attendance in six weeks, or (d)learn how to be hip (but not necessarily holy). We’ve got the practical side covered. My question is, where’s the desperation for God? Where’s the hunger for God? This is the reason I am committed to ReFRESH® here at Sherwood and in the Smokies. I want to go somewhere where they encourage me to get hold of God. I’m sick of business as usual. I’m tired of average. I want to see a movement of God.
One Ukrainian pastor recently said, “It seems American pastors are more concerned about church growth than knowing God.” He’s right on target. If I want to be hip, there’s a conference planned by a big name preacher who says he’s got it all together. He’s so “together” he has a gimmick a week to wow the crowd. Since he can’t preach the Word of God, pure and simple, he resorts to tricks and magic acts.
If I want to be holy, I can’t find a conference no matter how deep I go in my Google search. If I want to have godly character, the options for a seminar or conference on the subject are few, if any. One reason I enjoy The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove is because it’s the closest thing I’ve found for spiritual renewal and refreshment. The problem is that it’s expensive for the average pastor of a small church.
We are in a battle zone, but our promotions imply the church is a playground. We’re told we all need to be more high tech, but where’s the high touch conference? Who is teaching God’s leaders and His people to go to the least of these? The mega-church (at least in our convention) is largely white, white collar, and a whitewashed tomb. I’m not against the mega-church—we are one. But the key is not size, it’s sort. So what if thousands come on Sunday morning, but they aren’t living for Jesus during the week.
We don’t need more programs, we need more power. We don’t need more machinery, we need a movement of God. THIS CAN’T BE ALL THERE IS! Surely Jesus died and the Spirit came to give us a church better than the one we have. Surely there’s more power than what we are experiencing.
Where are the conferences that teach us how to disciple and develop believers into mature saints who understand doctrine? None of that is to be found. That’s too deep for today’s pragmatic, shallow, cotton candy culture. I like a little cotton candy, but a steady diet will rot your teeth and destroy your health.
I’m just wondering how the church survived these past 2,000 years without a huckster on every corner to show us their new way. They say we don’t need to be preachers, but communicators. But communicators of what? We don’t need to be shepherds, we need to be CEOs. If you look and listen, you would conclude that nothing of eternal significance happened before these guys showed up. Hip is in, holy is out. Personal stories are in, Scripture is out. A cool book I just read (or better yet, my latest best seller) is in, the truth of God’s Word is out.
Pastors no longer have to get with God to get a sermon. They can find all the sermons and illustrations they need online with the click of a mouse. We no longer dig and research the text; we now search the Internet for a sermon by our favorite preacher on a passage that popped in our heads. Where are the giants for God? We may have big churches, but in the eyes of God are they great churches?
Today if you have a crowd, you are an expert. The Word might be used as a proof text but where’s the clear teaching of the Word? We’ve lost the art of exegesis. Many believers have never heard a verse by verse series from the Bible. We’re going backwards, not forward. I remember Ron Dunn talking about reading G. Campbell Morgan’s books and realizing what was missing in his ministry was expository preaching. I’d put Ron Dunn’s preaching up against any “communicator” today. They would look like pigmies compared to that giant of a preacher.
It would help our watered down, Americanized, cultural Christianity to have a little depth. It would help a shallow church to learn a little doctrine and wade into some deep water. But then, a preacher can’t take people where he hasn’t been.
I feel like one crying in the wilderness. I know I’m going against the grain. I know if I did a few things differently, we could probably have a bigger crowd. But if I have to resort to gimmicks and a watered-down, feel-good, don’t-confront-me-with-sin-gospel, I’d just as soon be a shoe salesman.
I’m longing for people who will pray for Holy Spirit power. I’m asking God to give me a greater hunger for Him than I’ve ever had. I want a fresh wind and fresh fire in my bones. I need a touch from the Master. I need to know that it can be better, deeper, and sweeter than what I’m seeing. I’m desperate. I’m tired of business as usual. I’m weary of begging people to do what they know they should be doing. I’m looking for a remnant that will pray for me, pray for the church, and pray until God breaks through in Holy Spirit power. When He does, we’ll have revival, because we’ll have Jesus who is, in fact, revival.