Why No Revival
November 25th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
WHY NO REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-84 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Why Revival Tarries. Our background text is in Revelation, the last book of the Bible, chapter 2, and it begins like this, Revelation chapter 2:
Unto the pastor, unto the messenger, unto the preacher, unto the good news deliverer, unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lampstands;
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and metanoeÃ³, turn, repent, change, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick, thy lampstand, out of its place, except thou metanoeÃ³, except ye change, except ye turn, except ye repent.
Why revival tarries. As many of you know, for about ten years or more, I worked in the Baptist World Alliance. I was a member of its executive committee. And as you know, for something like thirty-eight years, I traveled all over this earth, around it, up and down it, back and forth in it. And my impression of the Christian faith in the Western world is one of a dying and ebbing and abating witness. Compared to the millions and the millions of people who occupy these nations in the Western world, there are hardly a dynamic few who lift up the banner of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. In London, England, I visited the church pastored by the president of the Baptist World Alliance. Including all of us who were visiting, there was an attendance of eighteen in a city as big as London. Several times I attended the services in Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, and the largest audience I could ever count was one hundred twenty-five. This in a place where Spurgeon preached to six thousand at every service. When I was in Edinburgh I attended the cathedral of St. Giles where John Knox preached, the birth and beginning of the Presbyterian church. The services were held in one little corner of that vast and impressive and beautiful cathedral.
I went to our service, our Baptist church in Oslo, Norway – just a little tiny handful of people. I attended the services, I preached in some of them, in Sweden, in Stockholm. There are half as many Baptists in Sweden today as there was a few years ago. When I would invite anybody to the service, they had a stock answer: "I am just not interested." And not two percent of the people attend any kind of a religious service. I was a guest of the First Baptist Church of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. And the entire year before, they had one baptism, one! In Russia, where our people seem to be the most devout in all of the earth, there is one Baptist church in Moscow, a city of over seven million people. There is one Baptist church in Leningrad, a city of about five million people. And what astonished me and impressed me the most, going around and preaching through the great cities of Russia, was this: that their churches are padlocked, or turned into warehouses or railroad stations or granaries. What impresses me the most is, they don’t care. They do not miss them. They are indifferent toward them. That beautiful cathedral of St. Basil that you always see with its onion-top turrets at the end of the Red Square has not been a sanctuary for years and years and years and years. It just stands there vacant, sterile, empty.
When I come from abroad to the United States of America, I see the same ebbing fortunes, the same deteriorating, decaying response to the Christian faith in the United States. Sunday in America is not a holy day. It is a holiday. If you’re going to the lake, if you have a boat, if you’re going to the game, if you’re going to be entertained, if you’re going out of town, if you’re going in the car, if you’re going visiting, if you’re going to have some kind of an outing, you’ll do it on Sunday. That’s a holiday. And if there’s any kind of a special programming that you have for your family, that’s when it is planned. Sunday is a holiday. It is a vacation day. It is a forget God day. It is a leave the church out of your life day. That is America.
There was a survey made of the churches of New England where our brother is a guest with us today. There was a survey made of all of the churches of New England. And the survey reported that you could take four-fifths, four-fifths of the pews out of the churches of New England, and they would never be missed. This in the land of our Pilgrim fathers. This in the land of our great Puritan progenitors, our ancestors. This in the land of Increase Mather and Cotton Mather. This in the land of Roger Williams, who established the first Baptist church in America. This in the land of the Great Awakening under George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. There is no doubt but that the values of the American family and the American citizen are vastly changing.
I could not think of that more poignantly than in the life of a young Nazi soldier. When he was a youth, he was invited to accept Christ as his Savior. And the convicting Spirit of the Lord brought the appeal of Christ movingly in his heart. At the same time, he was invited to join Hitler’s Youth Bund. And in the decision that he made, he went off goose-stepping with Hitler’s Bund. After the war was over and the youth, now a young man, stood in the midst of the catastrophic chaos of the ruined Third Reich of Hitler, he was asked about his decision. And the young man replied, "Back yonder when I made that decision, it seemed to me that Hitler was so great and Jesus Christ was so small." That portrays the cultural, economic, domestic, spiritual response of modern America. Materialism is so great, money is so great. Fame and fortune and success are so great. Entertainment is so great. And Jesus seems so small.
There is a repercussion from this new attitude of America toward our Lord that is inevitable. And I use, because we haven’t time to speak of all of it, I use just one illustration. About two days ago, on the front page of the Dallas Morning News appeared this headline, and all of you have read it. The headline reads: "United States Jail Population Jumps 41% In Five Years, Almost Has Doubled In Five Years." Then in the article it speaks of the states where the prison population is burgeoning. The first is California. The second is New York. And the third is our queenly state of Texas. If you live here in the state of Texas, there is one constant headline that you’ll read in the papers all the time. And that is this: we can’t build jails big enough to take care of our correction population. We can’t find bond money large enough to erect penitentiaries in which to send our felons and our criminals. And the whole system of correction in Texas is falling apart because we don’t have enough money to build big enough jails and big enough penitentiaries in which to send our violent, law-breaking criminals.
Now, I use that as just one of the many evidences of a break-down in spiritual, moral, domestic life of our own country of America. What is needed, and without which there will be no turn or change in it, is a great metanoeÃ³, a great turning, a great repenting, a great revival.
Now, do I see it on the horizon? I do not. I see no indications anywhere in America of a great moving, outpouring of the Spirit of God. I don’t see it. I don’t see it anywhere. I don’t see it any time. I could not think of that in more poignant terms than in a cartoon book that was placed in my hands, long, and about that shape, and it was entitled "Why No Revival?" Well, it caught my attention: Why No Revival. A book of cartoons, pictures that some fellow had drawn of American life. So I turned to the first one. And there was a picture, a cartoon. It concerned prayer, the family altar, and it was entitled: "The Family Altar." And it was a picture of a family around a TV set, the modern American family altar.
I turned the page and the second picture was entitled: "A Modern Saint Wrestles With The Powers Of Darkness." And the picture was, the cartoon was a fellow down on his knees before he goes to bed, saying, "Now I lay me down to sleep."
The third cartoon was a picture of a fellow before a nine-tenths empty church, apparently on a Wednesday night, and it was entitled: "Shining Testimonies for our Marvelous Savior." And the fellow was saying: "Please won’t somebody testify?"
I turn the pages of the cartoon, and this was one of a disgruntled man, apparently under the aegis and correction and pleading of his wife against his will, driving to church. So he turns to her and he says, "I know that my neighbors are lost, but that’s no skin off of my nose. I’m not going to drag them to church. That’s the preacher’s job."
And I turn to one more, and that concerned the preacher. He’s up there in the pulpit, standing before, again, a nine-tenths empty congregation. He’s standing up there, and this is what he is saying. He is saying, "We have just heard what H. G. Wells said, and we just quoted what Charles Darwin said. And we’ve just spoken of what H. L. Menchen said. Now, let us listen to what Time magazine says, when Paul says, "I know no other thing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2].
Well, I turned to the end of the cartoon book and it ends in a marvelous way. It ends with a cartoon of God’s people down on their faces, down on their knees, weeping and praying to God, "Lord, forgive me. Forgive me."
Then it closes with cartoons of headlines in the newspapers: "A Great Revival is Spreading Across America," that’s one of them. Another one was, "Thousands and Thousands are Turning to God." Another headline was, "The Churches are Aflame with the Spirit of Christ." Another headline was, "Crime and Delinquency and Drunkenness Have Ceased." And another headline was, "Corruption and Confusion are Gone in Business and in Government." And the last headline was, "God Hath Healed Our Land." Oh, that such a thing could ever come to pass, beginning here and in us!
As I read Christian history and I read all the time, study all the time. I am preparing right now a series of messages on Ezekiel who lived in the most critical time of the life of the people of God. I’m studying so long and hard my eyes nearly go out. I need a little praying that God will strengthen my eyes, that I can study and study and study. I am preparing those sermons on Ezekiel that will be delivered next year. As I read and as I study, I find that there is somewhere, all the time, revival among God’s people, somewhere, all times. There is no time but that there is revival somewhere among God’s people. The whole story of the Christian church is that; somewhere revival is experienced among God’s people. The Holy Spirit of God is poured out in moving, mighty, saving grace on God’s people somewhere, all the time.
When the church at Jerusalem fell into Ebionitic legalism, there was great revival in the churches of Antioch and of Ephesus. When the church at Antioch fell into disarray and disruption, the Holy Spirit of God in great revival was poured out upon the churches in Carthage and throughout North Africa. When the churches in their spirit of devotion to Christ ebbed and subsided in North Africa, God poured out His saving grace upon the people of Gaul, what we call now France. When Mohammed destroyed all of the Christian witness in the Levant, the monks and the scholars of Iona were crossing the Irish Sea into England and converting our ancestors, the Anglo-Saxons, the Northumbrians in England. When the papacy fell in the corruption in Rome, God was pouring out His saving Spirit in Bohemia. When the state churches of Western Europe became political instruments of coercion and oppression, there rose the morning stars of the Reformation. When the Unitarian defection, heresy, destroyed the churches of New England, the pioneer Western preacher was covering our part of the earth, preaching the gospel, converting those men on the edge of Western civilization, building churches, founding our institutions, and laying the foundation for the faith that we enjoy and are blessed by this present day. When Japan looks with contempt and indifference upon the preaching of the gospel, just across the sea, there is great revival today, this moment in Korea. Always, somewhere in the earth, there is a mighty moving of the Spirit of God. There is great revival.
It is my prayer, my supplication that it can happen here with us, that God will do something here with us. It is as I spoke last Sunday, when an executive of our denomination came to me and said, "If you will lead your church into a great soul-winning effort, it will be copied by thousands and thousands of other churches in our denomination, in our Southern Baptist communion." Lord, Lord, if God could do it here! If something marvelous could happen here! If there could be an outpouring of the Spirit of saving grace here! If we could experience great revival here! Well, how could it be? As I read the Word of God, the Lord makes it plain. It is not something hidden away. It is not something esoteric or strange. It is not something mystical and hard to enter into. It will be something definite, something practical, something stated, something that all of us can enter into, and even a child can understand.
Now, for the rest of the message, let us look at what God does when He sends a great revival. Let us turn to the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts, the Book of Acts, chapter 1, chapter 1. And we’re going to look at four things in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts that are concomitants and corollaries of tremendous revival.
Number one: Acts 1:14–verse 14. After it names those who are in the upper room, it says, Acts 1:14, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women." Isn’t that unusual, that Dr. Luke turns aside in the writing of the story to mention the women? The women! "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women." Then he names Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren – brethren didn’t believe on Him, now they do. James, Joseph, and Simon, and Jude, they’ve all turned in saving faith to the Lord. The first thing: they continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women. They all were praying, they all were supplicating. They all were interceding, they all were knocking at the door of God’s heavenly grace. Now may I say something about the Lord? God does things in certain ways. He just does. I deign not to enter into the infinitude of the wisdom of God. I just see, that’s what any one of us does. We just look. We just observe. God does things in a certain way. For example, I have to breathe. I cannot live if I do not breathe. I would die in a very few minutes if I don’t breathe. God made it that way. I have to eat. I cannot live if I do not eat. I have to sleep. I cannot live if I do not sleep.
Now I can argue with God forever. Why does He make me breathe, or why does He make me eat, or why does He make me sleep? I can’t argue with God. That’s the way God does. That’s the way He gives me life, and energy, and understanding. That’s God! God does that in every area of human life and in every area of His creation. There are certain things that God does. And He does them that way. This is the way God has done concerning revival. Concerning the outpouring of His Spirit, He does it through the praying, intercessory, importunate appeal of His people. God does it that way.
Why doesn’t God do it some other way? We would have to ask the Lord when we see Him in heaven. But in this earth in which we live now, that’s the way God does it. And there is no outpouring, and there’s no revival, and there’s no mighty moving of the Spirit of God, apart from the praying and intercession of His people. We pray down a revival! That’s where it comes from; up there where God is to down here to where we are and the instrument and the medium is prayer! Now that’s why I have announced to you that beginning next year, at a certain time which will be published, we’re going to have prayer and fasting. We’re going to fast all day long, not going to eat anything in the day, and we’re going to meet here in the sanctuary, and we’re going to pray as we fast; first, our staff and their families; then, our deacons and their families; then, our Sunday school leadership and their families; and then, our church membership and their families. We’re going to meet here in the sanctuary all day long, and we’re going to fast, and we’re going to pray. We’re going to intercede; we’re going to knock at heaven’s gate. We’re going to ask God for an interposition and an intervention in the life of our city, of our own homes and houses, and hearts, and of our nation and world. We’re going to pray, going to pray.
Number two: look at the first verse in the second chapter of the Book of Acts: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place," all of them [Acts 2:1]. The assembly of His people together; that’s the second thing, our people coming together. I want to show you something about our church. If this were to happen, if this were to happen, and I’m talking about a simple response, if this were to happen, all of the televisions of America, every network, all of the radio outreach of America, all of it, every magazine and every newspaper in this world would be here headlining what was happening here and trying to describe what had come to pass here. Well, pastor, what? What tremendous earth-shaking catastrophic providence are you talking about that would center the attention of the world here in this place? What? A thing so plain and simple and easy that it’s almost pardonable to mention it. There are twenty-five thousand five hundred members of this church, twenty-five thousand five hundred. That includes our twenty-two missions. So let’s take all of them out and just take other things out. So that will leave twenty thousand of us, let’s say, that belong to our congregation here, twenty thousand of us. Suppose we just were to come. That’s all. Suppose we were just to be here, just come, just be present. Suppose we were, and there would be three thousand of us here on the inside. And there would be seventeen thousand of us in the streets around this end of town, trying to get in and couldn’t do it. Every newspaper headline, every television network, every radio that blares, every magazine that writes, the whole world would be here looking at this phenomenon; three thousand of us inside the house and seventeen thousand of us out there that couldn’t get in! Can you imagine what that would do to the Sunday school and their programming? Think what it would do to the building committee and their programming. Think of what it would do to the fellowship of deacons and their planning. Think of what it would do to the church and the witness of Christ. "You’re talking about one little simple thing like being present?" That’s right, that’s right, the attendance of our people. Can you describe the indifference of our people more than – "When was the last time you were at church?" Ask ten thousand of our members that, "When were you last here?" "Well, let me see, I came Easter, that’s when I was here." The non-attendance, the vast, indescribable indifference of our people; no wonder God looks down and says: I pass them by. "They were all with one accord in one place" [Acts 2:1].
Third: look at verse 8 here: "They exclaimed: How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born,the marvelous things of the Lord Jesus?" [Acts 2:8,11] – the witnessing group. We had a meeting down here one time in our church, and I can’t remember the occasion, but my fellow pastor Wallace Basset, undershepherd of the Cliff Temple Baptist Church for forty-eight years, Dr. Wallace Basset was here. And he spoke at this convocation of our people. And he said something I have never forgotten. He said, "The first time I was ever invited to the Lord, I accepted the Lord. The first time I was ever asked to be a Christian, I became a Christian. The first time I ever was invited to believe in the Savior, I believed in Him; I trusted in Him."
Most people, most people are sort of like that. They are not hard, or adamant, or vicious, or vituperative when you talk to them about the Lord. Dear people, I have been a pastor fifty-seven years. In those fifty-seven years, I have knocked at the door of every kind of a house. I’ve talked to every kind of a person that you could imagine. And not one time in all my fifty-seven years have I ever been rebuffed, not one time, not once. Any house at whose door I have ever knocked, and anybody to whom I have ever spoken about the Lord has received me graciously, and kindly, and charitably, and beautifully. People are not hard like that. They’re not hard. What’s the matter is we just don’t pay any attention to them. We just pass them by. Most people will respond to love, and kindness, and generosity, and helpfulness, and interest. Most people will, and especially if they are younger. The fault lies not that they are hard, the fault lies that we don’t care. That’s our problem, that’s our trouble, and the burden of souls is not upon us.
Now, last, and this is the reason for this series of messages. In the second chapter of Acts, 46: "And they continued daily with one accord in the temple" – that’s the congregation of God’s people in the house of the Lord, in the temple – "and from house to house, and from house to house" [Acts 2:46]. House to house, that is our Evangel programming – in the homes of the people. We come here on the Lord’s Day as a great congregation to praise His name, to make appeal where these that we have won to the Lord can openly and publicly confess their faith in Jesus. We come here to sing His praises, to read the Bible, to listen to an exposition of the Word of God, to pray that the pastor will be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding as he studies, and as he researches, and as he reads, and as he prays, and as he brings the message. We come here for that, but the great ministry of our people ought to be out there where we live, in our homes, gathering the people together, friends and neighbors and family, studying the Word of God, listening to the message of the Spirit, testifying, praying, pointing to Jesus, winning to the blessed Savior.
Oh, O Lord, what an open door God hath set before us! And with what mightiness would He visit us in saving revival if our people would just follow after these simple things God hath laid upon our souls. Why not? Why not? Church staff; let’s try it, just to see what God will do. Fellow deacons and all of the members in our Sunday school, every committee, with the women, praying, beseeching God, looking to heaven, expecting God to answer; and if the Lord will do it here, it may be that through us He will visit our nation with revival. Oh, that my eyes could look upon it, that I could see people weeping for joy or weeping in confession before the blessed Lord. That we could see thousands of people won to Christ, families, families, families who are coming to Jesus! It would be the most heavenly thing that God could ever do for us.
And to that dedication, we hereby offer ourselves as a staff, as a fellowship of deacons, as a Sunday school teaching ministry, as a congregation, and as a church; do it Lord, that our eyes may look upon it, that our souls may exalt in it, that our hearts may be blessed by it.
Now we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and as we sing it, somebody you, "This is God’s day for me. I am accepting the Lord as my Savior, and I’m coming." A family you, "Pastor, all of us are coming into the fellowship of this dear, dear church. This is my wife, these are our children, we’re all coming today." A couple you, as the Spirit of God shall make appeal, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am on the way." May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
WHY REVIVAL TARRIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Working with Baptist World Alliance for ten years
A. My impression of Christian faith in the Western world is one of a dying witness – there are hardly a few who lift up the banner of Christ
1. London – church pastored by president of the BWA had attendance of 18, including us who were visiting
2. Services in Spurgeon’s tabernacle had no more than 125
3. Cathedral of St. Giles where John Knox preached – services held in one little corner of the vast cathedral
2. Oslo, Norway service had only tiny handful of people
3. Sweden – half as many Baptists as few years ago
a. "I am not interested"
b. Not two percent of the people attend any kind of religious service
4. Helsinki – one baptism the year before
5. Russia – thousands milling the streets on Sunday
a. One little Baptist church open in a city, but behind a wall, fence
b. Tragedy of religion in the communist state is that they do not care the church is padlocked, nor do they miss it
A. Pattern of American life – Sunday a holiday, not a holy day
B. Survey of New England churches – you could take four-fifths of the pews out and they would never be missed
C. Values other than spiritual
1. Young Nazi soldier who forsook his call to ministry to join Hitler – "Seemed Hitler was so greatâ€¦Jesus so smallâ€¦"
2. Portrays response of modern America – materialism so greatâ€¦Jesus so small
a. Newspaper headline – "United States Jail Population Jumps 41% in Five Years"
i. Evidence of a breakdown in spiritual, moral, domestic life
III. Is there revival in the foreseeable future?
A. No indication of a great moving, outpouring of the Spirit of God
B. Book of cartoons, "Why No Revival?"
1. "The Modern Family Altar" – TV
2. "A Modern Saint Wrestles With the Power of Darkness" – man saying, "Now I lay me down to sleepâ€¦"
3. "Shining Testimonies for our Marvelous Savior" – preacher before the people saying, "Won’t somebody testify?"
4. One of a disgruntled man driving to church – "I know my neighbors are lostâ€¦that’s preacher’s jobâ€¦"
5. Preacher in the pulpit quoting H. G. Wells, Charles Darwin, H. L. Menchen
6. Ends with cartoon of God’s people on their faces, knees, weeping and praying for forgiveness
7. Cartoons of headlines in the newspapers – "A Great Revival is Spreading Across Americaâ€¦"
IV. Revival is always possible
A. There has never been a time when there was not revival in the earth
1. Jerusalem – Antioch, Ephesus
2. Antioch – Milan
3. North Africa – Gaul
4. Rome – Ireland
5. The Levant, Palestine, North Africa – scholars of Iona, Anglo-Saxons
6. Italy – Bohemia, Moravia
7. France – Reformation in England
8. New England – pioneer preacher crossing the Alleghenies
9. Japan – Korea
B. However it is elsewhere, here we can have revival
A. Praying(Acts 1:14)
B. Our faithfulness and dedication in coming (Acts 2:1)
C. Our faithfulness and dedication in witnessing(Acts 2:8)
1. Dr. Wallace Basset, pastor at Cliff Temple Baptist 48 years – "First time I was askedâ€¦I became a Christian"
D. House to house – our Evangel programming(Acts 2:46)