A Vision for Revival in Your ChurchWhat Would Revival Look Like?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we approach the month of December, it’s a great time to look back at some of the stories that have taken place this year.
Woman 1: I was a diehard feminist. I was a liberal in my marriage. I was somebody who was very bent on everything being equal, and I kept like a mental list in my head of everything that I did. If my husband didn’t measure up it caused a lot of conflict.
Nancy: How has God been shaping your story this year?
Woman 2: I started seeing all the things I needed to do to improve my relationship with the Lord and with others. Being holy and being set apart for God’s use and not making it my life mission to control and regulate every move my husband makes and to change him. I mean what a revelation! I’m not called to regulate every move my husband makes and to change him.
Nancy: From now through the end of the year you can discover new stories of God’s goodness each day at ReviveOur Hearts.com.
Woman 3: God is calling me into a full-time ministry to impact the life I care the most about—my husband and my children. It’s about caring, about loving, about nurturing, about teaching my son—impacting my son with the message of Jesus Christ.
Nancy: I believe God is getting ready to write some incredible stories in the year ahead and that He’s going to use Revive Our Hearts to lead countless women to a turning point in their lives. Will you be part of these stories? Revive Our Hearts can’t speak life-giving truth to women without support from our listeners. And that’s why I’m excited to let you know that when you make a donation between now and the end of the year, your gift will be doubled as part of a matching challenge of $450,000.
In order to continue speaking into women’s lives, we’re asking God not only to meet that challenge amount but to help us far exceed that amount. And because I want to see God write His glorious story in many more women’s lives, I’m not hesitant to come and ask if you would help us at this time. To be part of the story of what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts, give us a call at 1-800-569-5959 and let us know that you’d like to make a gift to help us meet the matching challenge, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 30.
Nancy: Do you ever wonder what it would look like if your church or churches throughout your community experienced true revival? Yesterday we began hearing a group of pastors discuss that question. We heard from Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Michael Catt, pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and Bill Elliff, pastor of the Summit Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Byron Paulus moderated this discussion which took place in front of a group of several hundred pastors. Byron is the executive director of Life Action Ministries which is the parent organization of Revive Our Hearts. As we hear part two today of this discussion, I believe you are going to be encouraged to cry out to the Lord to revive His people in our day. To start the discussion off, here is Pastor Bill Elliff.
Pastor Bill Elliff: I remember during the first war in Iraq that there were bunkers, you remember this? The first thing was the air strike that came in for just weeks and weeks. They had these bunker buster bombs that would just destroy these things, and then the infantry just walked in.
I’ve thought a lot about that in terms of how do we, as pastors, really build this culture of revival in our church? How do we tear down the high places and bring up the low places and clear a highway for our God? I think part of that is we go after those heart attitudes.
I used to travel for a season with Life Action. We’d go into churches for two week-meetings. Part of our job was to put our spiritual stethoscope to the church and find those bunkers. In one church it would be pride and in another one it would be materialism, in another one it would be immorality. After a while it wasn’t hard to identify.
And then somehow, I think, as spiritual shepherds, are we not responsible to confront that in the right way, under the Spirit’s anointing, but to go after those issues and clear a highway for our God? I think in building this culture and setting our sails, we’ve got to go after, remove the barriers to revival—the attitudinal barriers to revival and then the structural barriers.
What you just said, Jim, is so key to me because I see pastors deathly afraid of letting go of the microphone. I think there’s something, honestly, that God has used you and others like you, but particularly at Brooklyn Tab, to help us with this ability to shepherd. You have a controlled risk that you take there. You’re shepherding—you don’t just let it go. You’re shepherding that because we’re shepherds. But you’re also letting the Spirit of God have the freedom to let people speak at a microphone. "We’re going to go to prayer; we’re going to move."
And I have found, too, that God is a really good leader. I mean, He’s just an excellent leader if we let Him have control. He will not leave us in a lurch. He is very careful because He’s got more at stake in that meeting than we do, if we’ll let Him lead.
Byron Paulus: I want to transition and talk about prayer and revival in a moment. But in this context, A. W. Tozer had two quotes. One was, and this is what we just talked about, “Revival will come when even prayer is not used as a substitute for obedience.” So the humility and the obedience and so forth. But then he made it clear that prayer was an essential.
He also said that in that context, “The curse of the twentieth century is that we think because we know something, we have something.” I don’t want to jump into prayer without realizing the importance of obedience and humility and honesty and repentance and brokenness.
The Canadian Revival was birthed in Bill McLeod's church. Duncan Campbell met with Bill McLeod and said to him, “I sense God is going to do a major work in Canada, and I think it might begin in your church. But it will begin when you have more people coming to your mid-week prayer meeting than your Sunday morning worship service.”
Bill McLeod began to have this mid-week prayer meeting where they put more time and effort and energy in preparation and planning for that mid-week prayer meeting. And the day came when they were having more people coming out to that mid-week prayer meeting than they did the Sunday morning worship service, and that’s when God began to move in and through His church that resulted in that revival. So talk to us a little bit more about the role of prayer in revival and awakening.
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Byron, this might be a good time to quote the Ugandan pastor? There was a pastor in Uganda, and I think that it happened at Moody Bible Institute during a forum just like this. He was talking about the devastation that his churches had had. I mean, we’re talking about massacres and every evil thing that you can possibly imagine. And then he said this, “As a result of that, we really began to be united and pray and God really began to meet us.” But then he said this, regarding America, “The decision that you have to make is this: Are you folks going to seek God out of desperation or out of devastation?”
And I really do believe, as I mentioned last night, that I think that we are in for some very ominous times. The question that we have to ask as a church is do we wait for the devastation or are we willing to seek God because of desperation? I pray that it will be because of desperation. But if it’s not, it may become out of devastation.
Byron: That was his question to us in a Q and A time like we’ll have here in a few moments. He ended by saying, “What are you going to do to make sure it’s desperation and not devastation?” I was deeply convicted. Even in a revival ministry like ours I say, “What are we doing to create a context of real desperation?” And you wrote a book on it, Michael, The Power of Desperation.
Pastor Michael Catt: After I’d been sucked through a keyhole, which is what it felt like. But you know, I’m always drawn to Mark chapter ten. James and John say, “Lord, whatever we ask you, you do for us.”
And Jesus says, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Well, we want to be presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. We want to have our name in lights. We’d like to have the biggest church in the world.” For them it was about prestige and power. And then here’s a blind beggar. Jesus is passing through town. It's His last time through Jericho. And a blind beggar says, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” And the religious people, even the disciples, tried to stop him from getting to Jesus.
He gets to Jesus, and Jesus says, “What do you want me to do for you?” And that really seems like a dumb question. You ask a blind guy and he says, “Well, I want my sight.” But what He was asking was, “Do you really want to give up this life of a beggar? I’m not asking you to be a more committed beggar. I’m asking you and calling you, do you want to be a surrendered man whether I heal you or not?”
The difference in that question is we talk about commitment, and you can’t commit. A living sacrifice keeps crawling off the altar. But God talks about surrender, and it’s unconditional surrender. It’s not with an option out clause. With commitment we always try to negotiate. With surrender we’re dead to self.
Pastor Cymbala: One of the wonderful things about prayer is this promise from Romans 8. Paul includes himself in first person plural. “For we know not how we ought to pray.”
“Paul, you wrote most of the New Testament. You saw the Lord on the road to Damascus. You don’t know how to pray?”
“No, we do not know, but the Spirit helps us.” So a good way to start a prayer meeting is just to start and say, “Holy Spirit, we’re praying for prayer.” That’s a good prayer. We’re praying to learn how to pray, not saying prayers. You know James chapter 5 where it talks about Elijah? The margin has, “He prayed in his praying.” We’ve all said prayers that have bored us while we were saying them. I’ve had the most hollow prayers in my life where God just has had mercy that He didn’t just make me stop in the middle of it. But oh, when the Holy Spirit helps you, there’s a fervency, and there’s real prayer.
Byron: And there’s Martyn Lloyd-Jones widow that was asked, “Do you miss your husband’s preaching?”
And she said, “Not near as much as his praying because his pastoral prayer was twenty-five minutes.”
Somebody said one time, “You learn how to pray by listening to godly people pray.” And the congregation will get a thirst. And Jim, when I was in your church, I mean what God moved on my heart was hearing you pray there in front of your congregation.
Pastor Cymbala: I want to get back to one other thing because we are all touching on it. You see it pastors. Come on, we do what you do. We know the score, okay? A lot of us pray, “God do a new thing, but I’m not changing nothing.” (laughter) “God, come and do a new thing, but we’re not changing anything. This is the way we do it at the Tab. This is the way we do it at Moody. This is the way we Southern Baptists do it. Well, then, Michael, don’t even discuss it. It’s a waste of time.”
For us to say, “God come,” we’ve got to say we’re willing to change. And that’s the hardest thing for all of us, isn’t it? Am I on a wrong track or on a right track?
Byron: Right track. What are some of the fears that we might have toward just opening ourselves up to saying, “Holy Spirit, You come, and You do Your work.” And you alluded to the changing?
Pastor Cymbala: We’re also afraid of emotionalism. We’re afraid of fanaticism. Remember, the devil tempts both sides. “To turn the stones into bread—satisfy your physical hunger. Oh, you won’t do that? Then get up on top of the temple and jump down and the angels will catch you.” Fanaticism—tempting God.
So the minute Satan tempts us to carnality—he holds our church back by carnality—if we make up our mind, “No. We’re going to have God or nothing.” I once prayed a prayer. I believe I meant it—God knows—at the very beginning of the ministry. “God, if You don’t come and send revival to our church and help us, Carol and I, do something, then I’d rather die because I don’t see the value of living a long life if I’m going to live forever with Christ.” What does it matter if you live? My mom just turned ninety-seven. Dr. Lutzer has genes you may want to know about. His parents lived to—like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (laughter)
But what’s the sense if you’re defeated and nothing’s happening, and you’re not making a difference? What's the sense to do it for forty or fifty years and be defeated for decades rather than defeated for just a short time? “So God, if You’re not going to come and do something,” I only had Chrissy then, my first girl, “then let me go because I just can’t stand the thought of just watching the world go to hell in a hand basket when I have the gospel and all these promises and we’re having insipid meetings with no power. I just can’t see that.” But remember, if it’s not a call to carnality, then He’s going to frighten us with, “It will get out of hand.”
And will things sometimes get out of hand? Study the Welsh Revival. It was like an insane asylum opened up at times—all the weird spirits that came in some of the meetings that they needed to discern and to deal with it. Finney said that in upstate New York where such marvelous things happened, “It was if the insane asylum had opened and people came in doing very weird things.”
But you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There were excesses in the church at Corinth. Paul didn’t say, “All right. No more Holy Spirit. Just study the Bible and go home.” No, he said, “Here’s how you deal with these.”
There are false manifestations. I had a woman come up to me some years ago who as very grossly overweight. She said to me at the end of the service, “Would you pray for me? I have a demon of fat. Would you cast it out? I’ve had many try, and they can’t do it.”
And I said, “I believe I’m of that number, too. I’m not praying for you because there are no demons of fat.”
Do people have weird ideas about the Holy Spirit and revival? Yes. What else is new? There’s a false gospel. There’s a false everything. But what we’ve done in many places to avoid the false and to keep the quorum and evangelical normalcy what we call, is we’ve done away with the excitement of the wind blowing and doing awesome things.
Pastor Elliff: In our city in Little Rock, we have a group of pastors that have been praying together for fifteen years. There’s a very united heart and connected heart, and it’s all come through prayer. It’s all happened in the presence of the Lord. It does create a wonderful environment for revival to spread because we’re connected and we’re rooting for each other. We just felt the leadership of the Lord, to call the church to this forty day fast. There was nothing magical about that. We just felt like that is what the Lord was telling us to do.
We came into the beginning of the next year, about a year ago, and we felt like the Lord was calling us to take the first Monday of every month and just cry out to God for revival. It wasn’t on our strategic plan, but the Lord . . . it was just overwhelming for us to have this time.
So we began to have these meetings, and they were unusual. I just have to say more people were there. There was a fervent heart. It was God. It was the explanation of that. Then the Lord prompted our hearts to do a series on the Holy Spirit, and so we were preaching on the Holy Spirit.
On April 3 I was preaching a message on quenching the Holy Spirit. I’d never really studied that out. You think that to quench means that the Spirit’s moving and you just douse it. And then it defines that. “Do not despise prophetic utterances. Examine everything carefully. Throw out the bad. Hold tightly to that which is good.”
I began to study what does it mean to despise. Well, it means to marginalize. It’s like, to me, a pastor that God speaks to his heart and you’re all fired up and you go to your church and say, “Well, all of us need to pray every day this week.” That’s the Spirit of God that’s saying that because He wants to come on the wings of that and do something. And the people nod their heads and they walk out and they say, “Wonderful message,” and they don’t make one single adjustment in their life. What they’ve done is they’ve just despised what God said, and it quenches the Spirit. What would have happened if a thousand people went out of there and prayed every day?
So I got about halfway through my message and the Spirit of God said to me, “Stop.” And I argued about what a wonderful second half I had coming, and He didn’t agree. And I just said, “I’ve got to stop.”
And a man stood up and said, “We’ve got to obey the Lord right now.”
And so I just said to the folks, “Let’s . . .” And before I did, people just started flooding to the altar, going to each other, praying.
I had set a microphone on the floor for four weeks—nobody knew it—just because I sensed the Lord may be about to erupt here. I said, “If you need to come to the mic, I’ll be down here. Come.”
A lady came and shared. I thought, “Well, maybe that’s it.” And then another lady came. And then a line of people. That service lasted till about 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. The next night we had one of these regular scheduled prayer meetings. I walked in the building, and it was full. That service lasted three-and-a-half hours. And that continued.
We just said, “Each night we’ll determine if we will meet the next night.” That continued for five solid weeks, every single night. I wish I could tell you the stories of what God did. Sixty-five people were spontaneously baptized in their street clothes. There were guys living under bridges getting saved; people giving money, giving cars, giving rings.
I remember one night standing up and reading Acts 2, Jim, and just weeping and saying, “All my life I’ve longed for a church like this. Every single thing that’s happening in the book of Acts is happening in our church right now, by the grace of God.”
What encouraged me about that is I’ve been in some moments of God’s presence, but it was so spontaneous, so unexpected. I thought if God would do in the churches in Little Rock, the six hundred churches in Little Rock, if He would give the same measure of outpouring there that He did just in our church in five weeks, do you know how many people would be saved? 39,000 people. He can do that. And He has done that. So it has united our hearts in just a passion to unite ministries in churches all across the country in one cry for revival.
In the Bible there is always this pattern of vital church. Then the world, the flesh, and the devil pull us away, and there’s decline, and then there’s judgment. But then at the bottom of that cycle, there’s always this wonderful little phrase, “And the people cried out to God. They lamented before the Lord. All of Israel moaned before the Lord—cried out before the Lord.”
What’s amazing is God is so merciful—that He always answers that cry. He just invariably answers that cry. He begins to speak, call them to repentance, and they respond. There’s this reviving, His presence again, and the church is restored and the gospel advances. I believe that we are certainly in the judgment of God. We are certainly in the decline portion and what we’re sensing, many of us, I think, the more you talk to pastors, is that people are getting desperate. It’s time for us to unite our hearts in one cry.
God had placed this on Byron’s heart and Life Action’s heart to be just a facilitator for this. What the OneCry initiative, this nationwide call for spiritual awakening is not that you come join a program and you do some things that are the OneCry program. OneCry is a facilitator. I think we want to obviously say to you today that we would love for you to be a part of that.
There’s a OneCry website that you can sign up that will connect you, that will give you tools and resources about how to build a revival culture in your church, and how to start prayer meetings. You will be hearing from men like these on that website that will help you fuel that flame to lead your church and your city in building a highway for our God and uniting hearts. Wouldn’t it be something if this was the year recorded in God’s continuing book that it said, “And the people in America cried out.” Wouldn’t that be something? And I believe He can do it.
Nancy: Bill Elliff has been describing a great opportunity for all of us to add our voices to thousands of others who are praying for revival. Bill is one of the leaders in an initiative called OneCry for Spiritual Awakening. And I hope that you’ll sign up for the Revive Our Hearts OneCry group. When you do, the Revive Our Hearts team will send you periodic updates on how to pray for revival more effectively.
Of course, you can pray for revival on your own, but when you sign up as part of the OneCry effort, you’ll be reminded and encouraged to keep seeking the Lord. And you’ll know that you’re joining your voice with thousands of others who are seeking Him together and asking Him to visit His people in revival. For all the details on how to sign up for the Revive Our Hearts OneCry group visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Leslie: On Revive Our Hearts we often describe biblical womanhood. Does that phrase mean getting back to the 1950s? Are we saying that everyone should vacuum in curls like June Cleaver? Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian will answer that question Monday. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.