Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Psalm 126, Day 9

Leslie Basham: No matter how many good programs a church has in place, it still needs revival. Here’s Byron Paulus quoting J. Edwin Orr.

Byron Paulus: “Revival, according the records, fills the Sunday schools, crowds the churches, raises up evangelists, calls pastors, recruits missionaries, brings in funds, reunites families, and delivers from addictions.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, June 2, 2016.

For the last couple of weeks, Nancy’s been giving us a burden for revival. She’s been teaching a series called "The Cry of the Captives." If you missed any of the programs, you can hear them on ReviveOurHearts.com.

Byron Paulus has been joining us during this series. He’s the executive director for Life Action Ministries, the parent organization of Revive Our Hearts. Nancy’s going to talk about revival with someone who’s experienced it first hand.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Byron, we’ve had the privilege of serving together, along with others on our staff, for many years in this ministry of revival, and to believe God together to send in our day a fresh awakening, a fresh moving of God’s Spirit, an outpouring of His Spirit in our land.

I know that one of the things that has motivated both of us in our whole ministry along this line is knowing what God has done in the past and knowing how He has poured out His Spirit in the past. And you can’t help but read those accounts and your heart gets thirsty and hungry. You say, “Lord, would You do it again?”

Byron: Serving together all these years, I think one of the things that keeps all of us going in revival ministry are those stories of what God has done throughout history.

Nancy: And not just normal things—extraordinary. Isn’t that a word that you think marks revival?

Byron: I think it was Richard Owen Roberts that defines revival as “an extraordinary movement of God that produces extraordinary results,” and he’s a real historian based in Chicago. I remember, Nancy, in just thinking of some of the historical dimensions—the extraordinary aspects of it—I did something I’d never done before.

A couple of general elections ago, I went to cast in my absentee ballot. Then I went to New England, and the day before the election, I sat in Northampton, Massachusetts and prayed, “Lord, do it again,” knowing that the real solution was not in the White House, but it was in the church house.

Nancy: And of course, Northampton, Massachusetts is significant in the history of revival.

Byron: Is it ever! That’s where Jonathan Edwards preached that famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” that really sparked the First Great Awakening. As I was finished praying that day, in Northampton, Massachusetts, it hit me. One of the reports said that there was not one unbeliever left in that community in the wake of what God did in revival.

Nancy: Wow.

Byron: I couldn’t help but think . . .

Nancy: Say that again!

Byron: Not one adult unbeliever was left in that community, just as a by-product of what God was doing in the hearts of His people and in His church.

Nancy: Try to imagine that. We serve in Niles, Michigan, and I’m just trying to imagine a whole community where every single adult person comes to faith in Christ. That’s extraordinary.

Byron Paulus: And the population was 1,200 at that time, and so 1,200 adults at least, came to Christ or ended up being a believer, and you think of even larger communities. The next day I was in Newburyport, Massachusetts, an interesting little resort community. But underneath the pulpit of the Old South Presbyterian Church is where George Whitfield is buried, that other great voice in that First Great Awakening.

So I sat there and prayed, and just said, “Lord, do it again.” I was driving back to Boston to catch a flight home that evening, and it hit me on one occasion. They said the population of Boston was 12,000 at that time, and they said that on one occasion 15,000 people showed up to hear George Whitfield share the gospel—no promotion, no hype, no advertising—just the stirring and the movement of God in the hearts of people.

Nancy: In a community of 12,000, 15,000 showed up for the service?

Byron: We live not too far from Chicago. Let’s say the population is seven million. That would be like nine or ten million coming together to hear the gospel proclaimed. We can’t imagine that today or fathom it. But it’s the same God that moved then that powerfully could move today in our communities and cities.

I think that we’ve often talked about how in the Second Great Awakening they had those presenters. Those were just people prepared to share the gospel in these little boats because these big ships were bringing immigrants from around the world. They’d get within one mile of our shoreline, and the presence and the conviction of God was so intense that, literally, they’d send these presenters of the gospel out in these little boats to get in these huge ships to lead people to Christ because they couldn’t even make it to shore under the conviction of God.

Nancy: Wow. And imagine today, in our very secular society, we say, “People just aren’t interested in God. They’re just not interested in spiritual things.” But when the fear of God falls on a community, God’s Spirit does that work in people’s hearts. He’s drawing them, so we can’t make that happen.

Byron: No, we can’t. He can do what we could never accomplish in all the years of ministry and attempts, and that’s what I call “the great time compressor” is revival. God does in those brief moments what we can do in all of our efforts and years and decades even combined. And Nancy, you’ll remember part of the history of even the ministry that we’re involved in, that we were in a campus at one time of, I suppose, a couple of thousand of students . . .

Nancy: Christian college campus . . .

Byron: . . . a Christian college campus, and God was just at work in the hearts of believers, and soon God brought a spirit of repentance (the gift of repentance the Scripture tells us), and conviction was intense. And it was just one of those moments where God was pleased to open up the windows of heaven, as Isaiah said, and to pour out His Spirit (Isa. 44:3).

Even while our team, (the preachers and the leaders, coordinators, facilitators of what God was doing) was off campus, God came on campus. There were professors that couldn’t even teach their classes because they were falling under the conviction of God, students were weeping. In a period of two or three days, and really most of it out of the context of any gathering, there were 400 and some students that came into the Kingdom, that came to Christ.

Nancy: And these were probably kids that had professed to know the Lord, many of them, I would think.

Byron: I think many of them did, and they grew up in Christian homes. But like so many of our churches, some estimate as many as fifty percent of those in our churches today are lost. I think many of them made professions, like I did, as a child, and actually didn’t come to Christ until they were confronted with really that powerful, convicting, overwhelming sense of the presence of God in their midst.

Nancy: I think that another mark of revival is that those who are professing Christians in our churches, but don’t have a relationship with Christ, come to faith in Christ. We’ve seen this historically; we’ve seen this within our own ministry.

Byron: I think we see often when these unbelievers—some of them churched—really see the reality and the life of God, and the honesty and the openness and the transparency and humility in believers. I think one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had in this revival ministry is many years ago we were hosting—up in Michigan, in January if you can imagine, wrong time of year to do it—a pastor’s and youth pastor’s Christian workers conference. It began on a Monday and ended on a Friday, and they came from all over the country and were there all week long.

I was traveling on one of our road teams, and we packed up on Friday night, drove all night Friday night, all day Saturday, to begin this two-week protracted time in a local church in Jacksonville, Florida to begin helping that church seek the presence of God.

’ll never forget that first Sunday morning, before there was any message, I was back in a prayer room, a counseling room, and there was a gentleman that came back just weeping. He said, “I’ve just got to come to Christ. I’ve just got to get saved.” I began to take the Bible to show him how to come to Christ, and it was obvious he already knew how, and he said, “Can’t we just pray right now?”

So we got on our knees, and he just cried out to the Lord and invited Christ into his life, as Lord and Master of his life, repented of his sins. We got up off our knees, and he turned to me and held out his hand and said, “Byron, do you remember me?” 

I said, “No.”

He said, “Well, I was at your conference this last week.”

Nancy: Up in Michigan?

Byron: Up in Michigan! So I said, “Well, you must live here in Jacksonville and just decided to come to the service this morning.”

And he said, “No, that’s not it.”

Then I said, “Well, you’re one of those snowbirds coming south in the winter, visiting, and you want to come.”

And he said, “No, that’s not it. I live in northern Indiana.” And he said, “When I saw the reality of God in the midst of revival and the lives of those who were meeting with the Lord . . .”

Nancy: At that conference?

Byron: At the conference, “. . . I was under such intense conviction.” He said literally, Saturday morning, he got up and drove around his little town three times, started to head south, stopped at a payphone, called his wife and said, “I’ll be home in a couple of days. I’ve got to get Jesus.”

He drove all day Saturday, all night Saturday night, arriving there on Sunday morning. He drove about 1,000 miles to get Jesus Christ. Now, you and I know he didn’t have to drive one mile to do that. He could do that in northern Indiana or anywhere. But the point is the conviction of God was so intense. And when that happens, people will be willing to drive 1,000 miles in order to get Jesus Christ.

Nancy: We’ve actually seen in some of the meetings we’ve been involved with in local churches, we’ve seen not only church members come to faith in Christ, but church staff members, mates of church staff members, deacons and elders, people who have been in responsible positions within the life of a local church and have been active, but didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

Byron: I think you probably remember, you may have been there, Nancy, in Houston, Texas.

Nancy: Yes!

Byron: Remember that?

Nancy: I do.

Byron: God was moving in the hearts of believers, and conviction was intensifying, and God was accelerating what He was doing, and there was a staff member on that church staff—and we often say that when God is really moving in revival, more will happen outside the walls of the church than what’s happening inside the walls of the church. But here’s this staff member driving on the freeway, the busy freeways of Houston, and just fell under the conviction of God of his lostness. He pulled off the side of the road and invited Christ into his life and came to Christ along a freeway in Houston.

Nancy: Wow. And I met his daughter, by the way, not too long ago. As I recall, she came up and told me, reminded me, of that story. She was, I can’t remember, young when her dad came to faith in Christ during that set of meetings, and now she’s an adult woman, next generation, seeking and walking with the Lord as a result of what God did in her dad’s life.

Byron: I think it’s just the overflow maybe, Nancy, whether it’s women or men or church leaders. When they get honest and open, there’s something about that—that God dwells. Remember in Isaiah 57:15 that there’s really two types of people. He dwells in two places: He dwells in heaven, the High and the Lofty One. And He says, “I dwell in a high and lofty place, but with him also of the broken and contrite spirit” (paraphrased). I just think when people see that brokenness and contrition of spirit, the repentant heart, that people are drawn to that. Then the power of God rests on that person.

We were in Florida several years ago, and if we’ve got the time here, I’d like to read an amazing account of one woman who met with God and the fruit and the result of that. She’d come to know the Lord in her thirties, but she said that nothing had ever happened in her life, apart from the salvation at age thirty, that had a greater impact than when she met with God in revival. God began to break her of her sin, and she met with the Lord. Then she wanted to share with us the fruit over the next five months. She said:

First, I quit smoking after forty-three years of smoking, and I used no man-made helps. The power of prayer worked. Second, and most important, was my son’s salvation. I asked specifically for my sons, Robert and Jeff, to come to Christ. [And Jeff was saved just five months later after she’d met with the Lord and was baptized on Easter Sunday.]

I can’t tell you the joy I felt after nineteen years of prayers and tears to see that answer come. There was a whole list of additional things that began to happen. [And this was between Christmas and February in her family.] 

My brother-in-law was saved; my mother was saved; my niece was saved; my nephew and wife rededicated their lives. My daughter rededicated her life. My daughter’s fiancé was saved. My daughter’s friend was saved. My granddaughter was saved and baptized. My husband—growing spiritually. My daughter’s fiancé’s sister saved; son saved; son’s fiancé and daughter and fiancé saved . . .” [And it goes on and on.] All of this because I became obedient and met with God in revival. To God be the glory; He is awesome.

Nancy: Wow. Just the overflow of what God does in one revived heart and how that can impact so many others.

Byron: You know, historically, as we think about the overflow of a revival, I think it was the First Great Awakening where they say that one-sixth of the population came to Christ, in a very short period of time, maybe three to four years as a result of the fruit of the First Great Awakening. I was thinking one time, “What if that were to happen today?”

Nancy: Knowing that you’re a man who loves numbers, I bet you had fun figuring that out.

Byron: I did, in a couple of respects, since my background was really in finance and business. I figured that’s about forty or fifty million people that would come to Christ today, if God were to move like He did in that First Great Awakening. Can you imagine what the Church of America could do today with another fifty or sixty billion dollars a year to get out the gospel, let alone all the people and their time, and now . . .

Nancy: And the people who would give their lives.

Byron: Exactly. So when God moves in revival (and you’ve talked about it often), many, many of the mission movements today were birthed out of seasons of revival. Those that we’re familiar with were birthed and nurtured and grew, and their burden was a result of what God was doing in a fresh way in their own heart.

Nancy: I remember our friend J. Edwin Orr, who is now with the Lord, used to talk about all the things that would happen in the church, that we want to see happen. We have programs, but revival has a way of dealing with so many different issues.

Byron: I love sharing what he told to a group of pastors and leaders, in regards to that, and read it often, and I brought it with me. Let me just read his burden and vision and an understanding of the ways of God in revival. He said:

I once asked a conference of pastors, teachers, evangelists, and workers to specify the greatest need of the times. One said, "Surely the Great Commission: to evangelize those who have never heard." Another insisted, "Sunday school. If we lose the coming generation, we’ve lost everything." Another replied, "The training of the ministry." Yet another said, "Stewardship. The Lord’s work must have money." And another said, "Combating drug addiction, crime, and so on."

[J. Edwin Orr asked] Would tackling any one of these problems solve the others? Would promoting proper stewardship solve the problem of drug addiction? Would filling Sunday schools automatically recruit missionaries? They agreed that the needs were separate, though related.

[So he said] Is there anything that would make an impact on all the problems at once? They thought not. But yes, there is. Revival, according to the records, fills the Sunday schools, crowds the churches, raises up evangelists, calls pastors, recruits missionaries, brings in funds, reunites families, and delivers from addictions.

Nancy: Wow. 

Byron: So it is the one canopy. If God were to move today, so much that we put our time, effort, and energy into would be a by-product.

Nancy: Do you remember that article in Reader’s Digest several years ago about America’s kindest city?

Byron: I do, and it was one of the most fascinating articles I’ve ever read.

Nancy: That really shows just the widespread wake of revival, even in a community, what a difference it can make.

Byron: It really does, and it’s probably ten years ago now that the article appeared, but it was called, “The Kindest City.” And what it was, the University of California decided to do a survey to just discover where’s the kindest city in America. So they dressed up like elderly women to see if someone would help them across the street, or they’d drop something on the ground to see if somebody would pick it up.

They would go all across America to these cities to do that, and prior to 9-11, by the way, they said that the least kindest city was New York City. It think all that’s changed since then.

They had discovered that the kindest city in America was actually Rochester, New York. When I read that, I thought, When you do a survey like that, sure enough you’re going to find that some city comes out on top. I thought, Yes, our tax dollars at work.

But then I continued reading the article and discovered that they had conducted a similar survey fifty years earlier, and fifty years earlier the kindest city in America was Rochester, New York. So they were curious.

They sent all the researchers back to Rochester and went through all the archives in the museums and historical societies, trying to discover why, over a span of fifty years, was Rochester, New York the kindest city in America.

Here’s what they discovered. In 1827, Charles Finney was there. And Charles Finney led a revival campaign, and God moved so powerfully in that city that from that date until today, there is more giving per capita out of Rochester, New York, than in any city in America.

I read that, and you may recall, I raced home and got my Finney autobiography, and I had to see if Charles Finney had anything to say about that. This created such hope in my heart for communities all across our nation because Charles Finney had three invitations: New York, Philadelphia, and Rochester. New York and Philadelphia looked promising, but Rochester was a small church. But there was a group of people in that church that just had a burden, a passion, had hope, had faith, that God could move in their community.

So Finney got his consultants together, his team, and even his prayer warriors, and said, “Where should I go.” And time and time again, they would come back and say, "New York, maybe Philadelphia, but not Rochester.” So literally, he and his entourage set out for New York.

But Finney couldn’t sleep that first night. God kept saying, “Rochester, Rochester, Rochester.” So it was on that occasion, the next morning, he actually got his whole team together and said, “We’re changing directions. We’re not going to New York; we’re going to Rochester.”

Nancy: The least likely place.

Byron: The least likely place. The church had divided and split and there were all types of issues in the church. But it was on that occasion that God moved so powerfully, and we’re reading about it in Reader’s Digest, I think it was 167 years later at the time. But you know, I’ve often thought, Where is that next unlikely place?

And really, it’s not unlikely to God. Where is that heart that God has prepared? The soil of one heart? In this case it was just an elder and a couple of others that God had prepared for the hunger and the thirst and the longing in their soul for revival. I wonder where that next place will be that we’ll be reading about that is the kindest city because God moved there in revival.

Nancy: Byron, I just want to say what a privilege it is for me to be a part of this ministry, and to have you and Sue here in the studio today, sitting through one of our recording sessions here in Little Rock. It is a privilege to be part of a ministry that’s committed to the same mission God has had on my heart since I was a little girl: to believe God to revive us again, to send revival to the Church and to this nation. And you’re a great mentor and example in the whole mission of revival—a great boss, and a great friend you and Sue have been to me.

But I consider it a great privilege to serve together, and I hope that many of our listeners will be encouraged by what you’ve shared today to just believe God to do a fresh work of grace in their own heart, in their own church, and perhaps even to consider scheduling.

We may have pastors listening, or pastors’ wives, or people who might want to get information to share with their pastor to encourage him to consider bringing one of the Life Action teams into their church. There’s much more information about that on ReviveOurHearts.com, and it will provide a link to the ministry of Life Action.

Leslie: That's easy enough. Again, that web address that Nancy gave is ReviveOurHearts.com

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Byron Paulus, executive director of Life Action Ministries, the parent organization of Revive Our Hearts. Nancy will be right back.

If you’ve been intrigued by today’s program and want to start crying out to the Lord yourself, you have a unique opportunity. On September 23, we’re asking the Lord to call together at least 100,000 women to pray for our nation and our world. You’re invited to Cry Out! A National Prayer Gathering for Women. Here’s how you can be involved. Get together with some other women you know and organize a group in your area.

Then join us for Cry Out!, Friday evening, September 23 via simulcast from the True Woman conference in Indianapolis. You’ll be led through the prayer time by Nancy and other leaders. For details on how to sign up to host a Cry Out! prayer event in your area, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, hear more from Byron Paulus about the danger of bitterness and what happens when a bitter person experiences revival. To close our program, let’s pray with Nancy. 

Nancy: Lord, would You not let us lose the impact of what You’ve been saying and doing in our hearts this day. Even as we go from this place, would You preserve the seed that has been sown in our hearts. I just pray that the seeds You have planted will take root and produce fruit. We don’t know but that this might be the time and the place and the day You would choose to birth what might be genuine revival in some heart, some home, some church represented here, or even perhaps in this region. Lord, fulfill and bring to completion all that You have started in our hearts in these moments. I pray for Jesus’ sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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