Archive for June, 2007

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How Revival Spreads

June 20, 2007

First, let me recommend the most accessible and inspiring book on revivals I have ever read (and I have read plenty). It is not the most extensive or scholarly, but after just an hour reading it, you will want revival to come to your town, wherever that may be. And isn’t that the point? The book is called “Revival Fire” by Wesley Duewel. I have lent my copy out so many times that I only buy used copies now (it is cheaper that way). BTW…I always buy my used books from www.abebooks.com. The “abe” part stands for Associated Booksellers Enterprise and represents thousands of used book store inventories in this country, Canada and Britain. You can almost always find a used copy of any book there.

This book gives pretty clear indications of how revivals spread. In an entire section on the revivals around the world in 1858-1860, the author gives this account from Ireland. Just as an aside, he estimates that a quarter of the nation at that time became converted to Christianity during a one-year period of revival. Here is Mr. Duewel’s account of how it happened in the small town of Derry (Note: Connor is a larger town about 30 miles from Derry):

“How did this Derry awakening begin? Four young men, converts from Connor gave their testimony in a crowded service in the First Presbyterian Church. Several thousand were present. Suddenly a number of people began to call out to God for mercy.

That night many of the people could not sleep. Some wept in their homes for hours. Others cursed and swore in anger. Monday night again there was a united service in the First Presbyterian Church. The building was overcrowded, but the ministers spoke calmly. “The meeting felt still as a grave; the stillness was fearful. Those who were present will never forget it. At length the silence was broken by unearthly cries, uttered simultaneously by several in different parts of the church.” In a few minutes the vestry was filled with people “who lay in mental agony and absolute bodily prostration.”

Here is one account from among hundreds in that service. A well-educated merchant of high morality suddenly saw hell opened before his eyes, and an irresistable power seemed to force him headlong into it. He looked around and said to himself, “I know where I am . This is the church where I usually worship. I am under a delusion.” But as he looked down, there was hell!

He arose from his seat and seized the back of the pew in front of him. The smoke from hell seemed to rise in his face. He suddered and his heart cried out, “My sins! My sins! I am lost!” He staggered out of the building and went home “Had anyone asked me, where are you going? I would have answered, in calm despair, I am going to hell”.

Upon reaching his room, for several hours he called out to God for mercy. Then God’s promises came to his mind. He joyously seized them, and a “heavenly radiance” spread over his soul. He arose a Christian. he raced out into the night across town and knocked on his business partner’s door. When the door opened, he called out, “I have have found Christ and I have come to tell you”. They prayed together, and three days later his partner was converted.

Another Episcopal minister reported that of the five thousand people in his parish there was scarecely a family in which one or more members had not been converted during the weeks this revival burned on.

The evidence from the Bible is also the same. Whenever someone who had been part of revivals burning went somewhere else, the revival came to that place as well. Philip went down to Samaria and revival burned. John and Peter came down there and many were filled with the Spirit. Revivals all tend to have this flavor. Reading another account online yesterday, I found that the Saskatoon/Winnipeg Revival of 1971 (the revival that brought salvation to me), had the same flavor. Here is a portion of that account from Sherwood Wirt:

Some of my pastor friends in the Twin Cities knew I had visited the Winnipeg revival, and were curious to learn what I heard and saw. They expressed to me an interest in bringing some of the people involved in it to speak in their churches. A month later two laypeople who had been touched, a bridge engineer and his wife, flew down for a weekend. I made the arrangements, and on Sunday, January 9, Harry and Evelyn Thiessen spoke in four Minnesota churches, often in tears. Their testimony was received with warmth and amazement.

That night after the last service, we arranged an afterglow in the basement of one Minneapolis church, similar to the one I had visited in Winnipeg. Perhaps 25 people stayed for it. It started out as one of those dreadful gatherings a prayer meeting in which no one wants to pray. I felt responsible for the disappointment since I had invited our Canadian friends, and so decided to “prime the pump” by asking for prayer for myself. The Thiessens invited me to kneel at a chair in the middle of the room, and some people gathered around, laid hands on me, and prayed for me. Then I was told to pray.

What I didn’t expect was that God would turn on the spigot. Once started, I did what I had never intended to do spilled out my disappointment with life and my bitterness toward people who had contributed to my discontent.

Four or five days after Evelyn Thiessen had uttered those words “And how!” at the afterglow I was sitting quietly in a living room chair at home when I suddenly realized to my astonishment that I had no more animosity toward anyone. It was absolutely incredible. Pascal’s famous description of his own experience of rapture came to me: “Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy

Two laymen friends had also asked for prayer that Sunday night and had hands laid on them. They too had been revived, and when I telephoned them they enthusiastically echoed my feelings. On the next Sunday evening I had a preaching engagement in Duluth, 160 miles away, and they agreed to accompany me through the snow. What a magnificent journey of joy! We couldn’t stop talking! The evening at the church was equally enthusiastic, and people responded; at the end they asked for an “afterglow.” A week later we were back.

The Holy Spirit was at work. The dark night was over. The joybells have never stopped ringing. I have seen and taken part in revival “afterglows” in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, California, Texas, Mississippi, Arizona, Alaska well, God knows; I have forgotten, but the blessings go on.

We had the same experience in Montana when revival hit Riverside Church where I was leading. A group of leaders went up to British Columbia to a meeting where some people from a church going through revival in Ontario were speaking. At that meeting, there was an incredible sense of God’s presence, conviction of sin, healing, forgiveness, and power unspeakable. They came back to the church and invited people to their homes that next week to give testimony to what happened. I was one of those who came (because I was at a business conference while they were in B.C.) and I was filled with God, with conviction of sin and then with inexpressible joy.

This spread rapidly to the whole church and then to some other churches. A few weeks later, I was leading worship at a youth camp and God did the same thing there: Conviction of sin, repentance, great sorrow and then joy, miracles and changed lives. The speaker that week was from San Francisco. His daughter was mightily touched by God that week at camp. When they went back home to San Francisco, he asked his daughter to share what she had experienced at camp during an evening service. His 14-year old daughter explained what Holy Spirit had done for her and as she did, many people began to weep and mourn over their sin. Revival came that night to that church.

In years since, I have heard literally hundreds of situations where people came to Riverside, experienced revival in their souls, went home to their church and brought revival with them. That is how God works. He works in people that he has filled to bring his presence and yearning to another group of people. It is like a revival virus. That is always how it spreads.

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Update on Inaccuracy of Pastoral Divorce Statistics

June 19, 2007

Officially, this will be my last word on this subject. I have continued to research and seek out the sources for this misinformation on pastoral divorces. Go to the earlier blog entry for background. I contacted one website that claimed to have the source. I am surprised that I received a note from the author of the article himself. I had asked him for his source, which he claimed was “Focus on the Family”. Here is his response in the email:

Mike –

Sorry, but I don’t have source information. All the statistics I quote came to me via an e-mail from Bill Bright. I accepted them, because of where I got them, but do not know the source information. Sorry I don’t have more, but if you find out otherwise, please let me know.

I will leave aside for a second that he had claimed to have the information from Focus on the Family in the article and go to the heart of the matter. He does not know the source. Yet, he claims the information as fact in his article. As I reported, this article is one of many that have sprung up like weeds in the past two months claiming that half of all pastoral marriages end in divorce. I contacted Bill Bright’s website, but they could not verify that the information was correct. They do not know where they got it from, though they also claimed it came from Focus on the Family.

Preachers and teachers employ a science called “rhetoric” when we try to influence thought. But rhetoric has rules and as such, it stands or falls on those rules. An argument is only as strong as its adherence to those rules. One rule of rhetoric is that the presenter is more effective if they stay relatively dispassionate. Truth comes out better if the emotion of the presenter is not more powerful than the Truth they are presenting. This was exemplified in the Presidential Primaries three years ago when Howard Dean went off on an emotional tirade about his chances in the upcoming states primaries. It is largely believed that he ruined his chances for the nomination because of his emotional outburst.

In our situation, the rule of rhetoric broken is the rule that the facts need to be true, or they need to be understood as unprovable. For instance, in presenting an argument, we don’t need to prove the statement “Men are attracted to women” in order to use it. Most people will accept that datum without question. But if you say “John Deere tractors are unsafe”, you had better be quick with the statistics that prove this, or your opinion is a lost cause in terms of rhetoric.

When Driscoll et al do not have credible sources for their argument that half of all pastoral marriages end in divorce, it ruins the rest of their presentation. They were seeking to convince a group of pastors that the pastoral marriage is in trouble. The only thing that using an unverified (and probably false) set of statistics accomplishes, is it nullifies everything else said in the rhetorical argument.

Billy Graham never did this. He employed two people who constantly fact-checked his sermons. He realized that his credibility had to extend way beyond today’s crusade: it had to stand the scrutiny of friends and enemies alike. Learn this lesson friends: If you seek to convince someone that your argument is valid and helpful, make sure you have all your facts correct. To lose even one key fact loses the argument, and maybe even a soul in trouble.

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I Found Out Our Destination

June 12, 2007



Well, my crafty wife never let on at all where we were going until we got on the second leg of our journey in Atlanta. I looked up and saw the sign at the gate: Nashville! Not only that, but she used our frequent flier miles to get us an upgrade to First Class. It was a delight to fly and a delight to be on this trip with her.

The first picture is of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. They had a mind-blowing display of American Watercolorists, covering all the art periods from the 1700s to the 1980s. I especially liked the pre-Rafaelite artists.

The second picture is looking down the center of Nashville’s music street. This is where so many of the restaurants and bars have Country-Western and Bluegrass music playing as you walk down. What a trip!

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