AUDIO A Battle Cry for a Dead Church

 March 26, 2021  by Shane Idleman

Note: Although this article is mainly directed toward leaders, we all need to hear what is being said. My hope is that you would share this with Christian leaders in your sphere of influence.

It is time to sound the battle cry for a dead church. As I recently stated, America’s stage-four cancer is progressing at an alarming rate (you can read the prognosis here). The warning is dire, and the outcome looks hopeless. The signs of impending death are most evident in our pulpits and our pews:

  • weakness and exhaustion from not obeying God’s Word.
  • spiritually asleep, often spending most of the day consuming social media, Netflix, or the latest popular TV show.
  • the loss of spiritual disciplines: Fasting is old-school, prayer is passé, church is outdated, and holiness is weird.
  • minimal or no appetite for God; difficulty eating or swallowing absolute truth.

But be encouraged—God can heal our land, as well as our families and our churches, if we prepare the soil of our hearts. God heals and restores those who are “contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).

HEALING IS COSTLY

As with most things, there is a price to pay; there is a cost, and this cost often begins in the pulpit. Pastor, it may cost you popularity, status, and recognition. Prophetic voices are rarely popular, but they are powerful. God uses them to awaken a dead church.

A quote often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville helps to clarify my point. Even if you’d heard it before, you may need to hear it again. In short, de Tocqueville looked throughout America to find where her greatness originated—from her harbors and shorelines to her fertile fields and gold mines—but it was not there. In his words, “It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” The pulpit greatly affects the pew and regulates the spiritual climate of our nation. It’s where the battle cry must begin.

SUGAR-COATED PREACHING ISN’T HEALTHY

I so appreciate pastors. For those who are truly called, it’s one of the hardest labors  that man has never known. They carry the weight of the world on their shoulders as well as the burden of the Lord in their hearts. However, like addicts on a sugar binge, we have satisfied our carnal nature with candy-coated preaching, and we are paying the price with poor spiritual health. As with diabetes, the symptoms are clear: extreme hunger for the wrong things, unexplained spiritual weight loss, lethargy in seeking God, and blurred vision when it comes to biblical truth.

You may have a big church, but Hollywood also has a big audience. You may have tremendous growth, but false religions are also growing exponentially. You may have a huge budget, but the wicked also prosper. Growth can be good and God-given, but it’s not the main indicator of spiritual health. It can also be a warning sign that there is cancer in the body.

How are you gauging spiritual success? Is prayer an absolute passion and worship a must? Is there a desire to fast and starve the fleshly appetites that have you in bondage? We must begin with self-examination. Personal revival begins when we stop “doing” and “trying” and turn completely to Christ, admitting that we cannot do it in our own strength. Without Him we can do nothing (cf. John 15).

AVOID TRAVESTY BY FINDING THE BALANCE

The pulpits must be aflame with righteousness again, and leaders must be filled boldly with the Spirit if we are to awaken the spiritually dead. Let me illustrate this with a story from David Ravenhill’s book, Surviving the Anointing:

Duncan Campbell, a key figure in the New Hebrides revival, had a dream where a large crowd gathered to hear the preaching of the Word. As he got closer, he could hear the Word of God being proclaimed, but he didn’t recognize the preacher. After a while it dawned on him that this was no ordinary preacher; this was the Devil. Finally the crowd dispersed, and in his dream he went up to the Devil and said, “You’re the Devil, aren’t you?” “Yes I am,” he replied.

Duncan Campbell then asked, “Why are you preaching the gospel? Why are you preaching the Word of God?” And the Devil responded, saying, “Duncan Campbell, don’t you know that the greatest weapon I have is the preaching of the Word of God without the anointing of the Spirit? You see, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The truth is that many are not filled with the boldness of the Spirit but rather with cowardliness and complacency. Ironically, the more time we spend with God, the bolder we become.

Pastors, we need uplifting messages from time to time, but if you’re not balancing hope and encouragement with warnings and calls to repentance, you are committing the greatest travesty known to man: leading people straight to their graves without telling them of their need to turn from their sins.

REPENT OR CHANGE YOUR TITLE

Where are the Isaiahs calling the nation to repentance? “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1). Even Jesus said to go and preach repentance (Luke 13:3-5).

If you’re not doing this consistently, you are not a pastor, watchman, or a steward of the Word of God—you are a motivational speaker. Either repent, or change your title. I don’t say that flippantly or judgmentally, but it needs to be said. If we are to be awakened from our spiritual slumber, America needs to hear the voice crying in the wilderness.

My hope is that the Lord will spark another awakening  in the pulpit as well as the pew that results in deep repentance, sincere humility, full surrender, and passionate, effective prayer. These are the true signs of spiritual health.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

How many more mass shootings, teen suicides, and broken families will it take? How much more deaths by addiction and perverted legislation will we endure? Dire times call for dire measures! God says that if you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him. Partial obedience doesn’t accomplish anything (see Jeremiah 29:13). Whenever I read old biographies from John Bunyan, John Wesley, David Brainerd, George Whitefield, Duncan Campbell, and the like, I think often of that verse. (short clip here).

I was recently captivated by this account from Wesley:  “At about three in the morning, as we were continuing in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy.” Yes, you heard that correctly—3 a.m. They were desperate to experience God. Are you?

Duncan Campbell also writes about a time when they fasted and prayed in an old barn until well past midnight and the Spirit of God fell in such a profound way that an enormous spiritual awakening occurred and the town was set ablaze with the fire of God. It’s not the time of day that ushers in a mighty awakening, it’s the priority of seeking God. Sadly, people are so sick spiritually that they won’t attend a prayer meeting even at a convenient time of day. We must awaken from our death-like slumber.

Join me in praying this today: Oh God, our cry is that you would come down again and rip the heavens open so that even the mountains tremble in Your presence (Isaiah 64:1)! And let it start in me.

https://shaneidleman.com/2021/03/26/a-battle-cry-for-a-dead-church/

AUDIO Why Revival is America’s Only Hope!

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 March 22, 2021  by Shane Idleman

The results are in: America’s stage four cancer has metastasized to the family and the church as well as to the government and the schools. We are more depraved than ever before. Animals are guarded but innocent children are slaughtered. Porn is protected and sex-trafficking is on the rise. Cardi B’s lyrics get a pass but Scriptures are banned on social media.

Words cannot express this outright lunacy. Like the bungee jumper who plunged to her death because she thought she heard “now jump,” when, in reality, her instructor said, “No jump!” America thinks that she is hearing from God, but she is not. We are drowning in a cesspool of moral filth: “The wicked freely parade and prance about while evil is praised throughout the land” (Psalm 12:8).

Recently, a father was arrested for referring to his biological 14-year-old daughter as “she” after she transitioned to a male gender (more here). “But that’s in Canada,” you say. Trust me, we are not far behind. Most on the liberal left would have no problem imprisoning anyone who disagreed with them, and that’s exactly where the Equality Act is going—unless you accept, rejoice in, and validate sin they are coming after you. Revival is our only hope. 

THERE IS ONLY ONE REMEDY

We see throughout the Bible that there is only one remedy—one solution—one cure to reverse the judgment of God: Revival. During times of crisis, the cure for judgment was to return back to God: “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord” (Joel 1:14).

Revival changes a nation from the inside out. Benjamin Franklin, commenting on George Whitefield’s preaching, said this about the revival sweeping the land, “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious.” Revival must begin in the pulpits as well as the pews.

“The greatest tragedy is a sick church in a dying world” Leonard Ravenhill

WHAT REVIVAL IS AND IS NOT

Revival is not adding more church services to the calendar. Revival is not having a guest speaker host an event. And revival most certainly is not acting weird and loud. Revival is a sovereign act of God: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).

In the same way that we cannot produce a bumper crop by making it rain, revival cannot be planned, organized, or scheduled, but you can till the soil of your heart: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

Revival is when we till the soil through brokenness, humility, and surrender via fasting and prayer. God responds by rending the heavens with a downpour: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you” (Isaiah 64:1)!

REVIVAL HAS A COST

The cold hard truth is that many are not willing to pay the price. Gone are the days of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards who would fast and pray as if America’s future depended upon it (because it did and still does). It’s no surprise that Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, was preached at the tail end of his three-day fast. Today that title would be labeled offensive and many pastors would be too ashamed to preach it—too ashamed because they lack the fire of the Spirit.

Gone are the days of David Brainard who spent nights in agonizing prayer, as well as “praying” John Hyde, William Bramwell, and countless others who prayed fervently for our nation. Instead of carrying the baton and running the race, we are captivated by American Idol, love our porn, and over-indulge. King Stomach is clearly on the throne.

“It’s too hard to fast,” we say. The problem isn’t fasting; it’s addiction. We can’t fast because we’re withdrawing from our favorite addictions: coffee, sugar, alcohol, processed food, and so on. Let that sink in. And we wonder why we aren’t experiencing a massive move of God in our nation. We abort revival before it’s even been conceived.

When revivals spread across our landscape, Christians spent countless hours praying and fasting. They paid the price! When pastors stood at the pulpit they preached boldly about the cross, sin, judgment, and repentance. They could say, “Thus saith the Lord,” because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, not Hollywood. They didn’t work revival up, God brought it down because His Word was honored.

PROPHETS CAN’T BE POPULAR

Today, most pastors want to be popular and most Christians want their ears tickled. If you doubt this, just look at the top sermons on social media today and their attire. The messages are soothing rather than convicting. As in Israel’s day, the people still say, “You must not prophesy to us what is right! Speak to us pleasant things and smooth words, prophesy [deceitful] illusions [that we will enjoy]” (Isaiah 30:10 AMP).

Granted, we need to hear uplifting messages, but we have a huge problem when pastors don’t want to ruffle feathers and Christians don’t want to hear controversial topics. America’s stage four cancer was caused by a bad diet of frivolous preaching. The cure will require a complete diet change back to whole life-giving food from the Word of God.

I don’t say this in arrogance; my heart breaks for the church. This article is more of a plea than a rebuke, but the truth is, “We have too many puppets in our pulpits and not enough prophets” (Leonard Ravenhill). Pastors and Christians must lead the way, but the way won’t be popular and wide, it will be narrow and difficult. We must fast like it matters, pray like we mean it, and seek God as if everything depends upon it, because it does.

YOU DON’T WANT REVIVAL, DO YOU?

Nearly a decade ago, I prayed, “Lord, bring revival to the churches,” but I was not ready for the response that followed. I share the response and the sermon below as often as possible to reach as many people as possible.

After I prayed, it was almost as if God was saying: “You don’t want revival—it will ruin your schedule, your dignity, your image, and your reputation as a person who is ‘well balanced.’ Men will weep throughout the congregation. Women will wail because of the travail of their own souls. Young adults will cry like children at the magnitude of their sin. With the strength of My presence, the worship team will cease playing. Time will seem to stand still. You won’t be able to preach because of the emotions flooding your own soul. You’ll struggle to find words, but only find tears. Even the most dignified and reserved among you will be broken and humbled as little children. The proud and self-righteous will not be able to stand in My presence. The doubter and unbeliever will either run for fear or fall on their knees and worship Me—there can be no middle ground. The church will never be the same again.”

Do you truly want revival? It will cost you. National revival begins with personal revival when we look in the mirror, repent, and turn toward God. He is our only hope. 

https://shaneidleman.com/2021/03/22/why-revival-is-americas-only-hope/