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Posts Tagged ‘Revival

Learning from the Early Pentecostals (Part 1)

Whether or not you agree with the Pentecostal movement and its theology is not the point of this post.  I really wanted to highlight the early days of the Pentecostal movement and the lessons we can learn from them.  Nearly every Protestant movement was born out of a desire to see the Church of Christ reform and restored to her glory days as we see in the book of Acts.  Beginning with Martin Luther and continuing even to today, the Church has always been reforming herself and seeking to glorify God in the process.  The early Pentecostals were no exception to that.  Sadly, much of what I see in modern Pentecostal churches is nothing more than hyped up evangelicalism with a strong emphasis on worship and personal experience.  While some Pentecostals may reject that, I believe the heart of the early Pentecostal movement is what is needed in the entire Church of God and not just the Pentecostal movement.

I first want to point out the early traits of the Pentecostal movement.  I gleamed these from my own reading of early Pentecostal works including Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street: How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles and the sermons of William Seymour.  I also read Myer Pearlman’s Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible text and early Pentecostal writers such as Donald Gee.  The feelings I have are all mine from my readings.  From what I can learn from the early Pentecostals, I want to make these applicable to the modern Church at large.  Again, you might not agree with the Pentecostal movement down the line but we can learn from them nonetheless.

1.  A Praying Movement.

Frank Bartleman was a man of prayer.  After reading Azusa Street, I was struck by how much time the early Pentecostals had spent in prayer both before the revival in Los Angeles and afterwards.  Bartleman speaks of the Church learning to pray from the Welsh revival under Evan Roberts.  Roberts himself was a man of prayer.  He would spend hours alone with God crying out for revival.  His famous prayer was “bend me and break me.”  Bartleman and the early Pentecostals would pray for hours upon hours.  Bartleman writes about the early Pentecostals tarrying for hours, seeking God for revival in America.  They were longing for God to pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17, 38-39).  They were seeking God for more than what they were seeing in the Church of their day.

Most of the early Pentecostals were out of the Wesleyan-Holiness movement of the late 19th century.  They had heard the stories of the great Holiness revivals of the 19th century and how the Lord had raised up churches such as the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene.  Pentecostal language was a part of their culture.  Terms such as “baptized with the Spirit” or “seeking God for the Holy Ghost” were common.  Yet in the early Pentecostals view, the Holiness movement was dying out.  The Methodist at this time were beginning to turn liberal and move away from the core doctrines of Wesley.  Many from the “perfectionism” movement of the late 19th century were turning toward a social gospel that emphasized transforming the culture above preaching the gospel.  This disturbed these early Pentecostals and they wanted a fresh return to God and His gospel.  They wanted a genuine revival.  They wanted to see the Church rise up in the power of the Spirit and proclaim the gospel in the power of God (Romans 1:16-17).  They were tired of Church as usual.

So they begin to pray.  Bartleman is convinced from his book that prayer birthed the Church in Acts (Acts 1:14; cf. Luke 24:49) and it was prayer that sustained the early Church (Acts 2:42).  He notes how often we read of prayer in the book of Acts.  Bartleman is also convinced in his book that prayer must be the foundation for revival.  If the Church is to do anything that exalts Christ and brings sinners to salvation, it will be because of the Church at prayer.  He also writes that prayer brings revival, prayer sustains revival, and where prayer falters, faith will falter as well.  The manifested presence of Christ will not be found where they are not people seeking God in prayer.  He also writes a warning to early Pentecostals saying that if they don’t remain a prayer movement, the Spirit of God would depart from them as well.  The blessing of Pentecost is sustained through intercession.  I was convicted reading his words.  We in the modern Church especially in the West know nothing of true prayer.  We talk about prayer, write about prayer, and read books on prayer but we don’t pray.  Few churches I know truly pray.  They pray here and there but we are not a praying church.  I know none that are.  Sadly, few Christians today pray like Bartleman.  I think of Luther rising up and praying for 2 to 4 hours per day.  I think of John Wesley praying for hours upon hours even while riding his horse from town to town in England to preach the gospel.  I think of great saints like David Brainerd praying with fervency in his voice.  I read of John Bunyan being locked away in the London bridge and crying out to God for hours on end.  I think of great prayer warriors such as David Livingston (who died in prayer on his knees beside his bed) or E.M. Bounds or Leonard Ravenhill.  Where are the men and women of God who know how to pray?

2.  Intercession for the Lost.

The early Pentecostals fought their battles on their knees.  Few early Pentecostals were well-educated and most were poor.  Yet they knew how to pray.  Their churches were often shacks and few had any electricity but they had the power of God.  They would pray for hours upon hours.  Almost all Pentecostals in the early days had a custom of arriving at the church and praying for hours before they actually met.  The small shacks would be full of people on their knees in prayer.  Their voices would be found shaking the walls of the shacks and the broken windows.  They earned the nickname “holy rollers” from their emotional meetings.  Yet they didn’t care.  They sought God earnestly and drunkards would get saved.  Prostitutes would get saved.  Drug addicts would get saved.  Homosexuals would get saved.  Religious people who came to make fun of the early Pentecostals (such as David Wilkerson’s grandfather) would get saved.  Why?  Because the Pentecostals would pray.  They labored for hours for people to be saved on their faces.  They took seriously the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans 10:1 or 1 Timothy 2:1-6 and they prayed for the lost.  They prayed for the Holy Spirit to use them to convict these sinners to turn from their sins and be saved.

I have read countless testimonies from early Pentecostals they speak of their coming to Christ through the faithful praying of the saints of God.  Their passion for Jesus went beyond what they had.  They loved Jesus despite their poverty and their lack of education.  They wanted Christ more than life itself and their lives led to people coming to faith in Christ through their praying and through their walks with God.  They didn’t talk about God from a distance.  They knew Him.  They knew His power.  They knew that He heard their cries and He answered their prayers.  When they were persecuted by the religious, they went to praying.  When the KKK came to burn down their churches, they went to praying.  When the evangelicals blasted them and called them, in the words of G. Campbell Morgan, the “vomit of Satan,” they went to praying.  Prayer was all they knew.  They had no money.  They had no standing with men.  They had no formal education.  Many of them could not read or write.  They only knew how to pray and praying they did.  They would pray until God moved.  They would not stop praying for a drunkard until they repented of their sins and came to faith in Jesus Christ who alone could save them.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/30/2012 at 6:33 PM

Our Need for Revival (Featuring William Birch)

My brother Roy Ingle and I have been thinking a lot about revival and how much the Church of Christ Jesus needs to be revived. When we say “we” need revival, we mean that each and every individual who calls him- or herself a follower of Christ Jesus needs revival. When we say we “need” revival, we mean that there are crucial elements missing among those who call themselves Christ followers; a need presupposes lack. When we say we need “revival,” we find hard and fast definitions of that word difficult.

For example, Iain Murray, in his book Pentecost Today? The Biblical basis for Understanding Revival, took aim at the “revivalist movement” of the nineteenth century. Murray believed (along with many others) that the “revivalist movement” guided Christianity away from its biblical mandate toward another mandate — one that has since mislead the Church. He believed that the practices and teachings of revivalistic evangelists such as Charles Finney brought about heretical practices, such as the altar call and the “sinner’s prayer,” and introduced man-centered, pragmatic theology into the Church.

In some ways Murray is correct. There are some things about Finney that we appreciate, such as the account of his conversion, or the fact that he had a passion to bring spiritual life back into “dead” New England churches. But there are things about Finney with which we do not agree, such as his introducing the “sinner’s prayer” as the way to properly respond to the gospel, or his pragmatism.

A problem arises, however, when trying to accurately define the word “revival” from Scripture. The prefix “re” refers to the concept of doing something again, whereas “viva” refers to life. Thus revival can be conceptualized as bringing back or restoring to life that which has lost life. But what do we mean by “life”? To what does “alive” refer in the context of revival?

To the church in Sardis Christ said, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Rev. 3:1-2 NASB). The Greek word for “alive” (zes) is the present active indicative of zao, meaning “to live.” The followers of Christ in Sardis had a name (reputation) for being living Christians — the ones who had life!

Now, we know that they had physical life, since they were breathing. The reference to “life” here should refer to spiritual life. They had a reputation for being spiritually alive (regenerate) in Christ. However, Jesus informed them that their condition was grave: though their reputation was that of spiritual life and vitality, they were actually dead (nekros), figuratively speaking.

This does not mean that they had lost their salvation, for He commanded them to “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die.” What these Christians needed was revival — a bringing back to life the spiritual elements of their faith that were dying. We are reminded of the Ephesian believers, whom Jesus informed had left their first love (Rev. 2:4). But to the Ephesians, He did not command to “wake up and be revived,” but to “repent” (Rev. 2:5). Indeed, the need for revival often indicates the adoption of bad or sinful habits of which we need to repent; and though we must do the repenting, we recognize even repenting is a gracious enablement of God.

What this indicates is that we cannot work up, initiate, or instigate revival and repentance on our own. When apparent “revivals” derive from man-centered efforts or constraints, what we witness are parades of the flesh, not genuine works of the Holy Spirit.

Finney stated in his book Lectures on Revivals of Religion that revival was not a supernatural work of God’s Spirit but a work and product of man. Thus the rise of modern “revival movements,” which followed Finney’s pragmatism, including aspects of special (oftentimes emotionally driven) music, advertisements, etc. Finney thought that prayer for revival was good and necessary, but that people had to do their part to promote revival and bring it about. He emphasized what we have found to be true of many so-called “revivals,” that revival is not explicitly defined for us in Scripture, and thus the term “revival” often means different things to different people.

Why do we sense that Christ’s Church today needs reviving? The answer is inherent in Dr. Wilbur Smith’s summary of nine characteristics of revivals mentioned in the Old Testament:

1) They [revivals] occurred in a day of deep moral darkness and national depression.
2) They began in the heart of one consecrated servant of God who became the energizing power behind it, the agent used of God to quicken and lead the nation back to faith in and obedience to Him.
3) Each revival rested on the Word of God, and most were the result of preaching and proclaiming God’s law with power.
4) All resulted in a return to the worship of Yahweh as the one true and living God.
5) Each witnessed the destruction of idols.
6) In each revival, there was a recorded separation from sin.
7) In every revival, they returned to offering blood sacrifices (Hebrews 9:22).
8) Almost all recorded revivals show a restoration of great joy and gladness (Nehemiah 8:10; Acts 8:8).
9) Each revival was followed by a period of great national prosperity.

Our churches today — and by “churches” we mean those self-professed Christians who attend them — are steeped or trapped in unbiblical and uncritical worldviews and/or practices either explicitly or implicitly condemned in Scripture. Such has turned our hearts away from obeying Christ and has robbed the body of Christ of joy. Our witness has been tainted by sin and we have become ineffectual for the work of God’s Spirit.

The simple conclusion is this: we need revival. We need Spirit-led ethical and moral behavior in the hearts of God’s people. We need to be saturated in God’s word so that we might obey Christ in all things, be faithful witnesses of Christ’s gospel and goodness, thereby ridding ourselves of idols and sin, and joyfully, righteously exalting the nature and character, justice and holiness, of our Triune God. Worldliness must be replaced with godliness. Apathy must be replaced with holy zeal. Sinfulness must be replaced with holy obedience. Again, these spiritual facets need to be the daily experience of all denominational and non-denominational followers of Christ.

Finally, James, the Lord Jesus’ half-brother, wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a). Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Chaddick comments, “The reason we’re not having revival is we’re too content living without it” (Sermon: We Need Revival). By God’s grace, we can be as close to Him as we desire. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners [he’s writing to Christians]; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/18/2012 at 10:13 AM

Posted in Revival

Tagged with , ,

How Money Robs Prophets from Prophesying

In the city where I live there are literarily hundreds of churches.  In fact, we have been living here now for over one year and since that time we have seen several new churches come up.  All of them but one are new churches that aim to be “relevant and real” our culture.  They all promise to offer the world something to entice them to come such as “a kicking band” or “Bible messages that you can apply to your daily life” or “fun for the whole family”.  One of them is a Baptist church that built a new building, moved to a new location, and changed their name (well dropped the Baptist off their name).

And yet, sadly, this sums up most of the churches here in the United States.  We have thousands of churches here in the United States.  How many churches must there be in the Western world?  How many churches are there in the Pacific islands?  We have thousands upon thousands.  And yet where are the prophets of God?  Where are the John Wesley’s?  Where are the Leonard Ravenhill’s?  Where are the D.L. Moody’s?  Where are the Alexander Campbell’s?  Where are the A.W. Tozer’s?  Where are the Frank Bartlemen’s?

I believe that part of the problem with the loss of prophets is money.  Too many churches now require lots of money to survive.  Take that Baptist church I mentioned above.  They are millions of dollars in debt over their new building.  They recently sold their old building to try to compensate some of their loss.  Do you think that the prophet would be welcomed in such a church?  He would scare off the nominals quickly.  He would call the church to repent.  He would convict them through his exalting of God and His Word.  He would call them to prayer and fasting.  How many would remain?  Remember the words of Jesus in John 6:67, “Do you also want to go away?”  This would be the cry of the prophet.  Those who are true disciples of Jesus would cry Peter’s words in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  

The vast amount of pastors can’t do this.  They are preaching for money.  Oh they don’t compromise by teaching sin but they just avoid preaching on sin.  They preach hollow messages that lack the conviction of the Spirit.  They do “series” preaching that never deals with the rotting flesh.  They never exalt the holiness of God.  They never pray with passion and weep before the people of God as they call them to repentance and faith.  Where are these pastors?  Where are those who would fast for souls?  Where the pastors who would preach without fear of a board kicking them out of their job?  Where are the pastors who labor in prayer hours upon hours and go before the disciples of Christ and proclaim what the Spirit has shown them in His inerrant Word?  Where are the pastors who stand up and say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) and truly mean it.

Tomorrow the churches in our area will be filled.  Yet where is the holy presence of Christ?  Where are the weepers?  Where are those who will mourn for the lost?  Where are the prophets of God who will declare that Jesus alone is worthy of praise?  Where are the prophets who will say, “Enough of this clattering called praise and worship and let us be a people of holiness in all that we say and do”?  Oh how we need prophets again in the Church!  Oh how I long for men of God to rise up and preach the Word of God without fear, without compromise, without remorse.  I long to see the Church on her face in holy prayer as she seeks her King.  I long to see sin being beat over and over again through the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

Oh God visit Your Church!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/17/2011 at 3:16 PM

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