Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at three state conventions. Over the course of these weeks, I’ve been to New Mexico, Mississippi, and Oklahoma preaching for either pastors’ conferences or state conventions. The ten messages I’ve been able to bring have been focused on prayer, revival, or the need for the church to engage the culture.
Each state was a blessing to me. I always love speaking to pastors and leaders, and I never take these opportunities for granted. Leadership is the key to life change. As the pastor goes, so goes the church. A church will never rise above her leaders. The only way we are going to impact this lost world is with pastors and leaders on fire for God. If we want to impact the culture, we need leaders who pray, who long for the “much more” of Christ and who are not afraid to engage the culture and go into the community.
In every state, I meet pastors who are discouraged and ready to throw in the towel. It breaks my heart to see men who once had zeal and passion, now beaten down and discouraged. Ministry has worn them down. My prayer when I preach at these kinds of meetings is to call leaders to stir up the gift of God that is within them. I love it when I see leaders rekindle the fires that once burned brightly. My prayer is always that God will do something in their hearts and lives that will spread in their churches.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know all the questions, but I do know that God gave His Son for more than what we are seeing today. He died and rose for us to walk in power, not in defeat. He never intended for His church to die a slow, painful death. He died for the church to be His powerful representative on the planet. The church is to storm the gates of hell, not retreat to the Fellowship Hall for supper.
This weekend I’ll be preaching at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. This is one of the most amazing churches I’ve ever attended. I had the privilege of speaking there a couple of years ago and was overwhelmed by how thick the presence of the Spirit is in that body of believers. Every time I’ve visited there I’ve gone away asking the question, “Why isn’t this happening everywhere?”
Surely God is not withholding blessings and just favoring a few. Surely God wants the power of what we read in Acts to be a reality in all our churches. There is more to God than most are believing and embracing. Too often the preacher settles for less than God’s best, or the people resist what God wants to do because it will change the status quo.
I’ve often heard Jim Cymbala say that God told him, “If you will teach the people to pray, you’ll never lack a sermon. You’ll never lack the money to do what you need to do. You’ll never have a building large enough to hold all the people I send you.” That promise is a reality at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
As I’ve had the privilege of preaching these conventions and because of our 35 ReFRESH® Conferences around the country, I’ve found most pastors don’t believe or aren’t sure God wants to or can do that. There is fear in many pastors today. Fear of the people or fear of failure chokes out faith in far too many of God’s leaders and God’s people today. For too many, the good old days of great attendance and people serving and sharing their faith are gone. Churches sit empty. Pastors feel defeated. Meanwhile, the devil rejoices as the cities grow darker.
What must we do to change this? Simple. This is not rocket science. We go back to the basics and build on the solid foundation.
1) We need to offer hope. Instead of despair, discouragement, and defeat, we need to hope again. It’s imperative that we believe again. We must, by faith, embrace the fact that God is not dead and He’s not even sick. His promises are true. Our hope is built on Jesus. Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s acting on the promises of God. We must learn to trust once more in the God who has more ahead for us.
2) We must pray. Prayer doesn’t so much change things as it changes us. The church has abandoned prayer for whatever method might work. Prayer is optional. It’s become little more than the bridge to get the praise team off the platform or the ushers down the aisle for the offering.
3) We must ask God to burden us with the lostness of our land. We are surrounded by dead religion. Churches can’t find a pastor or keep a pastor or they fire their pastors every two to three years. To have a burden for the lost, we have to die to our rights and our traditions. I’m not saying traditions are bad, but when they become more important to us than the presence of the Holy Spirit and the stirring of the baptismal waters, something needs to change.
4) Pastors need to get over the fear of man. Deacons need to become biblical servants, not boards. Pastors need to stand up as shepherds acting under God’s authority. We forsake the power of the Holy Spirit if the fear of man is what drives our ministries. We don’t need more committees; we need more of Christ. Christ confronted dead religion and self-righteous Pharisees. The pastor who is too fearful to do the same is not faithful to the office.
5) We’ve got to re-engage the culture. We can’t just let the darkness roll over us. Yes, it is hard. Yes, there will be resistance. The devil doesn’t give up ground easily. But nothing is going to change if the church and God’s people are not a voice in the community. We are told to storm the gates of hell, not hold on until Jesus comes.
6) We must be people of the Book. This is no time for legalism, compromise, or trying to be cute. We need to speak truth in a world where black and white have become dirty grey. Pastors need to once again point people to the cross and the empty tomb. We need to ask God to do in us what He did in the book of Acts.
History shows that when the church gets serious about her spiritual assignments and biblical priorities, things change. God has done it in the past, He will do it again.
I could write more, but for me this is the starting point. Of these six thoughts, which one does your church need to work on? When will you start working on it?