Revival, prayer get a closer look at SBC
BALTIMORE (BP) -- A focus on the three aspects of the "Restoration and Revival through Prayer" theme of the Southern Baptist Convention was conveyed in theme interpretations during the June 10-11 sessions in Baltimore.
"When we pray we're saying, 'God, I depend on You,'" Eddie Bumpers, pastor of Crossway Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., said in the first of the three messages. "We're saying, 'God, I need Your wisdom and Your power. Nothing will be accomplished unless You move in and through my life.'"
Gary Frost, vice president for the North American Mission Board's Midwest Region, spoke on restoration: "There needs to be a desperation in the people of God. There has to be a hunger and thirst for the holiness of God if we're going to see a transformational movement of the spirit of God in our land."
K. Marshall Williams Sr., pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and newly elected president of the National African American Fellowship, speaking on revival, voiced a call "to a 'greatest commandment revival'" of Christian love. He cautioned, however, "Without strict adherence and obedience to the greatest commandment we don't have a mission."
Bumpers, describing the United States as sin-sick and in need of spiritual healing, said, "Locusts of lust, immorality and materialism are eating up our homes. The plague of sin is destroying our country.
"What do we do when this condition exists? God said we pray. We are living in desperate times," yet, "We stand in a time of great opportunity to reach people with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ." Bumpers preached. "So the question in my mind is, why haven't we seen more accomplished? I think we have allowed our flesh to think that our plans, our programs, our buildings and our budgets can reach this generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- and clearly they cannot.
"What we need today only God can do: We need revival, and for revival to come we must pray" -- "pray humbly, earnestly, wholly -- with clean hands," Bumpers said. "Turn from your wicked ways. Our sin has separated us from our God. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can pray and touch heaven with sin in our life." On the other hand, he noted, "The link between our weakness and God's power is prayer."
Frost, in his Tuesday afternoon theme interpretation, said restoration is the process by which someone or something is brought back to its original condition or original purpose.
"One of the questions that rings throughout Southern Baptist life today is, Why are baptisms down? Some say we don't have effective evangelism strategies," Frost said, noting, "It's not a failure of strategy; it's a failure of quality. There's a lack of quality in the lives of the people of God.
"There's a failure of spiritual athleticism in the body of Christ," Frost continued after giving a basketball illustration. "There are those who have failed to be disciplined through whom God cannot move and do the work He has called the church to do.... If we are a people of holiness, righteousness, truth and peacemaking, we will make a difference and influence in the world that is around us."
Restoration involves transformation of the heart, Frost said. "Once restored properly to God and demonstrating the compassion of Christ to those made in the image of God, God will allow us to not only experience restoration but to be the vehicles of restoration in the world around us."
Williams in the third theme interpretation Wednesday morning gave what he said was a simple recipe for revival: repentance and release of the brokenness in a Christian's life.
"In this sin-sick secular society ... we need to repent," Williams said. "In order for us to repent ... we need confession and brokenness."
Brokenness, Williams said, "is when God blocks every exit, closes every door that might drive you to Him. God wants us to have a perpetual crisis of dependence on Him so we're compelled to trust almighty God.
"The issue of the day is, is He really the Lord of your life?" Williams said. "He wants to be the sovereign ruler in your life."
In fact, Williams continued, "God demands instant obedience from the body of Christ. Our life ought to be a living metaphor of the love of God regardless of the personal cost. Without strict adherence and obedience to the greatest commandment we don't have a mission.
"If we're going to have revival in our land, we're going to have to repent; we've got to release some stuff," Williams said. "We've got to refocus on the Redeemer because it's all about Him."
Karen Willoughby is a freelance writer in Mapleton, Utah.