Archives For revival

Interior of airplane with people inside

Boarding a small airplane recently, I immediately noticed the cheerful, positive demeanor of the lone flight attendant. It was early in the morning, and amidst the crowd of bleary-eyed passengers shuffling onto the plane, she beamed like a ray of sunshine.

After welcoming us on board and making sure we were all buckled in and our carry-on luggage stowed, she proceeded to give us the prescribed safety instructions that anyone who has flown often could probably recite from memory. But instead of monotonously reading from a script about emergency exits and unlikely water landings, she delivered the entire speech from memory, yet with great personal warmth and conviction.

I was impressed, even inspired. But what I have not yet forgotten about this exceptional young lady are her spontaneous words after delivering that mandatory safety speech. She paused, and then with the most childlike wonder and enthusiasm you can imagine, she said, her eyes twinkling, “And now—it’s time to fly!”

Oh, I wish I could better convey in writing the way she bade us to the heavens with that one well-delivered phrase. As many times as she had undoubtedly endured the routines of stowing luggage, delivering safety speeches, and serving soft drinks and peanuts, she had not yet lost the wonder of getting to fly.

A few days later, I heard a comedian on a talk show describing his own recent experience on an airplane. As he awaited takeoff, he said he was contemplating the miracle that he would soon be sitting in a cylindrical tube 30,000 feet in the air, hurling through the atmosphere at 500 miles-per-hour to arrive cross country in less than four hours, a trip that used to take early pioneers a lifetime. Just then the flight attendant announced that wireless internet would not be available on that flight, and the man sitting next to the comedian flew into a fit of profanity. How quickly, he observed, we turn miracles into entitlements, and entitlements into opportunities for criticism.

How quickly indeed.

The word “miracles,” of course, turned my thoughts to the many spiritual blessings that I too often take for granted, or consider entitlements. Every week, I gather freely with other believers and have fresh opportunity to celebrate the resurrected Lord Jesus and the transformational difference he has made and is still making in my life. Every week I sing, along with people I call brother and sister, the songs of our deliverance from sin, our new life purpose, and eternity in heaven. Every week, I hear from God’s word a new, relevant message that applies to me personally.

With all that being true, it seems that every week, every worship leader in every local church should stand and tell us, “And now—it’s time to fly!” Yet it may be more common for us to settle into familiar weekly routines and even rituals. It may be more common for us to take for granted the gathering for corporate worship, and consider it an entitlement. It may be more common for us to complain about what programs or services didn’t meet our standards, or what people disappointed us.

That cheerful, positive flight attendant reminded me that it only takes one sincerely excited and grateful worshiper to call other sleepy souls out of their routines and criticisms. One person who recaptures the wonder and miracle of the church assembling together in God’s presence can rekindle that wonder in others. This Sunday, I will not be a presumptuous passenger who feels entitled to the miracle of access to God that cost Jesus so much. This Sunday, my worship will say to any on board with me, “And now—it’s time to fly!”

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Old Holy Bible and the American Flag

As we approach July 4th, many pastors preach about Christians in America repenting of sin and turning back to the Lord so that He will bless His churches. One text they often use is 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB):

“[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Is that an appropriate application of this text?

To be clear, these are God’s words spoken to Solomon, King of Israel. Likewise, the “land” referred to was the land of Israel. When the Israelites sinned against the Lord, He would send the plagues mentioned in verse 13. But if they responded by humbling themselves, praying, seeking God’s face and turning from their wicked ways, God would hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.

Can Christians in America find any appropriate application from this text?

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB), “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The word “Scripture” in this text referred to Old Testament Scripture. That would include 2 Chronicles 7:14, rightly interpreted.

Likewise, when the apostle Paul cited Old Testament examples of rebellion in Israel’s history that prompted God’s punishment, he noted that they also served as warnings for Christians living under the new covenant. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 (NASB), “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

Is America Israel? No. Is God an American? No. But can warnings and promises to God’s people in the Old Testament be applied to Christians today? Absolutely.

Regarding 2 Chronicles 7:14, it is very appropriate for any Christian to obey the spirit of this text by endeavoring to humble himself or herself, pray, seek God’s face and turn from wicked ways, trusting that God will hear, forgive and heal.

The apostle Peter, speaking to a group of first-century Christians, said this: “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10 NASB). Today, followers of Jesus are God’s people. Christians are those who are “called by [His] name.” Therefore, it is appropriate that we apply the timeless truths of 2 Chronicles 7:14. How suitable for all Christians in America, and in any other nation, to humble ourselves, pray, seek the Lord’s face and turn from our wicked ways, asking Him to graciously hear from heaven, forgive our sin and bring spiritual healing to the ailing, impotent churches in our land.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we note three precepts that are consistently called for by God throughout Scripture: humility, hunger and holiness.

The first requirement for such spiritual healing is humility. “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves.” It is always good for Christians to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). God will share His glory with no one because God alone can handle His glory. Every redeemed human being should give all glory to Jesus for salvation and every benefit it brings.

Frankly, modern Christianity is marked by far too much arrogance and condescension. For instance, all of us need to use great caution and wise deliberation when posting on social media. The Bible says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 NASB). The word “unwholesome” is the Greek word sapros, meaning “rotten.” Here it refers to speech that is likened to “garbage” or “trash.” Frankly, there is too much “trash-talk” on social media. Humility is always becoming in any child of God.

The second requirement for spiritual healing is hunger. We see it in 2 Chronicles 7:14 in the words: “(If) My people who are called by My name … pray and seek My face.” Jesus urged His followers to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 NASB). All Christians in America — and other nations — would do well to increase our hunger for godliness. We should taste and see that the Lord Jesus is good (cf. Psalm 34:8).

The final requirement for spiritual healing is holiness. “[If] My people who are called by My name … turn from their wicked ways.” Holiness comes by means of repenting from sin. Repentance means to confess our sins and turn away from them. That leads to true holiness.

These three emphases from 2 Chronicles 7:14 — humility, hunger and holiness — are much needed among Christians today, whether we live in America or not. Just because 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written to Americans does not mean that Christians in America cannot benefit from its admonitions by obeying its precepts. Again, “all Scripture is profitable.” The warnings in the Old Testament “were written for our instruction.”

Many Christians in America are praying for a fresh spiritual awakening and revival among those of us who know Jesus Christ. I for one am praying for American Christians to embrace genuine humility, hunger and holiness. I am also praying that the Lord will graciously see fit to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and send His much-needed healing.

When I think of it that way, I don’t know of a verse in the Bible that serves as a better guide for praying for revival than 2 Chronicles 7:14.

–Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church. This column originally appeared at BPnews.net.

Praying for revival

Lisa Misner Sergent —  January 18, 2016

College students focus of Jan. 22 meeting

A pastor in Southern Illinois is calling Christians across the state to meet together this month to pray and fast for spiritual awakening among the more than 850,000 college students in Illinois.

Phil Nelson, pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale, sent a letter to Illinois Baptist churches late last year, urging churches toward increased prayer for and involvement on college campuses.

“In 1985 when I came as a campus pastor to Southern Illinois University, we had over 1,000 students that claimed to be associated with a Baptist church in Illinois, but just four years ago our list from the university of students who claimed an association with a Baptist church was less than 50,” Nelson wrote.

“In a state where over 850,000 are enrolled in college work we have very few viable ministries to our American students. This cannot be our position any longer for the sake of the Gospel in the lives of our children and young adults.”

Nelson said the idea for the prayer meetings began to take shape at the 2015 IBSA Annual Meeting, where he connected with potential host pastors. Four churches so far have committed to host a prayer meeting on January 22, and there is still time for more to sign on, Nelson said. The four sites currently are:

• Evanston Baptist Church, Evanston

• College Avenue Baptist Church, Normal

• First Baptist Church, Bethalto

• Stonefort Missionary Baptist Church, Stonefort

Each meeting will begin at 9 p.m. and end at 6 the next morning. Each hour of prayer is divided into several segments and will include times of group prayer, worship and fellowship. Pray-ers are invited to come and go, Nelson said.

The format is based on a prayer gathering he attended in 1976, shortly after he became a Christian as a college student at Southern Illinois University. That meeting “changed the campus make-up at Carbondale,” Nelson told the Illinois Baptist. He shared more about the experience in his letter to churches:

“I participated in an all-night prayer meeting where many evangelical campus ministries came together to pray and fast throughout the night and ask God to bring an awakening on our campus,” Nelson wrote.

“That spring we saw many students in every ministry come to trust Christ and many of those who trusted Christ are now still spread across this globe in active evangelical ministries to this day.”

For more information about the January 22 prayer meetings, contact Nelson at pastorphill@lakelandchurch.org or (618) 529-4906.

 

Letty and Luis Olmos of Iglesia Principe de Paz, Springfield, worship alongside other New Awakening Evangelism Conference attenders in Decatur.

Letty and Luis Olmos of Iglesia Principe de Paz, Springfield, worship
alongside other New Awakening Evangelism Conference attenders in Decatur.


Decatur, Ill. |
“I’ve seen God move,” said Baptist evangelism specialist Joel Southerland, “but I haven’t seen a movement of God in my lifetime.”

Spiritual revival and awakening—the kind of movement only God can bring—was the focus of IBSA’s New Awakening Evangelism Conference March 27-28 at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur.

At a time when baptisms and worship attendance are in decline in many churches, and culture seems to be moving farther from God, the need for awakening is real. A church—the Church—cannot revive itself, speakers emphasized during the conference. But some responsibility for revival does fall on Christians—to prepare for a movement of God, to be desperate for it, and to provide a verbal witness for the hope they have in him.

“Revival changes God’s people,” said Southeastern Seminary professor Alvin Reid. “When God shows up you are not the same.”

Evangelism_speakersOne of the major issues New Awakening speakers addressed is the declining number of young people Southern Baptist churches are reaching with the gospel. In 1972, there were 137,000 youth baptisms in Baptist churches, Reid said in a breakout on next generation ministry. Today, there are 70,000 or fewer per year.

“The real problem with that is that there are more teens today on the planet than there were in 1972,” said IBSA Evangelism Director Tim Sadler. “So, we’re reaching less, and there’s more of them.”

We haven’t seen a movement that touched young people since the “Jesus people” movement of the early 1970s, Reid said at the conference. That period of awakening was characterized by the Holy Spirit’s activity in and among churches—he was the main character in revival, just as he was in the Book of Acts.

“What about your ministry can only be explained as a Holy Spirit movement?” Reid asked. One man in the audience replied, “Yeah, git ‘er done!”

The same Holy Spirit that drew people in Acts 2 and in 1972 still draws people to God today, Sadler said. The gospel is the same, and the vehicle for communicating the message—the church—is the same. The issue is like someone once said, Sadler told the Illinois Baptist: “We don’t have a strategy problem, we have a sharing problem.”

But sharing the gospel is the calling of every Christian. “If you really know Jesus and He’s really changed you, try not to witness for ten years,” Reid challenged his breakout session audience in Decatur. “If you’re successful, come back and tell me what kind of Jesus you know.”

Make us desperate, Lord
If Christians haven’t seen a movement of God in their lifetimes, will they recognize it when it happens? In other words, when we talk about revival and awakening, what are looking for?

Sadler defines it this way:

“For me, a movement of God would be an extended period where the people of God are so moved by the presence and power of God, that they leave the confines of the church building, and they impact the city in such a way that God’s Spirit draws unbelievers to faith.”

It’s pervasive, he added, a turning of the spiritual tide. Undeniable. So why haven’t we seen it? Speakers at the New Awakening Conference outlined two possible reasons: “skill fade” in the area of evangelism, and a lack of desperation for revival.

Joel Southerland compared many church members and leaders to pilots who have lost their skills after relying too heavily for too long on autopilot. “Pilots are accustomed to watching things happen and reacting, instead of becoming proactive,” said Southerland, executive director for evangelism strategies at the North American Mission Board.

The church has fallen victim to the same phenomenon. “We have put our churches on autopilot” when it comes to evangelism, he said.

Dennis Nunn, founder of Every Believer a Witness Ministries, differentiated between the “come and see” evangelism model of the Old Testament, and the “go and tell” model in the New Testament.

“I believe we have come to accept what our church members will not do in evangelism because we have accepted the Old Testament approach,” said Nunn. Our witness will become less and less effective, he continued, because we think simply inviting people to church is evangelism.

And then there’s the matter of how much we want revival. The reason the Great Commission probably won’t be realized in our lifetime, Pastor Johnny Hunt said during the conference, is because we live for pleasure, not for the Word of God.

“Lord, forgive us,” said a conference attender from the Chicago suburbs, in response to Hunt’s words.

He continued, referencing Isaiah’s encounter in the temple: “It is not until you see God for who he is that you will see yourself for who you are and others for who they are,” and thus their need for God.

“We don’t witness because we haven’t seen God,” Hunt said. “We have not experienced revival because the church is not even close to desperate.”

Lord, forgive us.

God’s people are desperate for revival, Sadler said, when nothing but God will do; when we stop compartmentalizing our lives into church and work and family and hobbies, and let God be God over all of it.

“We need God to superintend every aspect of our lives,” he said. “It’s like Ephesians 3, where Paul prays that they would experience the fullness of Christ [and] be filled with his presence, so that it spills over into every aspect of our lives. So that we see our neighborhood differently.

“It’s our mission field.”

Reported by Lisa Sergent and Eric Reed for the Illinois Baptist newspaper

Chicago leaders convened a one-day prayer meeting and equipping conference in January at Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist Church in Frankfort.

Chicago leaders convened a one-day prayer meeting and equipping conference in January at Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist Church in Frankfort.

HEARTLAND | Eric Reed

First Baptist Church of Paxton has a newfound calling as prayer intercessors. “Christ’s church in America is in desperate need of spiritual revival and renewal,” said Pastor Bob Stilwell. “We need to be awakened from our comfort and complacency in our salvation. We need to be shaken from our evangelistic lethargy.”

In January, Stilwell led his congregation in a concert of prayer similar to the prayer for spiritual awakening at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November. The Paxton church is one of many in Illinois joining a national call to prayer, including more than 30 in metro Chicago.

“As I prayed in preparation of God’s message to our congregation for the week focusing on interceding, the Lord revealed His vision for us as an intercessory church,” Stilwell said. “God has begun the process of renewing hearts, changing attitudes and giving new life to our church.”

The call to prayer comes ahead of the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, June 10-11. SBC President Ronnie Floyd picked up past president Fred Luter’s call for revival. “Our greatest need is a mighty awakening in the nation. This has to be preceded with a strong sense of personal revival and church revival,” Floyd said.

At a meeting of SBC leaders and editors in Orange Beach, Alabama, last week, Floyd said registration for the Ohio convention is up 5% compared to this time last year. That is significant, especially for a meeting held outside the Deep South, and Floyd is encouraged. But, he said commitments to attend, made in the next 30 days, “are critical.”

“Are (Southern Baptists) really in agreement that the number one need in America is spiritual awakening?” Paraphrasing the theme of the annual meeting, he said, “We need visible union, we need to lock our arms together, and we need to extraordinarily pray for spiritual awakening.”

In metro Chicago, more than 75 people gathered at Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist Church in Frankfort for an all-day prayer and equipping conference in late January. The prayer coordinator for Chicago Metro Baptist Association, Cheryl Dorsey, urged attenders to seek God’s direction.

“I used to tell God what I wanted and needed until I had a time when I didn’t know what to pray. I learned to pray, ‘God, how am I going to pray about this?’” Dorsey said. “It was as if God said, ‘When are you going to find out what I want you to pray?’”

IBSA’s Dennis Conner, church planting director for the Northeast region, told one breakout session, “We say with our mouth that we trust God, but in our hearts, we trust ourselves. Our churches need a sense of desperation.”

That feeling of great need is common to people responding to the call to prayer. “We need to be filled with a sense of urgency in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ—the unfailing hope that only he offers to a hopeless world,” Stilwell said. “At FBC Paxton, we’re praying for the Holy Spirit to
bring about such a renewal in our own hearts and the hearts of all of believers throughout Illinois, across the nation and throughout the world.”

And from Floyd: “Why don’t we call on God to do…what we wring our hands about because it hasn’t happened?”

My best prayerwalking technique came from second graders.

PRAYER | Cheryl Dorsey

Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final post in a series on prayer and spiritual awakening. Read the previous posts: 2015: The Year of Prayer, Revise us, O Lord, and 15 prayer requests for your city.

One of my most profound prayerwalks took place with a pair of 7-year-olds. On that particular Saturday at our church, everyone had already paired up for the half-hour walk through our community of 500 homes. Leaving me with my son, Joseph, and a friend’s grandson, Antoine.

On school days, waking Joseph up was an ordeal. But on prayerwalking Saturdays, he beat me at getting up and ready to head to church. Amazing! We use the simple strategy – walking the neighborhoods around our church in two’s and three’s – to identify needs in our community and pray on the spot for people we encounter, that they might come to know Christ.

Joseph, Antoine and I began to walk three blocks around the church. I launched into a powerful prayer: “Lord, let your salvation come to this house! Send your power, Father. Change hearts, O God!” When I paused to allow the babies to get a word in edgewise, I heard this:

“Lord, help this little boy to help his mommy clean the front yard.”

And another saying, “Jesus, please give the little boy in this house a new Big Wheel because his is broken.”

And then, “Jesus, help them get these beer bottles out of the yard. They shouldn’t be drinking, Lord! Help them to stop.”

Even though I was towering over my prayerwalking partners, I felt seven inches tall.

That morning, the Holy Spirit taught me what prayerwalking is all about. He used Joseph and Antoine to teach me again what it means to pray “on site with insight,” which is how we encourage all our prayerwalking teams. Here’s what it looks like for us:

Each session starts with a 15-minute meeting at the church. This is when we distribute prayer guides, go over prayerwalking basics, and point everyone to a focal Scripture that will set the stage for the next hour.

We send pray-ers out from the church in two’s and three’s, instructing them to go as far as they can and be back in half an hour. As they go, we urge them to pray “on site with insight.” That’s God’s insight and not their own.

Prayerwalkers pray as they’re prompted by the things they encounter. Every street is different. Our prayers should feel conversational, low-key, but powered from on high. If folks across or down the street can hear us, we’re doing it wrong.

Each person in the groups takes a turn praying in short paragraphs, not soliloquies. I like it to making a prayer quilt – everyone brings a piece. If we encounter people along the way, we introduce ourselves and ask if they have any prayer needs. If they say yes, we ask permission to pray for them right there. Or, we take the names and requests back to the church to add to our prayer list for the week.

During our walk, we may pray, quote Scripture, or sing, all as the Spirit prompts the pray-ers. Once everyone is back at the church, we take 15-20 minutes to recap the experience. This is very powerful! Prayerwalking teams share what they encountered and how the Lord had them praying, as well as names they’re adding to the prayer list. As the teams report, a scribe records the headlines on a flip chart, chalkboard, or poster.

The Lord reveals his awesomeness as our teams often see a theme emerge. Even though they prayed on different streets, they see how God loves the community, and works in us through the Holy Spirit to “pray things out” over our neighbors. The prayerwalkers recognize that God has a plan, that they can hear his voice, and that he can use them to bless his people.

That first day I prayerwalked with Joseph and Antoine, I witnessed our youngest pray-ers interceding from their perspective. They prayed for the practical and immediate needs of the house we were passing by, and they hit some spiritual pay dirt. From that point on, they were my favorite prayerwalking partners that summer. I mention them often when I teach, saying kids pray differently because they see things from a different level.

They blessed me, and showed me that children have a place in our prayerwalking ministry. You don’t need to pontificate, just walk, see and pray.

Cheryl Dorsey is a prayer coordinator and pastor’s wife at Beacon Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago Heights. She also serves as prayer leader for Chicago Metro Baptist Association. This column first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Resource magazine, online at http://resource.IBSA.org.

HEARTLAND | Charles Lyons

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series on prayer and spiritual awakening. Read “2015: The Year of Prayer,” and “Revise us, O Lord,” at ib2news.org.

A mid-1800’s revival that started with a small prayer meeting in New York City resulted in thousands upon thousands of people trusting in Christ. We need such a movement today, perhaps using several ideas from this list. Use personally, or with family devotions. Share it with your church prayer group of Bible study group. Share on Facebook.

City HallLead your church to pray for one item each Sunday for 15 Sundays. Use each one for a church prayer focus for a week each.

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and beseech the Lord on its behalf. For in its welfare you will also have welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

1. Invite the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray as He helps you to pray.

2. Pray for your pastor – his spiritual health, his marriage, his family, his vision, wisdom, and spiritual power. Ask God to enhance his ability to lead your church to reach your city or town.

3. Pray for your church family to enthusiastically engage in serving your community.

4. Pray the same for the pastors in your city.

5. Pray for the newest church you know and the oldest church.

6. Pray that your church family will impact your city or town in 2015 as never before.

7. Pray for your mayor – a sense of accountability to God, humble acknowledgement of need for wisdom, relationship to God, and desire for righteousness and integrity.

8. Pray the same for your police chief.

9. Pray the same for your fire chief.

10. Pray the same for your city council or your local elected official.

11. Pray the same for your superintendent of schools.

12. Pray for the schools closest to you, the high school and its principal, the grade school and its principal.

13. Pray for those who work in the healthcare system in your community – administrators, doctors, nurses, technicians.

14. Pray for your closest neighbors or friends to be saved and be fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

15. Pray for a merchant or clerk you interact with on a regular basis.

Part 1

Part 2

Charles Lyons pastors Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago.