I'm taking a different approach to this entry, and instead of writing a manuscript of a sermon, I wanted to update the few faithful who read this on what God is doing in Darlington.
Three months ago the pastors of the community of churches in Darlington began meeting once a week to pray. Our focus, that lost people come to know Jesus Christ and turn their lives around. We had a clergy meeting, as we have every month, and in January at our meeting we all expressed how nothing was changing, and we wanted to reach our community. We decided to start praying together, and began to see things happen. At our church, an elderly man and a teen came forward two weeks apart and prayed to trust in Christ. Then at another church, the week after Easter, ten people came forward to trust in Christ. Then at our after school program, eight kids prayed to receive Christ, and we're still following up with them to verify the commitment, but at least three of those kids are for sure.
It hasn't been all good. At the same time we have been praying each week together, and everyday on our own, we have seen the enemy work to discourage, cause division, and defend a claim to the souls of those who are blinded to the good news of Jesus. People with addiction problems and physical or mental chronic illnesses have seen those problems flaring up, but then we pray. God has also been faithful to deal redemptively with each of those problems as they surface, and without going into detail, there is a noticable difference in the amount of problems as well as salvations, for now.
More people are coming to faith in Christ, and our efforts to disciple need reinforcing. We are still meeting to pray, and hopeful to see more and more come to Jesus and follow Him.
Because of this, I was attending a conference by RHMA, and the sessions on revival, studying four historical revivals in America, Wales, England (if there is a difference between England and Wales--maybe that shows cultural unawareness of a Midwest American) and India. The common themes--they all started with lay people getting together to pray for God to forgive and cause salvation.
So we have asked people to pray, and you, would you pray for God to be glorified through unchurched, unbelieving people coming to know Him? If you read this, I don't have the answers to How a revival should start, nor do I think we've seen the peak of what God plans on doing in SW Wisconsin. I would imagine there are other places where God is doing similar things (it would be great to know where). I believe you can trust that God wants revival in America more than anyone and if His people humble themselves and pray, and call on His Name, and confess our sin, and turn away from idols (power, money, and ourselves, most of all), and ask Him to change hearts, the unbelievers will come to Him and never stray. He will forgive.
One other thing--these ecumenical prayer meetings each week are unheard of in terms of unity and acceptance without compromise, and none of us boasts of a large congregation, or of being famous authors, or having TV or radio ministries. If numbers are a pastor or a church's goal, those may be for the Kingdom of God, or they may be idols (pray about it). Whether you are large or small, reviving hearts of the nation for God can happen if we pray, and it is far more important than numbers of people who are unwilling to follow Jesus with more than their mouths. (No, I'm not just a pouting rural pastor who wishes he had more numbers. I've had the numbers, and you have to make them count before you count them.)
Or, if you don't want revival, then don't pray. Market, gimmick, sell, organize committees for each problem, and you can have the church that (fill in your name)______ built, and when you die, it will too.
In closing, I learned at the conference I mentioned above that most churches in America are growing by transfer growth--swapping members like sports teams. Then Sunday attendance is flouted as a sign of growth, while the community around the church has not changed eternal status, and wonders "is that what Jesus called you to do?" People see caterpillars entering the cocoon each Sunday--lots of them sometimes, but never see butterflies coming out. Make the goal to glorify God, and ask Him to redeem more who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, and make it a goal to make disciples, not just to attract a crowd.
These are the days of revival, and it is just in the very beginning. What will you do? Will you pray? Pray daily for God to be glorified through people receiving His grace, believing in faith that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, and that by placing their faith in Him they have eternal life. Jesus said in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent." Jesus said HE would build HIS church. Let's ask Him to do it.