Tag Archives: Revival

Lay Pastors: Uneducated Implements of God

I have a theory that God delights to use uneducated men as shepherds in situations where we turn the pursuit of God into the empty traditions of religion. Here are some examples of such men:

  1. A.W. Tozer
    • Highest education: a few weeks of high school
  2. John Bunyan
    • Learned only to read and write – no formal higher education of any kind
    • Never learned Greek or Hebrew
    • “The Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘next to the Bible, perhaps the world’s best-selling book . . . translated into over 200 languages.’” -Piper
  3. Dwight Moody
    • without higher education, founded three schools;
    • without theological training, reshaped Victorian Christianity;
    • without radio or television reached 100 million people.
  4. Charles Spurgeon
    • Little formal education (some college)
    • Began preaching at 16
  5. William Carey
    • No formal education – self taught
  6. Andrew Fuller
    • Farm raised
    • “He had no formal theological training but became the leading theological spokesman for the Particular Baptists in his day.” -Piper
  7. Hudson Taylor
    • No theological education
    • Some medical education
    • Gathered missionaries which other mission societies rejected as too uneducated
  8. John Newton
    • 2 years of boarding school, after which he went to sea with his father
    • Self educated in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew
  9. David Brainerd
    • Expelled from seminary in his third year
  10. Leonard Ravenhill
    • Educated at Cliff College in England
    • Said it was advantageous for pastors to not attend Bible school
    • Yet taught himself for a time at Bethany College of Missions

John Owen (who not only attended but taught seminary) believed that the first and main purpose of all of a student’s studies and meditations is to cultivate communion with God. He says that the study of scriptures, “should always be conducted in order to learn from them our duty and, understanding that, let it proceed to practice holy communion with God as we experience to the depths of our souls the power of the Spirit mightily manifesting in us His grace and light.” Without this, he says, “our studies are useless.”

If there were seminaries which taught God-besottedness (such as Owen desired of all theological learning), I wonder if Christ’s Church would so often stand in need of uneducated lay-ministers. Regardless of my speculations, we can be confident of this: that if seminaries will not produce such men, then God will supply his Church with them out of his own stores. As Richard Baxter puts it;

As to supply of pastors, Christ will take care of that. … He who himself undertook the work of our redemption, and bore our transgressions, and hath been faithful as the chief Shepherd of the Church, will not lose all his labor and suffering for want of instruments to carry on his work … he will provide men to be his servants and ushers in his school, who shall willingly take the labor on them, and rejoice to be so emplyed, and account that the happiest life in the world which you account so great a toil, and would not exchange it for all your ease and carnal pleasure; but for the saving of souls, and the propagating of the gospel of Christ, will be content to bear the burden and heat of the day; and to fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ in their bodies; and to work while it is day; and to do what they do with all their might; and to be the servants of all, and not to please themselves, but others, for their edification; and to become all things to all men, that they may save some; and to endure all things for the elect’s sake; and to spend and be spent for their fellow-creatures; though the more they love, the less they should be beloved, and should be accounted their enemies for telling them the truth. Such pastors will Christ provide his people, after his own heart.

Or if you prefer, consider John’s teaching to the religious teachers of his day;

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Perhaps best of all is the teaching of Jeremiah:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

God promises to raise up the men he needs in order for his church to succeed. Sometimes he raised them through seminaries, sometimes he doesn’t. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

A.W. Tozer on The Pursuit of God

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day.

But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders. Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.

I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: “Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is a proof of this.”

Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.


Taken from the preface of The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer.

An Ulster Revival Story

Though the origin of a movement of God cannot be fixed by man, many attribute the beginnings of Ireland’s 1859 Ulster Revival to a humble prayer group of four Christians. These men dedicated themselves to pray for their own edification and the salvation of others around them. Once the revival was underway, over 10,000 converts were made in the first few weeks, and by the end of the year 100,000 converts were brought into churches.

One minister said of this time:

From contact with this ‘wonderful work of God,’ and being honoured to take some little part in carrying it on, my spirit has been literally overwhelmed with a sense of my own deep unworthiness, and yet that God should ‘count me worthy, putting me into the ministry’ at such a precious time of abounding mercy to perishing men; and I have felt that all earthly honours pale into insignificance when compared with the highest God could confer on man, being a ‘fellow-worker with God, and with His Christ.’ It were worth living ten thousand ages in obscurity and reproach to be permitted to creep forth at the expiration of that time, and engage in the glorious work of the last six months of 1859. (Source)

What follows is one particular Ulster Revival story told by William Gibson, in his work The Year of Grace (paragraphing added).
[...]

Church Revival, Then and Now

Amos 6:1

6:1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!

Amos 6:6

who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

Revelation 3:17-19

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (ESV)

What does revival take? Does it not take the blood, sweat, and tears of the saints?

When John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, was in route to his mission station, he thought of how, not twenty years earlier, the earliest missionaries to the region were eaten by cannibals. He wrote;

Alas! Within a few minutes of their touching land, both were clubbed to death ; and the savages proceeded to cook and feast upon their bodies. Thus were the New Hebrides baptized with the blood of Martyrs ; and Christ thereby told the whole Christian world that He claimed these Islands as His own. His cross must yet be lifted up, where the blood of His saints has been poured forth in His name!

Oh to be surrounded by men who think like this. The blood of martyrs is Christ’s blood to the nations! When we see it, do we only see a tragic death? When we think of our own possible suffering for Christ’s sake do we see merely what cost it will exact? Or are those thoughts secondary to the surpassing joy of how God will use the sacrifices of His people to transform this world into His kingdom?

The reason I bring this up is to lead into and give support for what I’m about to claim, which is: if there is not at least someone in a local church who yearns for its revival so badly that he is willing to trade his house, his income, his wealth, his own life, or even the lives of his children for the sake of that revival, then that church does not really want revival. Furthermore, I would speculate that a church that doesn’t yearn for its revival, for its salvation, for its sanctification, has no business existing in the first place. It is like the tree with the axe laid at the roots. What will save such a tree? Is your church such a tree?

Yearn for revival.

Did not the pre-messianic Jews yearn for their savior? Did they not plead with God for His day. And yet when He came, they rejected Him. Are we so different? God offers us revival. He offers us sanctification. We who plead for revival, are we willing to accept the cost that revival will come by? Or will we, like the Jews of old, reject that revival because it is not made according to our design? Why do we gather to pray for revival if we are not willing to accept it in whatever form God chooses to send it?