When I was a little girl, my grandmother (Fred Schneider's daughter) was the secretary at the church my parents and I attended--well, Granny and Gramps attended church there, too. She wrote a regular column for the newsletter, and sometimes she wrote her own addresses to the congregation during times when the church was struggling. She could have preached if she had wanted to... But I don't suppose she felt that preaching was her gift. If you ask me, she did a fine job of getting the message across in this letter she wrote on August 9, 1976. I found it in a folder with some other old family writings. Hopefully it isn't violating some kind of copyrights to quote it here. It spoke to me personally, and I want to share it and comment on it.
I write this letter not as the church secretary, but as a fellow Christian and layman in the Southmore congregation. I take full responsibility for the things I am about to say!
For some time I have been concerned about our Sunday school and church attendance. The Board of Christian Ed has struggled with this problem, trying to find the "whys and how-tos" for quite a long time. Why do people stay away? Is it because the church is not meeting their needs? Is it because they get nothing when they come? Are we hungering and thirsting, yet unfed? Is there no desire to learn, to grow? Do we need a revival? If so, how does revival come about? Is it because we haven't had a pastor? If so, when the pastor arrives will everything be all right again? Or have we developed a pattern that will continue and make his task more difficult?
I've been reading LIVING IN THE SPIRIT--IS IT REAL? by Manford Gutzke. Today I sat in a booth at Angels', eating a cheese sandwich, reading about revival in the church. God spoke to me and brought conviction to me and I came back to the office to pray.
Gutzke talks about revival under Samuel and revival under Hezekiah. You might like to read I Samuel 7 and II Chronicles 28, 29. In the story in Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant was not in the tabernacle where it belonged and the Israelites had fallen away from worshipping the true God. Gutzke likens the ark to the Bible, having its rightful place in our churches and in our lives -- not just being there, but accepted as God's Word to us. Samuel led the people to bring the ark to its rightful place and planned special services and brought all Israel together to pray. He led them to repentance with confession of sin and fasting, to consecration: "a complete yielding to God." The Philistines came against them (opposition) and God delivered them. Then they praised God for the victory.
"This is the classic pattern of revival ... It starts out with hunger and thirst for blessing ... If you are not being blessed, pray: hunger and thirst! That brought on preaching ... This preacher, Samuel, preached a very simple message: Get right with God. Bring yourself into the presence of God. This they did with repentance and fasting and confession. They really sought God. That took some time and this will always be involved in any total overall revival. It will never be an afternoon affair. It will go on and on and on and that will arouse opposition
As Christian people there will be times when things are not right with us. When we are really aching and being bothered, let us remember that "hungering and thirsting" are important. Then listen to the preaching. Let that preaching be straight from the Bible. It will lead believers to repentance and to confession. Then there will be opposition. Face it down. Do not quit. You will not have to face it in your own strength: call on God. Ask people to help you. Join in prayer. “Where two or three are gathered together in prayer there am I in the midst of them.” You may expect from God a great victory. Then you can praise God for it. That is the pattern for revival!"
Do you feel (as I sometimes do) all dried out? Does life get so complicated and you find yourself so busy (as I sometimes do) that you neglect the really vital things (as I sometimes do)? Gutzke writes:
"The fact is that faith can become weak. Understanding~may become confused, and assurance may be lacking. Such a condition is never a sudden happening. It would not occur overnight. It would be the consequence of prolonged neglect and tolerance of evil
Aha, that's it! I have been neglectful in my own life. I read a lot. I read a lot about the Bible When I should be reading the Bible. I've done a lot of studying about prayer while I should spend more time in praying. It's a little like reading the recipes and looking at the pictures in the cookbook but never cooking the meal – the pictures whet my appetite but are not very filling! So I must repent with confession and turning toward God. That is the beginning of revival in me. How about the church -- the Southmore Church of God specifically?
"A body that is dead does not respond. Stimulation simply does not affect it. When a body is alive it responds, acts, decides. Revival in the church presupposes that there is a living faith...”
If we aren't dead yet, we can be revived -- I think that fits us. So let's look a little farther into this possibility of "revival in the church."
"It is very common to think that when I am saved I have become different. And there is a sense in which that is partially true. When the believer has been brought into fellowship with the Lord, one can expect different things from him as long as the Lord is having His way in him… The most important thing about me as a Christian is my relationship with Christ Jesus. I know that part of it, part of my relationship with Him, is in my own hands, and that part I must seek to control and bring into His will. There are some things I can do. For instance, I can worship God. I can honor Him. I can turn myself around to look into the face of God. If I want the blessing of Christ, I could stop any day, any time in the day, and look up into His face. My hope is in Him ... So I look up, and worship God. The more I become impressed with His greatness, the more I become impressed with His strength, the stronger my faith becomes.
Another thing I can do is believe, not on what I'm going to do, not on what I promise to do, but believe on Christ Jesus who already has done it for me and is living now to do for me today and even more tomorrow. I can accept Christ Jesus as my Savior and Lord and also receive the Holy Spirit. I could do that any given day. I only need to say to Almighty God, "Let thy Spirit come in and take over as far as I'm concerned." If I do these things, my faith will grow, and if my faith grows and is strong, Christ Jesus will work in me and I will have the blessing of God. So then let us "Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain and are ready to die."
Well, that didn't really say a lot about revival in the church, did it? Or did it? If I can be revived, that is revival in the church. If a weak organ in my body is strengthened, my whole body benefits. So revival in the church is really revival of the individual members!
I want revival, renewal in my own life. I am hungering and thirsting for God's blessing. I want the Holy Spirit to have control of my life. I am convinced that living in the Spirit is real! Will you pray for me? Will you join me in praying for the church? Will you seek renewal in your life, yield to the Holy Spirit’s control? Pastor Malbone cannot bring revival to the church. Revival will come to the church as we, individually, let God have His way in and through us
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen."
What happened to me last year? Where did I "get stuck?" The answer is right here. I hungered and thirsted, listened to the teaching, repented, began to build faith... And as soon as I had taken some very powerful steps in faith and was standing on the threshold of a key place, opposition arose. I did not stand against it. I fell, partially because my body was physically weak and partially because my mind was vulnerable during this time to feelings of loneliness... I want to walk ahead this time. I want revival in me!