FIRST-PERSON: The reality of lostness
OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- I grew up in the age of revivals and evangelistic meetings. My life was deeply touched by those periods when the church refocused on cleansing and "getting right with God" for believers and on repentance and faith for unbelievers.
The most important word noted above about these times of refreshing from the Lord is "refocused." The church broke from regular routines in order to set hearts and minds on people's souls.
Tragically, we have lost those times of refocus on souls. I am not bemoaning the loss of a method, but the loss of focus. While I have seen a return of revivals and evangelistic meetings in more rural settings, it is unlikely these will transpire in the cities. Unfortunately, that means there is no longer a season in the normal rhythms of many churches when the people of God refocus on reaching the lost.
Therein lies the greatest loss, the total absence of a time of heightened sensitivity to the unsaved.
When does your church have a time to call you to prayer and to passionate efforts to reach those who are lost in sin, headed for an appointment with the wrath of God and a Christless eternity in hell? Where is there a time when the pulpit is aflame with passionate preaching of the Gospel and calling upon those under the judgment of God to repent and believe the Gospel?
Part of our problem is that we have forgotten and ignored the reality that those who go into eternity lost in sin will pay the penalty for their own sin -- a penalty Jesus has already paid. I am afraid weak theology and political correctness have stripped the reality of lostness from our preaching and praying.
My heart was set afire for the lost at a very young age. My grandfather was a pastor and I remember, like yesterday, being at my grandparents' home during revival time.
In those days, the evangelist stayed in the home of the pastor. Each night before retiring, my grandparents, the evangelist and I would get on our knees in the living room and pray. And did we pray! I heard prayers of brokenness, but most of all, I heard my grandparents and the evangelist weep over lost souls. Yes, weep. The pathos and passion that poured from their souls were gripping to my young heart.
C.H. Spurgeon, the great 17th-century pastor and evangelist, made a very significant statement: "Winners of souls will be weepers for souls." Perhaps our lack of new birth in the church lies at this very point. When have you heard people weep over lost individuals? When has your church become so burdened for the lost of your community that they were moved to tears and weeping, crying out to God for their very souls? When have you been so moved?
In earlier days of revivals and evangelistic meetings, there was a sensitivity to the Gospel and a pervading Christian worldview that is not present today. This causes me to think we need to refocus more than ever on praying, witnessing and preaching the Gospel. While many churches will not choose to return to the old evangelistic meetings or revivals of the past, is there not still the need for focused prayer for the lost as well as passionate preaching and witnessing to them of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ?
One of the old hymns we once sang is titled "Set My Soul Afire." The words of the refrain still echo through my soul and serve as my prayer:
"Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire; Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow'r.
"Millions grope in darkness waiting for Thy Word; Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire."
It is time we find a season to refocus the church on prayer for the lost and pure Gospel proclamation. It is time for a season when the Spirit of God is called upon to pour on the gasoline and strike a match in our souls for lost souls.