I was recently on a panel discussion regarding revival. The participants were Byron Paulus, Erwin Lutzer, Jim Cymbala, Bill Elliff, and myself. We are, to say the least, a diverse group with various backgrounds and different churches. We probably have theological differences on some secondary issues, but our heart is one on the subject of the need for revival. All of us long for revival and have studied revival. We know the “facts” of revival from a historical context and even, to some extent, from personal experience.
What brought us together was not our doctrinal preferences or our styles of worship. What brought us together was a common understanding of the necessity of revival and awakening in America. We are all concerned about the spiritual condition of the church. We are concerned about carnality within the church and apathy that seeks to lurk like a dark cloud over American Christianity. There is a sense that we are headed toward devastation and judgment if we don’t become desperate for God.
Through the years, I’ve attended conferences where preachers with a variety of interests, emphases, and theological positions have been present. I also remember the time when, if you weren’t Southern Baptist, you wouldn’t be invited to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. That, in my humble and accurate opinion which I highly respect, was the utmost display of arrogance. It would seem we felt we had the corner on the spiritual market. I know one thing—most Southern Baptist churches I’ve been in don’t have a clue about the Holy Spirit. Fearing that God might control one of our meetings, we seek to control.
I remember hearing criticism when presidents of Pastors’ Conferences starting inviting men like John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, and John Maxwell to speak. While in private we preached their sermons, used their leadership principles, and read their books, some didn’t want them on “our” platform. Again, pride or at least jealousy.
I have attended and spoken at conferences where I might not be on the same page theologically as one of the speakers. They probably don’t adhere to my position on some subjects. I’ve been told by more than one preacher that emphasizing revival is old school and that we only need to preach evangelism and church growth. Such a statement shows an absolute ignorance of the history of revival. Revival in the body always results in evangelism of the lost.
What troubles me about the direction of many conferences is they look like a very bad attempt at making vegetable soup. The variety of speakers indicates an attitude of “cross all the lines we can and get the biggest crowd we can.” Or, “differences never matter.” I beg to disagree. If a preacher doesn’t believe in the Triune God and has to clarify his position on that, he is not an evangelical, no matter how popular he might be.
If a preacher is asked if Jesus is the only way and he begins by, “Well, I feel…” he is not an evangelical and doesn’t belong on a platform with people who understand the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. He belongs with a liberal, Bible denying crowd.
Recently there was a conference on revival that captured the attention of many. The speakers were varied in their backgrounds, all of them known throughout the Christian community. One of the speakers was taken off the website because he apparently challenged some of those present, including a few preachers. You can only find his message on YouTube. Apparently, the pastor didn’t appreciate a rebuke from his brother. The guy who was censored has messages posted all over the internet. It’s not like you can’t figure out where he is coming from. I might not agree with everything he says, but he has a heart for God which is evident.
Let me go back to the vegetable soup analogy for a moment. When my mom made vegetable soup, she would take several days of leftovers out of the fridge and throw them in a pot, and we would have another “meal.” The ingredients varied in content, flavor, and amount, but the mix worked. It had a flavor you would identify with vegetable soup. Sometimes, in our efforts to be cutting edge, or to relate, we try to throw people together who, in reality, are not on the same page. That can be a tightrope or a tragedy.
In revival, our preferences become secondary. Our agenda is placed at the foot of the Cross. Our desire for our way yields to His way. Our self-promotion becomes self-denial. Our one goal is to walk as one with the Spirit of Christ. Non-essentials are cast aside so that Christ might be glorified and magnified.
I am a small part of the OneCry Initiative (www.onecry.com) and grateful to be a part. This movement is for those interested in revival. It will cross denominational lines, theological lines, and generational lines and will hopefully bring together God’s people to cry out for revival. If we can’t agree on that, then there is no hope for America.
I’m praying this “soup” has the right mix of ingredients with an aroma that is pleasing in the nostrils of God.