By Michael F. Ross. There’s a new breath of freshness blowing here and there. The word “revival” is finding its home in the hearts and on the lips of more and more people, and especially more and more clergymen. Since the Lord put me flat on my back in 1986, I have had an increasing burden, a growing obsession, for an awakening prompted by the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon His people, beginning with the Presbyterian Church in America, beginning with me. Many other men share this God-sent burden.
But while we sense that mixture of painful waiting and hopeful anticipation, we often ask ourselves, “How shall it begin? What can I do? How do I prepare for the return of the presence and power of Christ to His church and to the congregation I serve?
Careful study of the history of revivals and the Book of Acts in particular, will show us that prayer-partnership in prayer-is the seedbed of revival. History will also show that preachers-the clergymen-have so often been used by God to usher in revivals. Naturally, then, pastors should today be leading in a partnership of prayer.
If we turn to the Book of Acts and read carefully its first chapter, we find a partnership in prayer among the early New Testament church leaders. They were told to go into the city and wait until revival came. They waited… but they also prayed in partnership.
What do you suppose they prayed about? Was it about which evangelistic program to use? Was it about which committee Matthew would best serve as treasurer? Was it about the latest church-growth, buzz-word: Networking, franchising, ranching instead of shepherding, homogeneous units or organic growth? Did they all read Dress For Success and In Search of Excellence? Did they pray about choices of architects and advertising agencies? I sincerely doubt it. I venture to guess that they prayed about the following:
- Their lack of burden for and love for the lost, the love Christ displayed so awesomely.
- Their silliness, petty pride, and nit-picky dealings of ego against ego that proved a lack of sobriety in their souls.
- Their spirit of expediency in their approach to ministry.
- Their spiritual cowardice, denials and hypocrisy.
- Their fears, anxieties and deeply-rooted weaknesses.
- Their hunger for purity, strength and moral earnestness.
- Their need for vision, hope, confidence and simple faith.
- Their desire to be free of discouragement and indifference.
- Their absence of power, authority, purpose and direction.
- Their burning passion to sense the presence of Christ again.
- Their need for God’s approval rather than for man’s.
I also suspect that over the ten day span, they waited and prayed, their prayer partnership went from coldly uncomfortable and awkward to warm and liberating.
Beloved, could that not take place in the forty-eight presbyteries of the PCA? It could if we wanted it to happen. If we formed partnerships in prayer, it could happen.
But in order for that to happen, we pastors must admit some glaring needs in our lives as shepherds of God’s flocks. First, we must stop the trendy approach to ministry that relies upon Madison Avenue techniques, performance seminars and demographic rearrangements to “build” the church. Businessmen do not need to tell us how to grow the church. Our Bibles tell us that preaching, prayer, spiritual power in ministry, purity of leadership, perseverance by pastors and the presence of Christ in the Body are what grows Christ’s church.
Second, the local congregation of the PCA can be no healthier nor holier than the fellowship at presbytery. If our people are aloof, apathetic, indolent, arrogant, materialistic, competitive, routinely bored and lacking both zeal and love, it is because they are taught that by their elders who bring presbytery home with them.
Third, we must stop seeing our presbyteries as merely administrative units and begin to see them as gatherings of the fellowship of brethren in need of encouragement, support, tenderness and acceptance. If we want to put a stop to people “falling through the cracks” in church, we’ve got to first seal up the gaping chasms of presbytery.
Finally, we must “prove to be examples to those who believe” by modeling what does not come easily, but what is essential to revival: transparency, confession of sin, admission of one’s needs and weaknesses, brokenness, a contrite heart and a lowly spirit. Some will no doubt say, “Dream on!” Others will shrug it off out of opposition and fear. A few might sigh, “Boy, if it could only be that way!” The spirit of discouragement, superficiality, isolation and distrust runs to the marrow of the church.
But I respond: All the more reason to purpose to be partners in prayer! Jesus said: “This kind (of spirit) cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).We must agree; we must begin partnership in prayer. So I urge the PCA, beginning with the ministers, to join me in 1990 and in this new decade to prepare for revival and reformation. Begin by prayer. Be prayer partners with me and others for the sake of Christ and His PCA. As we pray together we’ll gam confidence through partnership in prayer. May the world notice our confidence in Christ as they did in the Apostle’s lives: ” …they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13) -partners with Christ; a partnership in prayer.