I’m a middle-aged white man born in Mississippi, raised down South, and living in Greater Philadelphia (the one in Pennsylvania, not Mississippi) for twenty four years. Unfortunately, the racial tension I observe is higher now than at any time in my adult life. Fortunately, I have the amazing privilege of being the pastor of a very multi-ethnic church. Such a church gives me a perspective on race that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Only by the grace of God, I haven’t had the “liberty” for the last twenty years to develop my thinking in line with a monocultural view.
Recently our church had a Sunday devoted to “hot-button” issues. People in the congregation could text their questions anonymously and I would answer as many as I could get to. After the services, the most feedback I received by far was regarding my response to questions on Black Lives Matter. Here are my thoughts:
I remember as a kid watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which a dog catches a train. For some reason that image has stuck with me, and occasionally it comes to mind when I think about chasing after big goals and dreams. I can still see that dog, hanging on to the front of a train, exclaiming, “I caught a train.” Maybe the dog didn’t so much catch the train as the train caught or whacked the dog. A great spiritual revival can be a little bit like that.
We chase after a move of God and when it happens, it’s a lot like being hit by a train! It’s not something that we catch as much as the move of God catches us. And when it hits us, it can really give us a big wallop. We can’t carry or control a genuine revival. We can’t make it happen just like we want it to happen. And not every aspect of revival is going to be pleasant. It’s a lot of work and a lot of disruption to our lives. Some people who have led in previous revival movements know what I’m talking about. Some may even question whether they want to go through all that again, wondering if it’s really worth it. Well, it is worth it.
Every four years, it seems that a lot of American evangelicals get really serious about prayer. Many who don’t pay too much attention to prayer efforts in other years start paying attention during presidential election years. I would like to suggest that an urge to pray just during election cycles is not a result of faith in God. It’s really the opposite of faith in God.
The motive behind the newfound attention to prayer in an election cycle appears to be a desire to get the “right” politician into office. That is not an expression of real faith in God. It’s faith in a political leader! It’s almost as though we’re telling God, “Just help us get the right person in the White House and we’ll handle it on our own after that.”
Why on earth would I ever say that maybe we should stop praying for revival?
Last night I heard a powerful message by Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong Church New York City. It was a moving biblical sermon on the importance of making spiritual progress as followers of Jesus. People left encouraged, but also challenged to stop making excuses for our failures to be and do all God has planned for us.
While I fully agree with the main thrust of the message, I want to nitpick a little bit, realizing that my differences are very minor. (It’s important to learn how to listen to a sermon and still hear what God is saying, even when you don’t agree one hundred percent.) The statements I want to address were something like this: “Stop praying for revival to come down from heaven,” and, “You don’t have to pray for boldness; you got boldness 2,000 years ago!” Those aren’t exact quotes, but they’re pretty close.