I think the one thing that I prayed for most often during the three decades of my pastoral ministry was revival in the church I pastored. I remember praying at first for a return to something, although I wasn't exactly sure what — just something that once was, a happening, a spirit, a feeling. Eventually, I realized that what I was praying for was not really a revival or return, but a new vitality and commitment to God and His will on the part of the people I pastored. Not something old — but something new.
Oswald Chambers writes:
As I prayed about ways to lead my people "out of the past" and into the newness of God's greater blessing, I was struck by the realization that what they experienced was secondary to what I needed to experience. My first priority for spiritual renewal needed to be with myself — a rebirth of my own vitality and commitment. It was a wonderful discovery.
To be honest, I have great concern about the church in America today. In my travel and contact with pastors, denominational leaders and concerned laymen, I have observed a spiritual drought in our land. We pray, but we do not change. We tend to "fight the fight" or go through the prescribed motions rather than pay the price by actually initiating the deep change within ourselves necessary for spiritual renewal.
To some degree, this is true because praying is only one part of the equation for spiritual renewal and a rebirth of spiritual vitality in the church. According to Chronicles 7:14, humility and repentance must also be present. Someone has written regarding true repentance:
As pastors and change agents in the church Jesus Christ, might it be that we should begin with a look inside of our own lives? It just might be that spiritual renewal in the Body will begin when we, its leadership, freshly examine our own priorities, motivations, relationships, attitudes, ambitions and call from God.
I believe God hears our fervent cries for revival in the land, but I also believe that answered prayer comes as a result of obedience to the will of God. Disobedience brings judgment — obedience brings great blessing. As leaders, are we settling the proper example of personal obedience?
In our Pastoral Ministries department at Focus on the Family, our mandate is to facilitate spiritual restoration and renewal in the lives of your pastors and your families. We want to "come alongside" you. We want to encourage and support you. But to do so effectively, we need to hear from you. Write on! Share your concerns and burdens for the church of Jesus Christ, for your own church. How can we pray for you as you strive for personal renewal?
I realize it is impossible to deal with a subject as complex as the rebirth of the church in a few words. But I am certain of one thing — the ingredients of that rebirth are couched in three words from Scripture: humility, prayer and repentance.
Lord, I pray that spiritual renewal might begin in me.
Most of us wander through life without much of a vision. Most of us spend our lives seeking our place in the world, in history, in God's plan. Sometimes, we lack a vision because we are too contented with where we are and what we are about.
Have pastors today compromised the gospel and their callings to avoid hardship, criticism and involvement? Are they too comfortable in their isolated offices to mingle with their beloved as did the Great Shepherd?
More than 100,000 churches in the United States have 50 attendees or less. That means that the average church will have fewer than 100 worshippers this Sunday. The survival of a church will be ensured by its health, not its size.