In keeping with my desire to talk less and listen more in 2018, I’m going to share what’s on my heart in two parts, part one this week and part two next week.
It was May of 1997, and I was the guest speaker for the annual NDP (National Day of Prayer) Prayer Breakfast for Summit County, which took place at Northampton United Methodist Church in their fellowship center. Pastor Tim Olson, the Chair of this leaders’ prayer breakfast, asked me at the last minute to fill in for a national speaker who was scheduled to speak at the event but had to cancel at the last minute. You can imagine the disappointment people must have felt when they discovered that it was Mark Ford and not “the rock star” they had looked forward to hearing.
I began my comments by stating the obvious, that I was very humbled to be asked to “pinch hit” but also felt a little awkward, sharing their disappointment upon discovering the anticipated speaker was not able to come. I asked for their forbearance and prayers as I shared a message God had placed on my heart for that occasion, which I had titled “Roadblocks to Revival.”
I began by stating I felt God had recently been challenging me personally with four specific questions, questions I wanted to share with them to consider as well.
Question One: “What personal or professional sacrifice am I willing to make to see revival come to my own heart, my family, the local Church, to Summit County, the nation, and the world?” In other words, what am I willing to pick up or let go of in my own personal priorities and plans to adjust my life in order to see the healing of our land?
Question Two: “If revival was to come to my city what would it look like?” I talked about how the word revival creates images in all of our minds based on our educational or experiential or denominational background. Historically people relate to revivals recorded in the days of John Wesley, George Whitefield, Martin Luther, or Evan Roberts. But, what if God wanted to do something new and different in our day? Are we open to something fresh yet unfamiliar?
Using the word REVIVAL in an acrostic, I briefly shared what I felt some of the components of revival would entail from the Book of Acts.
Repentance is always the starting place (Acts 2:38)
Evangelism of all cultures (Acts 1:8, 2:5-11)
Vision that isn’t mystical or an “out of body” experience but the carrying out of the heart of God (Acts 10:34-35, 44-45)
Intercession or prayer (Acts 1:14, 2:1-4)
Visible manifestation of the supernatural where lives are changed body, soul, and spirit (Acts 3)
Alignment of the Church as one body (Acts 2:4-32-37)
Love for Jesus and one another (Acts 4:32-37)
Question three: “If revival was to come to our city, what would I or we do with the influx of new converts?” Just using simple math, if Summit County has 500 churches and 100,000 people came to Christ, that would be an increase of 200 people per church. Are we prepared as “the Church” for that kind of harvest and should we expect God to place 200 new baby Christians in our care if we are not?
Question four (the last and most critical question): “Is it possible that I and others like me are actually standing in the way of revival; not the ACLU, not the liberal press, not some political group…but ME?”
I continued, “It is to this question that I want to direct the rest of my comments, and it fits under the R of REVIVAL called REPENTANCE.” For the rest of my message I shared two areas I wanted to confess, where I needed to repent. In one area I was seeking God’s forgiveness and in the other I needed God’s forgiveness but also their forgiveness as well. Next week I’ll share with you those two areas that I shared that morning, as I confessed my sinfulness with a broken heart.
I want to leave you with a challenge. Would you be willing to take time this week to consider the four questions God posed to me and which I shared with those who attended that event? It’s my deep conviction that if we are to experience a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit as was promised by the prophet Joel in the last days, we must rediscover God’s requirements for positioning ourselves for that divine visitation.
I’ll share the rest of the story next week, but for now I’ll give you a hint of what is to come by sharing the prayer I read at the end of my message after pouring out my heart that morning.
Dear Lord, I know my sin of arrogance and prayerlessness is not all of the wretchedness of my heart. But, at least it is a start. I confess to you I have been building MY little church and not loving or serving with YOUR Church as I ought. Like people of Haggai’s day, I have built my own house, but I’ve allowed YOUR house to fall in disrepair because I have ignored the other members of YOUR Church. Forgive me for not fulfilling John 17 because of my own small mindedness and small heartedness. I have sinned against you and my brothers and sisters, O Lord. Lord, YOU know I’m busy or I would pray more. Somehow I get the feeling you are not impressed. Forgive me for my arrogance. Please Lord, continue to reveal the wickedness of my own heart. AMEN.