Why isn’t the American church growing?
While the church is growing at a record rate in Africa and Asia, churches are stagnating in the United States. We look at why America isn’t experiencing revival.
Revival is not when the top blows off but rather when the bottom falls out.” Those words were spoken to me several years ago when I asked the late Leonard Ravenhill to define revival. According to him, most religious activity in the United States does not resemble true revival. We know only a cheap imitation.
We schedule popular speakers and the best musicians and set aside a week for special meetings. We call that revival. Our meetings are set up by organizers, not agonizers.
We have reduced a move of God to a method. Yet the Bible says God is looking for a man.
John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, prayed continually, “God, give me Scotland or I die!” He said this while he was chained deep inside the hull of a French ship off the coast of his country. He prayed desperately for seven years that God would send revival to his beloved Scotland.
God works only within those who are desperate. Ravenhill also used to say, in reference to revival, that we would either “end up with prison camps or with Pentecost in the prison camps.” The apostle Paul either had riots or revival, and at times both. Yet the American gospel does not seem to produce either.
A Chinese Christian recently visited the United States and toured churches here. At the end of the trip he was asked what he thought about American spirituality. He answered, “I am amazed at how much the church in America can accomplish without the Holy Spirit.”
We have large buildings and many programs but still no move of God. We have more trained ministers and more Bible colleges than any other nation but no revival. We have seminars on revivals and huge campaigns to promote our meetings. But where is the revival?
We have spotless theology but no doxology. We have no song in our hearts. We have replaced true experience with hyperactivity. Our theologians sit in swivel chairs in ivory towers and hand out edicts to those down below.
As a church we are power-hungry and covet top positions as if we are climbing a corporate ladder. We place value on large churches with even larger programs and budgets. Those who are invited into leadership positions are the rich and the influential. We forget that spiritual authority is not given to the savvy businessman or the sports hero but to those who have carried the burden of the Lord.
Where are the brokenhearted believers who weep through the night over our spiritual bankruptcy?
A true move of God makes you utterly dependent upon Him. The touch of the Father was never designed to touch you just once. It was designed to leave you feeling helpless unless you receive the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit.
A true revival brings us to the end of ourselves. It takes us to the foot of the cross where we lay down our hopes, dreams and ambitions. History is replete with those who have given their all to see God move.
Lost Missionary Zeal
Missionaries John Paton and Adoniram Judson both served the Lord in hostile areas, and they both buried their wives and children on the mission field. Through brokenness and humility they saw the Lord touch those who had never heard the message of redemption. When Paton first entered his field of work the locals were filled with demons. When he left, all on the island had become Christians and had renounced the practice of headhunting.
Where is the God of Elijah today? And where is this missionary passion and sacrifice? Our doctrine has changed. Today the church teaches that we are too important to the kingdom of God to lay our lives down. It claims that a good ministry must last a long time.
Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus subscribed to this egocentric American gospel. Both John and Jesus gave their lives as martyrs. Yet we have removed martyrdom from our vocabulary.
People often warn me not to take the ministry too seriously. Perhaps because I spend a lot of time preaching in war-torn nations and dangerous areas where Christians are persecuted, some believers tell me to stop being so radical. Perhaps when we express passion and fervor for the gospel, complacency is exposed.
John the Baptist said that Jesus must increase while he must decrease (see John 3:30). Yet today ministers are promoted to places of power and prominence that were unheard of in years past. Pastors have become celebrities. The halls of their palatial offices are filled with pictures of themselves.
It would seem that these ministers are increasing while Jesus is decreasing! Instead of begging God for a move of His precious Holy Spirit, we waste countless hours begging the flock to give money so the work of God will continue. What we need to do is prostrate ourselves and beg God to strip us of the power-hungry spiritual veneer that has encrusted our souls.
God is moving in powerful ways in the developing world. How is it that God can visit a mud hut in the middle of Africa yet bypass the comfortable sanctuaries we created for Him in our country?
Ravenhill answered it this way: “God does not answer prayer; He answers desperate prayer.” Jesus comes to those who are desperate for Him.
The reason I believe that most of us never experience a move of God is simply that we are content to live without it. In the West we now have the money but no longer the power to speak to a paralyzed world. The song in our hearts is gone, as well as our desire for Him to rule at the center of our hearts.
We quickly point to our blessings (which are almost always of the material variety) and claim that our overabundance is due to God’s favor. But isn’t the ultimate sign of God’s favor converted souls and a sovereign move of God?
A Chinese Christian who spent more than 26 years in a tiny prison cell was asked upon his release how he handled confinement. His answer rocked me to the core. He said it was like a honeymoon with Jesus.
Why are other nations experiencing revival and we aren’t? Could it be that calamity clarifies while comfort confuses? Calamity is an excellent teacher. It shows us in an instant what is truly important.
When we become desperate, the mortgage is no longer important, nor the lawn care. When calamity strikes, it is people that are important to us, not things. While persecution purifies, prosperity often pollutes. Our materialism leaves us content without God.
The Cry of the Persecuted
I was working with persecuted Christians in Eritrea when our director there was arrested in front of our house. He was snatched and taken in the back of a truck to be interrogated because of his Christian activities. Currently more than 400 believers in Eritrea are being detained in shipping containers and holes in the ground for telling others about Jesus.
After hearing of our director’s capture we gathered our team and began praying. As in the book of Acts, a miracle happened, and he was released within a few hours. But not all believers are spared like this.
While traveling through Eritrea we met a believer who had been held captive in a hole in the ground for four months. His only crime was telling others about Jesus. As he shared his testimony he washed my feet and sang a hymn in his local tongue.
The church in Eritrea has exploded in growth while its leaders have been in prison. Laypeople have taken up the call to evangelize, and nothing will stop them.
The Puritans had an old proverb that said, “Either the love of Christ will draw you to His breast or the wrath of God will drive you to His breast.” What we see clearly is that God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. I believe God has withheld a move of His Spirit in the United States because He knows we would prostitute it and use His gifts to our own advantage. God loves us too much to allow us to be lifted up in pride.
Suffering works out a type of redemption that the West doesn’t understand. To say the name of Christ in an Islamic country, where Christ is not welcome, means identifying with the cross. Jesus warned that people would hate us because we follow Him. America, when will we learn that no cross means no crown?
When I was preaching in Vietnam I asked believers who have suffered for Jesus what prayer requests we could take back to America on their behalf. We asked if they would like us to pray for opened borders so they could evangelize without persecution. Their immediate response was that they would rather have open heavens than open borders.
The refugee camps and the restricted-access countries of the world are experiencing a refreshing move of God. Yet the paradox is that they lack the buildings, money and expertise we possess in the West. Could it be that they have discovered the true treasure of Christ’s kingdom?
When I was ministering to persecuted Christians in Sudan, Sudanese helicopter gunships attacked my team and me. Several people were killed as we fled for our lives.
After escaping and hiding in the rocks, I sat with a pastor who had lost everything. His village had been attacked and his church was burned to the ground. All his possessions were lost and he, like me, had nothing but the shirt on his back.
People from his church had been killed and now he was on the run. I asked him if during his suffering he was ever tempted to doubt God’s love. His reply hit me like a brick to the side of my head. “I am most aware of God’s presence when I am suffering,” he told me.
In the West our blessings have left us content without revival. If a man can live without revival, then he will be content without it. But when he is desperate for a touch from heaven, then God will bring brokenness–and he will no longer trust in the arm of the flesh.
More than anything today in America, we need humility. Leaders who are pompous and have an overstated importance need to humble themselves. No longer should our first question be, “How big is your church?” but rather, “What is the spiritual condition of the members?”
Christian superstars who jam the airwaves are not the answer for a move of God. We need those who will walk in humility, cry aloud and rend their hearts so that God will receive the glory He alone is due.
Kevin Turner is an evangelist who ministers primarily in regions of the world where the gospel is restricted. He is director of Strategic World Impact in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. You can learn more about his unique ministry at www.swi.org.
July 15, 2015:
I am releasing a warning tonight. I care not if I am labeled a nut job. I am too old to be concerned about whether I am liked or not. I love those that I am friends with and if you are about to be hurt, I am going to warn you and if necessary push you out of harm’s way.
September 2015 will be among the most world changing months that any of us will have ever experienced in our lifetimes. Be aware of these events coming in September:
“Jade Helm” launched today in the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, California and Florida. It is the largest military rehearsal on US soil in our history. They are practicing urban warfare. This dress rehearsal will continue through September.
“Bail In” will be established as law in September among many European countries. “Bail In” is the opposite of the “Bail Out” of our banks that took place in 2008. “Bail In” means that the government would not offer any help to banks that get in trouble in the future. “Bail In” means the banks would have the right to reach into an individual’s account and take the money they need to survive and leave the individual an IOU. It is a prime tool of “Wealth Redistribution”. It will be introduced in the USA in the near future.
Shemitah Year and the Super Blood Moon begins September 28, 2015. It marks the beginning of great changes in Israel and among their enemies. You may Google these two events as space does not allow me to elaborate. (For more information Google Rabbi Cahn and Shemitah).
France will introduce in September to the United Nations a proposal for a “Palestinian State” to exist in Israel. Up to this point the United States has cast the deciding vote each time this has been presented. This time our administration is leaning to vote in favor of a Palestinian State. If a peace agreement is signed, it will mark the beginning of a Biblical event found in Revelations and Daniel.
“Agenda 21” will be presented at the United Nations in September. “Agenda 21″ is a UN plan for “Sustainable Development”. What that means is that “Developed” nations will pour money into “Underdeveloped” nations in order to establish equality among nations. Another “Redistribution of Wealth” plan.
It is not a time to panic. It is a time to pray. It is a time to reconsider your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have never accepted Him as Lord and Savior, this is how you can begin a relationship with Him:
Romans 10: 9-10 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Your servant for Jesus sake,
Wednesday 6/11/2014 @ 9 pmThe Lord came to me tonight and revealed to me what is soon to come.
I saw us standing (the verse came to me, “when you have done all to stand, stand”). As we stood, we were moving our hands at our sides back and forth. Pellets that I didn’t recognize or understand were leaving our hands and dropping to the ground. We were speaking, and as we spoke, these pellets were shooting out of our mouths and falling to the ground.
We continued to move our hands back and forth at our sides and we continued to speak and the pellets began to pile up. The ground was covered with these pellets. They soon were up to our ankles, and we continued to move our hands back and forth and we continued to speak.
Suddenly it began to rain and the wind began to blow. It was a soaking rain. It quickly turned into a blinding downpour and the wind became fierce. Instead of fear and concern a great excitement and a great joy came over each of us. We began to laugh and rejoice and shout and dance.
I cried out, Lord what are these pellets? His voice came up inside me with an authority that brought me to my knees. He said these are mustard seeds of faith. The rain is my anointing and the wind is the moving of my Spirit.
Your labor in prayer is not in vain. You are spreading and casting the seed of the Word into the earth when you pray and I am coming right behind you to water it and to shake the earth.
I said, Lord where are the results? I can’t see the harvest. I can’t see the results or the answers to our prayers
He took me to a church service. It was the church my brother pastors (Frasier Rd. Church of God). The building was packed and people by the dozens began to make their way to the altar. They were crying out to be saved.
He took me to another church. One I didn’t recognize. The people began to come to the altar. Dozens of people were making their way to the cross. Then another church service and then another. One service after another with the same amazing scene of a harvest of souls.
I said, Lord will we see them come in our meetings? He took me back to our gathering. We continued to pray faithfully. But in our minds we were wondering, when will we see results. All of a sudden, we all were taken by surprise by people tapping us on the shoulder. When we turned around there were people behind us lined up all the way outside the building. They grabbed our hands and said, I want to know Jesus. As soon as we were done praying with them, they turned around and grabbed the hands of the person behind them and prayed with them to receive Jesus. This chain reaction of people turning around and praying with the person behind them happened so fast that it looked like a wheat field blowing in the wind. In one mighty wave, salvation spread beyond our view and out into the streets
It lasted only a short time. It was like lightening. The last thing I heard was the sound of a trumpet unlike any trumpet I have ever heard. It made me quake all the way down to my toes. We were gone. It was over. We were home.
Your servants for Jesus sake,
Rex & Carol