Revival (long)

April 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I don’t know what it is like in other areas of America (I’m originally from Ohio and don’t remember hearing a lot about this up there), but over the next five or so months, churches across the South will be holding revivals. These will be big to-dos varying in length from three or four days to an entire week. During the time leading up to these events, the church excitement grows and people look forward to this in order to be “refreshed” and get a spiritual boost so that they continue to “work for the Lord”.  They will dress in their Sunday best, notebooks in hand, to hear what the preacher/evangelist (usually a guest) has to say. Depending on the denomination and area, these meetings will range in volume and action. The expectation is that at the end of the week, they will have heard the very thing they needed to hear so that they can move to a new level with God and “do more” for Him. I remember attending a few revivals (I haven’t been to one in years) and recall them being emotionally charged appeals (in some cases) or sound, steady topical teaching (in other cases). For weeks following the revival, people would make larger efforts to have more ministries, outreaches, events, and other things geared toward the church. As I look back though, I seem to also remember that after about two months the revival wore off. People began getting caught up in the daily grind again and all of those new ministries and events just fell by the wayside. I have thought about this a lot lately. In my own life, I am striving harder to have everything I do line the Scriptures. I am not even close yet, but things are moving along. I started wondering what Scripture said about revival. What I found was interesting. Continue Reading Revival (long)…

A word from the Lord?

May 19, 2008 at 10:35 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Every Sunday, pastors all over the world stand up and give a prepared message to their congregations. Many of these messages have been prepared by the pastor through hours of study and prayer. They are given to different sized congregations for different purposes. Something that has caught my attention lately is the use of a certain phrase to describe the messages that many pastors give today.

 

It’s becoming more and more common to hear that Pastor So-and-So has a “word from the Lord” for his congregation. As soon as I hear that phrase, it makes me wonder. I wonder if the pastor actually received it from God. I wonder if this is just another topical sermon designed to improve the lives of the listeners. I wonder what he really spent the entire week doing. This may not seem like something big to you, but it is to me and I’ll tell you why.

 

When someone says that they have a “word from the Lord” it sounds like God literally spoke to them (like He did with the Old Testament prophets) and gave them this “word”. Often, this “word” is nothing more than an effort to infuse some sort of power into the message of the pastor. I mean, if it’s really a word “from” the Lord then that means that the pastor hasn’t had to spend a lot of time preparing this, he just received it and is ready to tell others. It also seems to make the pastor some kind of connector between God and the congregation. He raises himself above the scriptural calling of the pastor and becomes a kind of mediator between God and man (the Bible says there’s only One). In scripture, this phrase isn’t used by anyone who preaches the gospel. In reality, many of the messages deemed “words from the Lord” seem to be nothing more than opinions loosely tied together with scripture so that there is some kind of “authority” given to them.

 

Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a phrase.”

 

You’re right, it’s just a phrase, but so is pretty much everything else that we say and when those phrases imply something that doesn’t seem to be scriptural, we should at least ask questions…

 

As I said above, when I hear someone say that they have a “word from the Lord”, I am automatically put on guard. If they have heard directly from God, then I’m going to be able to check it against scripture. If they haven’t heard directly from God, I’m going to check that against scripture too. The phrase lends itself to the idea that the person who uses it is “holier than thou” and closer to God than the rest of us because God “gave” them a “word”.

 

Another phrase that is similar to this is when someone tells me “what the word of the Lord is for me”. I have the same reaction to this phrase. I get on guard and can’t help but look at what comes after skeptically. It doesn’t lend itself to anything other than trying to strengthen the image and/or position of the person who speaks it.

 

All of this got me thinking about a few things. First, God has already given us His Word. We have 66 books of scripture to read through and glean knowledge from. Do we really need something else? Has the pastor or the congregation made sense of the whole of scripture to the point that they are bored and need more? That seems highly unlikely. There is so much to be found in the scriptures that we could spend our entire lives studying and learning (and we should be). As an example, my friends and I have committed to study the entire Bible inductively. We figure that it’s going to take over ten years to finish. We started in January and have just now gotten to Genesis 6-8. I have learned so much from this that it continues to amaze me how I missed it to begin with. The wonderful thing is, when we finish this study, we can start over and still learn stuff from the same scriptures! That being the case, do I need someone telling me something other than scripture? NO! All I need is to hear/read/study/apply scripture and I will have more than enough to keep me busy for a loooong time.

 

The other thing that comes to mind as I think on this is the idea of having to be told that something is “a word from the Lord”. Should I need you to tell me that? Shouldn’t I be able to see that from the “word” itself? If you have to tell me that it’s from God, shouldn’t I be on the defensive about it? I would think that if something is directly from God that it would be readily apparent to many of those who listen, wouldn’t it? Telling me that your message is a “word from God” just makes me want to doubt it all the more. It makes me wonder if there is some hidden purpose or agenda for the message you’re preaching. It’s like the pastor is trying to misdirect people or lull them into a false sense of security so that they won’t recognize that he really didn’t spend time preparing or that he has something that he’s trying to accomplish that has nothing to do with the care of the flock…

 

This may seem nitpicky to some of you and that’s ok. You don’t have to agree with me. I am just tired of having every pastor in a 30 mile radius tell me that their message is “a word from the Lord” only to see many of them contradict each other!

 

I guess part of the reason that this bothers me so much is that I don’t understand the thinking behind it. Why would you want to do this? Why would you want to try and put your opinions on the same level as scripture? Why wouldn’t you just want to preach the Word the way that it’s written? Why not just take a passage from scripture (without removing it from it’s context!!!!) and preach it? Then you spend some time telling people how to apply that to their lives right now. This is preaching “the word of the Lord”! It’s taking God’s Word the way that it’s written and giving it to others. It’s helping them understand it (like Ezra did in Nehamiah 8) and then teaching them to apply it. It’s helping the congregation to understand sin (which, alarmingly, seems to be lacking today). It’s helping them to see themselves the way that God sees them, as wretched, filthy sinners who will enter into heaven not because they’re good people, but because they are bad people who have been forgiven by a good God.

 

If you are a pastor and you’re not preaching the truth of the gospel to your congregation then you are doing them serious harm. If you spend more time on topical subjects and how they can live better lives than you do breaking the Bread of Life with them, you are building a congregation of false converts and confused, self-righteous people who are blown about by every wind of doctrine. If you are preaching on how to have better intimacy with your spouse instead of preaching on the love, justice, and holiness of God, then you really need to reconsider whether or not you’re really called to be a pastor.

 

The body of Christ needs people who will strive to live out the Christian walk by example. It needs people who are truly willing to die to themselves and crucify their flesh daily so that others will see a strong, solid reflection of Christ. We don’t need any more ear-tickling, soft-word speaking, wishy-washy preachers who are too busy worrying about their image or their numbers to speak the truth to their congregations!

 

Your thoughts?


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