Many Christians across our land are bemoaning the state of our nation on many fronts including, of course, our moral and ethical decline, the rise of bigger and bigger government, socialism, class warfare, less than adequate education, and much more. But what might it look like if God actually brought revival to the churches of our nation? Please take the time to read what Rev. Al Baker (he was our mission conference keynote speaker a few years ago) experienced in a recent trip to Uganda. I pray it will stir your heart as it did mine. This will take you less than five minutes to read and well worth the time.
A True Revival Culture
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS volume 13, number 6, February 6, 2014
. . . who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, Hebrews 11:33-34.
Joseph Kony, for over twenty years wrought unparalleled havoc on the people of northern Uganda-specifically in the towns of Gulu, Lira, and Kitcum. Kony, a Roman Catholic, was opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and sought to run him out of office. Outside the town of Gulu are the Gilac Hills which many believe has a rock of supernatural power. Kony supposedly spent several days there, seeking the Lord for power to overcome Museveni. He drank water from the rock and thus believed he was anointed by the Lord to resist Museveni. Following an earlier woman rebel, Alice Lakwena, who told her followers that they were to fight Museveni's army with sticks and stones, and to cover themselves with shea nut oil, so that the bullets would not penetrate them; Kony told his young soldiers to use oil to make a cross on their chests, and this would accomplish the same purpose. The name The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), comes from Kony's belief that the Lord had inspired and empowered him to overcome Museveni. Kony had a very small army and needed to recruit more rebels. So he went into the villages of the north by night, kidnapping young boys (as young as seven years old) and convinced them through fear, intimidation, and drugging them, that they must kill their parents. Many did so and then Kony convinced them that only he could care for them. While bringing death and destruction to thousands, misplacing thousands who spent as long as twenty years in refugee camps, Kony not only murdered but mutilated many-cutting off limbs, lips, and ears. I saw some of those so mutilated on my recent trip to Lira.
Why does God allow such things? On the one hand, Kony and his fellow murderers are completely responsible for their actions. They are no doubt led by the devil. On the other hand, God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. The Lord said, "I am God and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness; causing well being and creating calamity. I am the Lord who does all these things," (Isaiah 45:6-7). The prophet Amos said something similar, "If a trumpet is blown in the city, do not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in the city, has not the Lord done it?" (Amos 3:6). After all is said and done, God allows, even ordains all things, even the wicked for a day of calamity in order to drive His people to Himself.
I speak and write repeatedly on the topic of revival and I am always urging people to seek God for it. Many times I am asked, "Okay, we need revival, but what does it look like?" Here's what it looks like-I was invited to preach in Lira, Uganda at the annual conference of Lango Diocese of the Church of Uganda. This meeting regularly has over fifty thousand people in attendance. They come by foot, walking as many as fifty kilometers. They come by public transportation and bicycle. They sleep on the grounds at night. This goes on for three days, beginning at 6 a.m. with communion and ends at midnight with prayer, preaching, and worshipping the Lord in song. The people love to hear the preaching of God's word.
While the East African revival has been going on for over fifty years, things have really heated up in the last several years in Lira, Gulu, and Kitcum. Why? The people have suffered terribly. They have had loved ones murdered and mutilated. They have lost everything. They have been forced to depend on the Lord alone. These problems have driven them to Christ as their only refuge. These meetings are held in mid January because the schools are not in session because of the holidays, so people are more free to attend such meetings. And some of the people are small farmers and have some freedom in their schedules. Others are unemployed or severely under employed. No doubt all of these issues make attending these three days of meetings more feasible. Having said that, however, there is no denying a remarkable hunger for the word of God. When those of us preaching made a point that particularly resonated with the people they would cheer and blow air horns, what you might hear at a sporting event. Indeed, the atmosphere is one of celebration, and it all centers around the word of God.
You see, in a revival culture the people love to hear the word of God preached. There were at least eight sermons everyday, each one an hour in length. The people cannot get enough preaching. And this revival culture is making a societal impact on the country. I am told that well over ninety-five percent of the people are in favor of the anti-homosexual legislation that was passed in late December by the Ugandan Parliament. Uganda has a growing, stable economy and with it a growing middle class. To be sure the vast majority of the people are still poor, but undeniable economic progress is being made. The nice suburbs and shopping malls around Kampala bear witness to their progress.
Now compare the western world with Uganda's revival culture. We have totally caved to the homosexual agenda, even so-called evangelicals are back peddling on the issue. Most preachers only preach one sermon per week. Most would love to preach more but their people will not hear of it. Sermons are becoming shorter and shorter because church people don't have much of an appetite for preaching. Our prayer meetings are mere "organ recitals" where we pray for people's health issues and rarely get around to storming the gates of heaven with loud cryings and supplications on behalf of the lost in our communities, beseeching the Lord of glory to come down and show His mighty power in revival and conversions. And if we do have a few spare days, we rarely spend them at a Bible conference, and even if we did, how many of us could take eight sermons a day, meeting from 6 a.m. to midnight, sleeping on the ground, and cooking our food over an open fire, having no shower or indoor plumbing facilities?
What will it take for revival to come to the west? Will God need to strip us of everything? Will He need to bring devastation and destruction like Uganda has suffered for so many years? Will He need to bring massive unemployment through an economic meltdown so that we have nothing to do but to listen to Him and His preachers?
I would love to see a return to the days of Asahel Nettleton who, in 1819, while supposedly on a rest and relaxation sabbatical from his preaching in Connecticut, came to Saratoga Springs, New York. Nettleton was asked to preach by Reverend Mark Tucker of Stillwater, New York. Tucker told Nettleton of the waste places there-Malta, Saratoga Springs, Ballston, Stillwater, and many more towns with no Presbyterian or Congregational Churches. Nettleton began preaching in August, 1819 and continued throughout the area, including at the First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady, New York until April, 1820. Hundreds were brought under deep conviction of sin as the Spirit of God came down with convicting and converting power. He said of Schenectady, "The revival is now very powerful in the city. Such a scene they have never before witnessed. More than one hundred have been brought to rejoice in hope. Besides these, we had more than two hundred in our meeting of inquiry, anxious for their souls . . . This evening will never be forgotten."
We once had a revival culture very similar to the one now going on in Uganda and many other places in the world. Do you long for it or are you satisfied with the status quo? We lack power and without it things will only get worse. Will you be zealous in prayer and ask God for the Holy Spirit in your own life, in your pastor, in your church officers, and in your friends at church?
_________________________ From Sure Foundation: A 250 Year History of First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, New York, 1760-2010, pages 105-106.