WHY TRUE PREACHING MATTERS NOW MORE THAN EVER

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there: in her fertile land, and boundless prairies, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great” (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835).

Comte De Tocqueville was one of the brightest minds of his time: a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, and historian. He cut through the veneer and identified preaching as the prime source of our genius. Think of that. He pinpointed the fire in our pulpits as the source of our greatness!

Our recent blog, about the feeble response of Christian leaders to the present madness in America, was widely accepted by believers, and just as widely rejected by leaders—celebrity leaders. Perhaps Tocqueville’s quote may help you understand why I hold them responsible for our national debacle. My severity toward them is not because I have a low opinion of pastors, it is because I have a high opinion of preaching. Like Alexis de Tocqueville, I believe anointed preaching to be the true source of our greatness, and bad preaching to be the true source of our weakness.

 

Preaching was never supposed to be like this, but it has been shallow for the last 25 years. It was supposed to convict, convince, equip, and launch disciples into secular society. Instead, modern preaching echoed what the world was already saying. Instead of bringing powerful Christians to a hurting world, these preachers brought the dysfunction of the world to believers. Modern preaching did not equip, but instead, it enabled. It did not utterly denounce sin—it negotiated with it, creating birth-defective converts.

The American church de Tocqueville encountered in 1835 had fire in the pulpit. It is because we do not have that fire in our pulpits today, that we have fires in our streets. Because preachers choose to tell soothing stories instead of proclaiming Truth, our young people believe lies and honor truly stupid ideas and follow truly evil leaders.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Was there ever a hope, in our current church climate of creating sanctified hearts who could give answers?

I stand accused of being too hard on American preachers. I am rejected for placing too high a responsibility for our current disaster on their shoulders. Some of their whining baffles me. Celebrity preachers cannot have it both ways. They are the ones who accepted the lofty praise, superstar status, and wealth. Like athletes who got the big contract—these preachers were expected to perform. But when it came to saving a nation from wickedness, they were a bitter let down.  You don’t call yourself “the anointed vessel for this hour”—and then fizzle, in this, America’s darkest hour.

Charles Finney wrote, “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.” (The Decay of Conscience, 1873)

Perhaps the only cure for such preaching is to depopularize it and defund it. Perhaps the fault lies as much with the fans of these preachers. In my book, Vessels of Fire and Glory, I wrote about the Contaminated Crowd. They are described in glaring detail in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, “Proclaim the Word. Keep your sense of urgency in season and out of season. Reprove, admonish, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not tolerate sound instruction, but having ears itching (for something pleasing), they will gather to themselves teachers chosen to satisfy their own lusts, and will turn aside from hearing the Truth and wander off into man-made myths.”

There is a reason that so much preaching today is festooned with props, smoke, emotionalism and entertainment. Small wonder that the slightest manifestation of the Spirit is touted as a miracle. It is no surprise that repentance is seldom if ever called for. The devil has seen to it that the American Church was totally unprepared for the multiple onslaughts unleashed against it in 2020.

And yet, there is a glorious sign on the horizon! There is a hint that actual preaching may return. There are young men and women displaying dangerous tendencies, such as reading revival history. Young leaders are disenchanted with the attraction-church model. They are asking threatening questions, desiring old ways—the ways that dislodge devils and release true signs and wonders.

God is stirring hearts, disrupting plans and driving young leaders to the kind of fire we need—the fire that can make America good and great, once again.

 

 

 

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REVIVAL THAT MATTERS

Many of the things the church is doing today simply do not matter.  I am not saying they are not good, or impressive or successful—I am saying they will not save the nation, and therefore, they do not matter.

We know the times are evil.  What can we do about it?  That’s the number one question I get.  My answer is, we need stop toying, speculating and paying lip service to revival.  We need to seize a revival that matters.

But the real culprit today is false revival.  There is untold damage when we take a good meeting and marketing it as revival.  To call a good meeting revival is like filling a bath tub with salt water and calling it the Pacific Ocean.

I am not the one telling you your good meeting is not revival—history, and our culture tell you.  History says revival overflows church walls and makes deep impacts on society.  That is not happening.   When our culture swats away our church meetings and continues to careen in deeper wickedness—it’s telling us we are not in revival.

There is one thing—above all others—that is stopping true revival: We can’t find a pure motive.  We want it for all the wrong reasons.  If revival is our ticket to get church growth, emotional experiences, self-promotion, formulas, and wealth, our prayers are like nuclear waste to God.

The most famous verse on revival begins with a huge IF:  2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

IF you truly yearn for the miracle that would stop America’s slide toward oblivion—IF you wish for an act of the Holy Spirit so real and widespread that it impacts, crime, injustice, addiction, and despair—then listen to this lesson from history:

In 1904, American leaders were enthralled by the revival in Wales.  Hundreds of thousands were converted, and the morals of the nation were transformed.  They wanted a revival like that in America.  But they tried to buy it.

These enterprising pastors and businessmen invested in massive campaigns.  They were dismal failures.  So much so, that the very concept of revival fell into disfavor.

Two years later, they realized their mistake.  Widespread brokenness gripped leaders.  Now, aided by a pure motive they cried out and heaven heard them.   One of the catalysts to this awakening was James Burns.

James Burns wrote a powerful book at the time entitled “Revival, Their Laws and Leaders” In 1909 he said, “To the church, a revival means humiliation, a bitter knowledge of unworthiness and an open and humiliating confession of sin on the part of her ministers and people. It is not the easy and glorious thing many think it to be, who imagine it fills pews and reinstates the church in power and authority.

 “It comes to scorch before it heals; it comes to condemn ministers and people for their unfaithful witness, for their selfish living, for their neglect of the cross, and to call them to daily renunciation, to an evangelical poverty and to a deep and daily consecration. That is why a revival has ever been unpopular with large numbers within the church. Because it says nothing to them of power such as they have learned to love, or of ease, or of success; it accuses them of sin, it tells them they are dead, it calls them to awake, to renounce the world and to follow Christ.”

America, at last, had found a pure motive for revival. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles (Azusa Street), and many other cities saw amazing things.  Denver, Colorado, and Portland, Oregon (Which are bastions of marijuana, atheism and runaway liberalism today) shut down businesses at noon so everyone could go and pray.  Millions went to prayer everyday across America.

Until our knees buckle beneath the horror of our nation’s sin and the blasphemy of our cheap grace fad our request for revival will be denied.  On the other hand, there is a great hope.

Two things happened to me that forever killed my doubts about revival.  One was Matthew 12: 20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory.”  The other was when I was standing at the beach.

Jesus will not snuff out the least flicker of revival.  When anyone asks for revival from a pure heart, God says yes and begins the process.  He takes you at your word.  As I stood on the beach the gentle foam of the ocean lapped over my toes.  The voice of the Lord said, “this gentle wave is the cousin of the tsunami.”

The smallest flame in the smallest church will not be quenched by Jesus.  Given the proper opportunity, the Spirit of God will fan it into a raging fire of righteousness.  The gentlest wave can grow into a tidal wave before anyone who simply hosts God’s presence, obeys His step by step orders, and refuses to abuse what God is doing among them.

These two truths are exploding with me now.  I want them to blow up in your spirit.  exploded within me.  You really want revival?  Then what are you waiting for?

ARE MEGA CHURCHES NOW A DISTRACTION TO REVIVAL?

Do you believe current church trends  will rescue our nation?  My guess is you don’t.  If you don’t, you are not alone.  A growing number of believers—many of whom will not say it out loud—question the value of attraction churches.

One day, I sat with some “hot names” in church growth in southern California.  We had talked a lot about styles of worship, preaching and marketing.  Being older than most of them, I felt a little bold.  I asked them: “Can any of you give me the name of a mega church in Los Angeles in 1906? “

Not one of them could come up with a name.  Then I said, “but you all remember the Azusa Street Revival, right?  Why is that?”  Because history remembers revivals and forgets mega churches.”  The reason is simple; revivals make history by reforming society.

Those who praise the glories of mega churches never mention how they have no impact on cultural sin.  In this golden age of mega churches, society is experiencing its greatest moral landslide.   On their watch, the number of people who claim to be atheists has doubled.  More anti-God legislation has been enacted than any other time in our history.

But do churches bear any responsibility for the moral landslide of a nation?  Charles G. Finney sure thought so!   He said, “If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are about to fall away, the pulpit is responsible.”

Some will say it is not fair to ask mega churches to reverse national destruction.   But you also can’t have it both ways.  You can’t go around extolling the wonders of these mammoth ministry centers and then say they can’t fix the nation.  If they can’t fix the only thing that needs fixing, what is the point?

But people point out, “They produce musicals as good as Broadway” Or, “They give the average person hope” These achievements ring hollow.  In a simpler time, they would be impressive.  Not today.

This is no time for entertainment.  This is no time for mild cures. Society’s condition has forced rule changes.  A demon possessed culture needs a church with power to cast out devils.  A culture reeling with unimaginable addictions needs a church were the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fire of God is plainly presented.

Are these churches a distraction to revival?  Let me offer this parable about distraction.  A college football team is losing their homecoming game. Badly.  Halftime is a welcome break.  The people are relieved when the marching band takes the field.

The band leader sees how much the people are enjoying the distraction.  He decides “we don’t need a second half; it is a good thing to just keep the show going.”

The lyrics of American Pie put it this way, “Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune We all got up to dance Oh, but we never got the chance ‘Cause the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed The day the music died?”

You, dear leader of a mega church, must ask yourself, is my church the band that refuses to yield.  Is my mega ministry a distracting substitute for revival?  Am I keeping the church from starting the second half?

The Bible asks painful questions about times.  Elisha’s servant Gehazi secretly took money and clothes from General Naaman after Naaman was healed of leprosy.  Elisha asked Gehazi, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?”-2 Kings 5:26,26

In a time of mass murder, mass suicide, of hurricanes floods, and fire, is it time for pastors to parade wealth, and grant mild cures?

Haggai asked another painful question: “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” -Haggai 1:4  The modern application for this is simple:  Pastor, are you building a personal empire, or the Kingdom of God?  Will you allow a nation to go down in flames while you live in a bubble of false victory? 

If we can truly confess that babble has replaced the Bible—that self-enhancement has replaced self-denial –that marketing has replaced miracles—and unconditionally surrender to the Holy Spirit, God will turn our churches into fire-breathing, nation-changing powerhouses.