Will revival come in a compromised Church?
Republished from a CMI newsletter: 1 January 2012(GMT+10)
Many Christians dream, hope and pray for revival in their countries. But how will revival come—if ever? The types of revivals I’m referring to are the ones that most of us have heard about taking place at some time in the church’s history (Acts chapter 2, for example). That is where we have heard about tens of thousands of people spontaneously repenting, being saved en masse, often accompanied by miraculous events, etc. In a sense, we all hope and pray for this type of revival that would demonstrate a marvelous move of God across multitudes of people. But is the church actually ready? Could it cope with such events?
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century, said:
“The concealing, and the neglect of certain truths, and certain aspects of Christian truth, has always been the chief characteristic of every period of declension [decline] in the long history of the Church. If you read the history of the Church, and look at these periods of declension, when the Church was moribund and did not seem to count at all, you will find that without a single exception the thing that has most characterized the life of the Church at such a time has been either a denial, or else a concealing, or else a neglect of certain vital truths which are essential to the whole Christian position.”
He exclaimed, “No revival has ever been known in the history of the churches which deny or ignore certain essential truths.” (Emphases mine).
Dr Lloyd-Jones identified periods of decline in which the church “did not seem to count at all.”’ Put another way, times (like our own in particular) in which the church has lost its relevance to society. CMI’s message to the church is one of ‘relevance’. We fondly call our speakers’ standard one-off talks in church services ‘relevance messages’, as we attempt to show that the reason society views Christianity as ‘just another religion’ is the perceived loss of the authority of God’s Word. If there is no Creator, or if the Bible’s history is not true as stated in Genesis, then there is no reason for following the Bible’s morality and ultimately no need for a Saviour. This renders Christianity, which is based upon God’s Word, as logically unimportant or ‘irrelevant’ to many. The symptoms are the issues we see in society today—increasing lawlessness, promiscuity, abortion and so on.
Genesis is foundational to most of our basic Christian doctrine. But sadly, many church leaders and particularly Bible colleges say that there are many possible views on Genesis. Logically, all views cannot be correct—so where does the truth begin? This demonstrates a lack of authority. Marriage is one example. Genesis says that God created man and woman for each other. But much of the church is split on this issue, with some endorsing gay marriage and even the ordination of homosexual clergy. So if we compromise on certain parts of Scripture, then how can we proclaim any of it as the truth, and why should anyone believe us or what the Bible says?
The first areas of the church to compromise were many of the mainstream or liberal churches. So is it any surprise to see that these are the ones who are experiencing the greatest decline in numbers? At the same time, many Bible-believing evangelical churches are growing.
Truth is the first casualty
The first areas of the church to compromise were many of the mainstream or liberal churches. So is it any surprise to see that these are the ones who are experiencing the greatest decline in numbers? At the same time, many Bible-believing evangelical churches are growing. The problem seems almost ridiculously obvious doesn’t it? The more the church engages in a flawed effort to be conformed to the world and its ‘truth’ (evolutionary ‘science’ etc.) the more it loses its relevance or ‘saltiness’. Debra H. told of her experience.
“I felt a need to contact you and let you know how much I have come to rely on your ministry. I have always been a science nut and although I was raised in a [mainstream denomination] family and knew of God I accepted what I was taught in school and became a staunch evolutionist. I really believe that this had a direct impact on my rebellion to God and refusal to give my life to Christ.
“Well, I am 43 yrs old now and because of a biblically based Christian church family and your ministry I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior over 5 yrs ago! [CMI] and the Bible have made me hungry for truth and has convicted me to instill that truth in my own children and others around me. … Thank you … and may God bless your ministry.”
Debra rejected her original church background where she was not taught or equipped to withstand the evolutionary onslaught which denies the true history of the Bible. Even those sections of the evangelical church that are today growing please take note: Don’t relegate Genesis to a side-issue. Truth matters, even though innovative programs may be reaching outsiders more than ever. One can be both modern and relevant—without compromise! For faith to be lasting, it needs to be firmly grounded in the Word of God from the very first verse so that all of the Bible can be trusted.
Experience has shown that the most important thing anyone wants to know is generally, “What is the truth?” Everyone wants to know, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where do I go to when I die?” The Creator has the answer to those 3 big questions.
Revival in the church first
So how can revival come unless the church (or what the world sees as such) ceases to be lukewarm (Revelation 3:15–16)? While it is in such a state of confusion, it is not equipped to deal with potentially millions of converts who might drift away when confronted with a church that doesn’t believe what it is supposed to believe. So let’s have reformation in the church first, by returning to the very Words of the One who made us. This is our mission and one of the reasons why we go to the church first. Even churches initially reluctant to have a CMI speaker have been turned around once they hear the powerful simplicity of the ‘relevance’ message. Peter G. said:
“I want you to know that years ago I was struggling with my Christian faith because of what appeared to be an irreconcilable contradiction between the book of Genesis and modern science. After … materials were offered to me I came to understand that that was just a contradiction between secular science and the Scripture and that true science is in harmony with the Bible. My faith was revived and I am now a solid Christian. I wanted you to know this and to encourage you as a ministry to continue with your faith-saving work.”
Don’t relegate Genesis to a side-issue. Truth matters, even though innovative programs may be reaching outsiders more than ever. One can be both modern and relevant—without compromise!
It’s not rocket science. When faith is ‘revived’, excitement (and motivation) follows because confidence in the Word has grown. When any of us discover the truth we are always excited and share it with others.
An example of being relevant
I recall how some time ago one of our former Canadian speakers had a divine encounter at a small country church where he was about to conduct a meeting. The only person there was a groundskeeper in his 40s cutting the lawn around the church cemetery. Henry wrote:
“Thinking he might be the church custodian, I approached him and introduced myself. He quickly informed me that he had nothing to do with the church and was simply under contract to cut the grass. Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to invite him to the seminar that night.
“He brushed off the invitation with a comment about why in the world would he want to go to a seminar on ‘those topics!’ So I told him! I explained that the Bible is an accurate account of history. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand what it says about our past so that we can know what life is all about! He seemed a little more interested at this point, and it prompted me to retrieve the booklet Is There Really a God? from my car. I wished him a good day and encouraged him to visit our website on the back of the booklet to get more information that would answer his other questions. The moment I gave him that booklet, he broke down and blurted out, ‘I don’t believe this! Just 30 minutes before you arrived, as I was mowing the grass in this cemetery, I was asking myself this very question “Is there really a God?” Now you are here talking to me with the answer to this question!’”
“He spent the next 20 minutes opening his heart to me. I asked him if we could pray together and ask our wonderful Creator, God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come into his life. He agreed, and later, praise God, he left that church cemetery a changed man, sins forgiven. From death to life!”
This man didn’t even realize that his thinking had led him to see these issues as irrelevant to his hunger for God. We’ve found that to be the case with many people—they often don’t know that they have these questions! It results in confusion instead of being able to appreciate the beautiful and simple clarity of the Gospel. That’s another reason why it helps to raise awareness of the issues and get people thinking!
A surprise result
Some years ago, our scientists engaged in an Internet debate with the Australian Skeptics, hosted by Australia’s largest newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald’s website (see Australian Skeptics vs CMI—Australia.) After an initial essay from both sides, rebuttals and then final essays were posted (3 each in total) Margo Kingston’s Herald column attracted hundreds who wrote comments on both sides of the subject, “Did the universe and life evolve, or was it specially created in 6 days?”
Actually, feedback comments appeared even before the first essays were posted. The site’s contributing editor said it was “quickly proving a debate of keen interest.” By the time of the second essay postings, over 700 had already had their say.
How many more would have just casually visited and just read the convincing arguments for creation? This shows the growing interest in origins subjects as people start to search for ‘truth’. Many comments remarked on how the skeptics generally failed to deal with the actual scientific issues. Yet they claim the creationist explanation is unscientific!
It was also exciting to see many familiar names of CMI supporters engaging their skeptical opposition on this website. This is the direct result of creation outreach to the church so that Christians, in turn, are able to reach others and take up the battle. It was fantastic to see!
Even though the debate gave our scientists the opportunity to expose blunders and false claims, it never surprises that the Skeptics often claim victory, as is their style. Yet, they were strangely silent about this one. We even reproduced the online debate as a booklet. You can purchase bulk copies here or download a PDF for free.
I am reminded of the debate a couple of years ago between our own Dr Carl Wieland, and ABC TV (Australia) paleontologist and Skeptic, Dr Paul Willis (one of the team members for this current debate, incidentally). You can watch this video for free on our site here in our revamped media centre. The Australian Skeptics magazine claimed victory there, too. Yet, even though both sides had the chance to market the DVD of the debate, only one did (it proved to be one of our most popular resources.) When we saw their ‘victory’ claims, we offered to co-promote it by sharing a full page newspaper advert, with them being able to buy it at bare cost. One would think that ‘victors’ would have jumped at the chance, but having seen both that debate and the recent one, we were not really surprised when they didn’t accept.
Actually, we don’t think that verbal debates determine truth or really contribute much—but they are a forum for getting the facts out there and refuting much of the misinformation and ad hominem smears often aimed at Christians. The truth has a powerful effect when it is aired in such a forum.
Atheist Lee E. posted comments to say:
“I’m not a Christian but … I even know that you can’t believe in the Bible [and] evolution. One is true, which means the other is false. The Bible’s history is correct or the evolutionist’s history is correct, and I want to find out which it is. I’m a man who hasn’t made up my mind yet, but after reading those papers, I would have to say that [Creation Ministries] won hands down.”
Changing the culture
All this reminds me of an email we received from Dan A. who wrote:
“The information you make available is EXCELLENT. Please don’t stop. Christians seem hesitant to engage the culture. One of the reasons is we haven’t kept ourselves educated enough to feel confident and competent when confronted, on issues of faith and culture. Thank you for your hard work.”
Well, Dan, if this web debate is anything to go by, the confidence factor you spoke about is changing. Well equipped Christians at the forefront of the battle—now that’s something! CMI’s approach of bringing reformation to the church might be a slower and more gradual approach than mass meetings that claim revival, but it is a rock-solid and reliable biblical approach. It helps the church build a solid and lasting foundation. Our Saviour reminds us that:
“ … everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24–27).
It’s a partnership. You help us to change lives (as you yourself were probably affected, as part of the church). That’s where revival starts!
Thanks for standing with us. God is doing great things.
Before even fully reading the article these lyrics from Casting Crowns’ Spirit Wind call out to be connected to this article for me.
“A pastor stands before his congregation
Once a mighty army for the Lord
But now he stares into the lifeless eyes
Believers leading carnal lives
He wonders what they’re fighting for
But driven by a calling on his life
He spoke God’s word like he’d done a hundred times before
But this time he comes broken and weeping
With tears of a broken heart
And he cries out to the Lord”
Singing along I often get choked up in this verse. This is exactly what I see in Australia. Great article Gary; wonderfully inspired. To get the Church united under one name, that glorious name, how amazing would that be. To return to the Foundations via knowledge of understanding and opposing compromise. I ready for the Battle-a risen Warrior for the Lord!
Every public airing of the issue of origins of which I’m aware has attracted huge attention and interest, whether for or against. Yet how remote from people’s concerns are mainstream denominations (I think of my own Sydney Anglican diocese) who think that the question of our origin, our relation to God and God’s love for us shown in a ‘very good’ creation is irrelevant!
I don’t see how we can be led by the Spirit, in a wonderful fellowship with our Lord if we continually reject the authority of His word. Indeed, at first, such feelings may exist, but as we abide in Christ, and our nature is conformed to His nature, we can’t help but see the truth of scripture, and its authority in our lives. I’ve been reading of the lives of men used by God in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, especially in the revivals experienced in Europe and America, and I am struck by the wonderful fellowship each man had with the Lord. With a true fellowship with Him, submitting to His Lordship and authority, allowing Him to prune and refine us while our desires become more and more like His own, we will yearn for revival as God ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ Let us seek the Lord while He may be found, and let us cry out for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for when the Spirit moves in power, His existence is undeniable!
But, in the words of Leonard Ravenhill, we long for a ‘painless pentecost’, which will never come. Many of those who experienced the original pentecost went to jail! ‘It wan’t prosperity; it was prison, pain, privation, and persecution.’
To me the most relevant chapters for the modern church aside from the creation are Luke 24 and Acts 1-2 … the word is a living being seated at God’s right hand, writing his words in my heart in real time! not that the subject matter of the Bible is irrelevant “All scripture is useful for reproving …” the modern church must come to grips with it’s place in his-story; post resurrection, post delivery unto the holy spirit (for help, comforting and power) before any ‘revival’ will be universal … just saying).