I see the church today in such a different place than when I was growing up. It has something to do with our priorities but mostly with our hearts. Successful churches today have all the latest, greatest gadgets and buildings that resemble convention and fitness centers. Successful churches are staffed by well educated thinkers who know how to grow a business. Numbers matter or the business fails. Worship is more of a show as few in the congregation ever connect with the Holy One through singing and the gospel message is absent from our preaching.
The church replaced revival with “church growth” seminars. I can pay any number of companies to come into God’s church and teach us how to: grow a successful children’s and youth ministry and how to expand the church into a mega church or a multi-site campus. they can teach me how to teach people how to give more generously. what wording is necessary to convince someone to give a little bit more this week than they did last week. all so we can maintain our million dollar budget.
Our little church could never succeed according to these standards. I’m weary. I wonder if the Holy Spirit is weary. We will be held accountable for what we have done with the resources God has given. I believe many well intentioned believers who have developed business at the expense of the church will come up short in the end and pastors who have hungered to be the next great mega church pastor will be so disappointed in their accomplishment or failure to live up to the big guy down the street.
I know some will not like my words here. Let me add some perspective.
Our church is going through a very difficult season. Meaning the members are hurting. Employment has been lost. Families are suffering. Sickness and death is more real to us now than ever. Fewer people show up these days and I, the pastor have been experiencing severe depression for the past several months.
Sunday evening we sang an old song. “Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me. Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me. Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.”
As we began lifting our voices in this beautiful prayer, I was taken back in my mind to a time when the church was simple. When what we hungered for was to see the altars filled with people making things right with God. When the baptismal waters were stirred every week and young people were passionately burdened for their peers who were lost. When dad’s led their families together to worship each week and mom’s gladly taught the children the Bible. When weeping and groaning was a common sound in the sanctuary and from the pulpit we heard from our pastor who loved us and knew our names. He was with us when we were born and stayed long enough to perform some of our marriages.
As we sang those precious words, a cry from our hearts, I sensed in my spirit, the Holy Spirit leaning in and saying…”I hear a familiar song, very faint but I hear the song of times before. Is it the people whom God has redeemed singing to me again?” Ages of time has past since I last heard that sound, unneeded, unwanted I slipped away unnoticed. And power like none that can come from a man, I held back the force that could free them, could change them. I’ve waited and waited and wondered if ever the sound of the voices of saints, would lift from their useless, self praising efforts to build what can only be made, by the power that I am holding.” Sing louder. Sing louder! Sing louder! Believe what you’re singing and I will respond with power, that breaks down and melts and molds and fills. The Church that is singing will soon hear the sound of a wind that is rushing and mighty and cleansing…I’ll blow over, bend over, break and destroy of man’s kingdom and REVIVE THEM AGAIN.”
Please if you are reading this and part of our precious Southside City Church, know that God is working in your pastor’s life. Personal revival and renewal is coming. God has just been bringing me low – melting away a lot of self focus and pride. Prayer, communion with God will be what we learn to long for. The glory of God among His people. We will learn once again how to love Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and out will flow a deep, deep love for one another.
I want to honor several men who have modeled pastoring for me through the years. Scott Sharman, Pastor at Alsbury Baptist Church. He’s been there since the beginning and knows the people. Brandon Williams. Taught me the depth of relationship with the Holy Spirit. Mike Teer. In many senses fathered me in the faith. Mike Woods. Pastored me for 10 years when I was a teenager and impacted my life by having such a hunger for the word. Jame Weir. Was our pastor from the time I was born until I was 14. He pastored the same church for 18 years and one thing we knew without a doubt, he loved us.
Thank you men of God for standing as an example through the years. You’ve made a difference in my life. My prayer is today that we will all, with passion and conviction consider Revival, both personal and for the church we serve.