Revival – real revival is always costly. I think of Covington, Indiana. When we began the meetings, little did we know what God had in mind (of course, we never do). During the first days, the revivalist’ wife miscarried their next child. That was hard to go through.
When the meetings began, just a few days into the week, there came a huge snowstorm which so blanketed the area, that it became “against the law” to drive anywhere in the city (‘stay off the roads’ was the message). The blessing hidden in this was that the church happened to have a radio station broadcasting right out of their facilities – a Moody affiliate. When it became impossible to have the regular services – as we prayed, it was determined to take the meetings to the airwaves – so we did. There was a small room in the broadcast area, which we set up for services, we asked the people in town who could walk to the church to come on and we would hold services in that room – we had the team sing, and we continued our services of teaching Family Revival principles and Personal Revival principles, set up a Prayer Room and continued on, watching God work. Only now, it was not just for First Baptist Church, it was going out to the entire station coverage area! Once the snow was cleared, it was determined that we should continue the services on the radio, because so many people were listening in and obeying the Lord. When the services were moved back to the main sanctuary, there were many attending who did not even normally attend that church. The Spirit of God used this to impact within a 30 mile radius of the church, extending at least over into Danville, Il.
People began obeying the Lord – sin was confessed and repented of, marriages were being restored, one lawyer went ‘on the air’ saying he had been making a living off of peoples tragedy in divorce cases and under the conviction of God he would no longer take divorce cases – but would do all he could to salvage troubled marriages. A former chairman of the deacons testified that he had stood by during a tragic split which had occured in the church five years before and watched people leave ‘in mass,’ and his response had been ‘good riddance’ we are better off without them – he was convicted he had done nothing to stop the split – he had not been a ‘peacemaker’ – that is, one helping others make peace with God.
A man invited me one day to go with him to work out at the YMCA in Danville, when we finished our workout, as I was finishing up in the locker room, I noticed across the room a man looking curiously at me – he opened the conversation saying, ‘I don’t recognize you, are you new to the area?’ I explained I was part of a revival team holding services in Covington – 30 miles away. He had been listening to the services – when I mentioned that, he began to cry and said, “I thought so … I just knew it … I need your help!” Long story short – he was deeply under conviction about an adulterous relationship he had been involved in for 14 years! Not only that – he was a pastor! I walked through that process with him over the next few weeks as God put his marriage back together & gave he and his wife a new marriage. In the process of those weeks, he also came to realize he had never been saved – A Pastor! Trained in seminary, working in ministry … and lost. He was gloriously saved and God gave a new beginning to his life.
The strange thing in the meetings was that the more people testified of being freed up by God from their sin and bitterness and unforgiveness, etc., it seemed that the pastor of the church became more uneasy. Somehow, with all this ‘junk’ being confessed and repented of, he took it personal – as if it were a reflection of his ministry being ‘a failure’ – his pride was being confronted, and God was tryiing to bring him to the cross. The ‘free-er’ the people became – the more bound up he became. One Sunday afternoon, while at home, he called his Head deacon and said, “if the church is in this bad a shape, my ministry is a complete failure and I want to offer you my resignation!’ The deacon knew his pastor, just like all the rest of us, was struggling with “coming to the cross, humbling himself through brokeness and obedience, and acknowledging his own need.” The deacon merely responded – “pastor, if you believe that is what God wants, then I will meet you later at the church and accept your resignation.” This is not what the pastor expected – he fully expected the deacon to try to talk him out of it, and tell him what a great pastor he was, etc.. When the pastor got off the phone, by his own testimony later on, he went into a angry rage in the privacy of his own home – again, his pride being crushed and eventually, when he saw it, he fell on his face in his dining room, weeping like a baby under the weight of his own stubborn, prideful heart – crying out to God. His wife witnessing what had just happened, came into the room where he was laying on the floor, just fell right over his body, and began to pray for her husband – asking God to break him and reveal to him what was really going on in his heart and set him free! This happened and when that pastor stood before his people that evening in the service … he was a free man – his countenance was different – instead of reacting negatively to the ‘broken – new found freedom testimonies,’ he could finally enter in and rejoice in what God was doing in peoples lives.
On the third Sunday morning when the Chairman of the Deacons testified about his bitterness, he asked the people to forgive him and then stated that on Monday evening, he was going over to the new church (started by the split) and stand before those people and seek their forgiveness. (That church ‘just happened’ to have revival meetings of their own going on at the time!) We then asked if anyone else needed to join him on that venture – to our amazement over 80 people said they needed to be a part of that reconcilation meeting. What had been happening inside this church was now about to begin impacting the entire community! One deacon in this small town, after that reconciliation meeting confessed that “he had not driven on a particular street in that town for five years because Deacon ‘so & so’ lived on that street, and he had been one of the folks who had left the church during the split – so he would never drive again on that street because of the bitterness he felt in his heart toward that man.” When God set him free from that bitterness and his relationship with that man was restored, he said, “Yesterday I got in my car, and for three hours … all I did was drive up and down that street – rejoicing and praising God for freeing me up from my bitterness!”
Oh the joy of a people set free by God! There is nothing more powerful than God’s people walking on in obedience. God’s people walking in revival opens the door to share the gospel in a whole new way, with power and a clear conscience. Lost people in the community listen with ‘new ears’ because NO LONGER are the lives of professing believers standing in the way of their coming to Christ for salvation. The question then, which we all must ponder is … am I a catalyst for revival or a hindrance to it coming? Oh, may God’s power be unleashed in a free, broken, surrendered, holy people!