Last week I shared Part 1 of a blog that came right from my heart, which was anchored in a sermon/message I shared with a group of Christian leaders 21 years ago. The place was Northampton United Methodist Church, and the occasion was a prayer breakfast leading up to the Summit County observance of the National Day of Prayer. I was the “pinch hit” speaker, taking the place of a national leader who cancelled at the last moment. The title of my remarks that day was “Roadblocks to Revival.” I stated that REPENTANCE by God’s people is always the starting point if revival is to come. I mentioned there were two areas I needed to confess and repent, and those SINS were prayerlessness and arrogance.
I continued, “God by His Holy Spirit has deeply convicted me about the arrogance and pride in my heart.” Then I shared a statement I had made 13 years prior when I came to Cuyahoga Falls to serve as Senior Pastor of Falls First Assembly. “God has sent ME here to shake a city for Him.” Now for some sitting in the audience that day I’m sure they were disappointed in my confession since they were expecting something a little steamier and more “sinful.” At the time I made the statement those 13 years ago, I felt it was perfectly innocent and sincere and even visionary. God spoke to me later, though, about what this statement implied. In God’s ears and in the ears of others, it was like I was saying, “Now that I’ve arrived, I’m the answer to revival in Cuyahoga Falls. If revival is to come, it will come through ME and MY church.”
God revealed to me that at the root of that statement was pride and professional ambition. But, more than that, I was basically saying, “God and I don’t need the rest of you.” It was at that moment in my message I stopped and asked, “Would you please forgive me for the way I have related to you as fellow clergy and colleagues or the way I haven’t related to you as partners in ministry?” In my arrogance God helped me see that I didn’t even know the names of the pastors in Cuyahoga Falls, where they served, or what their dreams or hurts were. Obviously, I couldn’t pray for their success since I wanted to be the LeBron James of the Christian Church and beat them in the Church game. My ambition blinded me to the other pastors in the city because I was motivated by selfishness and a need for validation.
God exposed my heart, a heart that I didn’t even realize was filled with myself and with a willful ignorance of the other members of the Body. With brokenness I stated, “Brothers and sisters, I am here to say, I DO need you, and I need you desperately! You are the parts of Christ’s Body that complete me. If I am a professional success in the eyes of the world, but do it independently of you, I am a spiritual failure. I am only successful in God’s eyes if we succeed together. I can no longer pastor with a vision for my local church only. I must see myself as partners with the other pastors in the city serving as a Pastoral Team, pastoring the city together with a collective city vision. Today I am asking all of us to unite our hearts together to pray, plan, grow, and go together as ONE Church, reaching Summit County for Christ.”
I chose a very familiar revival text, 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If My people, who are called by My NAME, will humble themselves and pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked way, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.”
I then stated, “Brothers and sisters, when a nation is under judgment and God is placing blame, who does God point to as the culprit, the Church or the culture? The context of this passage is clear; God places the need for repentance upon the Church. The healing of the land comes after God’s people repent and like Isaiah say, ‘Woe is me/we, I dwell among a people of unclean lips.’ We as Christ’s Church must repent of our wicked ways of arrogance, individualism, jealousy, judgementalism, or anything that is exposed by God’s holiness.”
I then shared my second sin, which was prayerlessness, and said I needed to repent for my lack of prayer, which is the height of all arrogance. Prayerlessness suggests that I can go solo without God’s help, and this sin alone surely is holding back revival in my own heart and perhaps in the heart of our nation as well.
I concluded with a story about an incident that occurred in Atlanta at the 1996 Special Olympics. The story goes that 9 runners lined up to run the 100-yard dash. The starting gun signaled to the runners it was time to run, and they were off. During the course of the race, though, one of the athletes tripped and fell and began to cry. A fellow runner stopped, bent down, patted the fallen, and helped him up. At this point all of the runners stopped and joined the one fallen, locked arms, and finished together. They all received medals.
My closing comments were, “Brothers and sisters, there may be some in the audience that have fallen or are ready to fall. May the least of us to the greatest learn from a special group of people with special needs, the wisdom of all of us stopping to help each other up so we may all finish and win together.
I closed with this prayer, which I will also use to close this blog.
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.