Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What I Would Have Preached at the Burlington Revival

(Note: I was not invited to the 11 week revival in Burlington NC orchestrated by C.T. Townsend, though I am personally acquainted with most of the principle players that were there. Believe it or not, I'm not bothered by that in the least. Many of the men involved in that event I happen to like personally, however much I may disagree with their methods. I have no reason to question their motives, and I am not mad at them.  My phone did not ring, nor did I expect it to. There is a reason I call this blog 'Outside the Camp', after all.  But had I been brought in as a speaker, this is what I would have said.)

Photo from the Burlington revival Facebook page


  Good evening.  I appreciate the chance to  share some things with y'all tonight.  This meeting has been going on for some time now, and some pretty amazing things have been said about it.. I thank God for how God has dealt with people's hearts in what  has been dubbed 'The Burlington Revival'. 
  What's interesting to me is that while we use the term 'revival', we don't have a very unified  definition of what revival is, or much of an agreement on what it looks like.  The word 'revival' isn't in the Bible, but the word 'Bible' isn't in the Bible, either. Some would say that 'revival' means people are getting saved, and that's certainly a blessing.  Some would say that 'revival' means that saved people are getting excited, and I'm a big fan of excitement, and zeal.  But since we don't have a clear biblical definition of revival, or even any real biblical examples of it, all of these definitions might be true, and none of them might be true. In fact, in the absence of any clear definition from the Bible, my definition is just as valid as yours.  Here's my definition then: 'revival is acknowledging what's wrong, and fixing it'.
  I got saved as a result of the ministry work of an independent Baptist church. I was discipled by independents, and I have to say, for better for worse, that's my crowd.  I know not everybody here is of that flavor, and that's fine.  If you're saved, then I am your brother in Christ, and you are stuck with me. Y'all are my family, and I speak to you as a member of that family.  But since so many of the people here are independents, and that's the crowd I am most intimately familiar with, I think we owe it to ourselves , in the midst of all the excitement, to be honest, and talk about what's wrong with our crowd. We do that so that we can fix it. We do that so that we can honestly and sincerely seek God's help.  The independents arose because a group of men and women saw the erroneous drift of mainstream Christianity and sought to separate themselves from it so that they might live lives pleasing to God. That is our heritage, and we are their legacy.  But brethren, we are messing this thing up 9 ways to Sunday. We owe it to our forefathers, and we owe it to the body of Christ, and we owe it to our Saviour, to fix it, even if it means we rip out what we've been doing, and start over.
  Hopefully you brought your Bible to church with you tonight, and if you did, turn to 1 Corinthians 3. The Bible says, starting in verse one, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" The biblical definition of carnality is being unable or unwilling to get along with other Christians, and my brothers, we are thick with it.
  Now let me cut some of you off at the pass. Biblical separation from erring brethren is a legitimate thing, and that certainly deserves a message all by itself, but that's not what we're talking about. I'm talking about the infighting and the bickering and the division that marks the independent Baptist crowd in the year 2016. I'm talking about how the Hyles crowd doesn't get along with the BJU crowd, and the PCC crowd doesn't fellowship with the PBI crowd. I'm talking about how good men slander and snub their brothers in Christ and , depending what crowd you fall in with, there is a tendency to reflect that prejudice even if you don't know what the issue is, or was.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. No seriously, I bought a t-shirt while I was there.
  We made a trip to Pensacola years ago, and I had never been to PCC.  That's because I was heavily influenced by Dr. Ruckman, and I had heard him lambast them for years as this  horribly liberal and apostate place. But we were in town and my wife wanted to check out the bookstore. I'm telling you, based on  my pre-conceived carnal notion, I expected everything just short of rock music and mini- skirts.  My notion was wrong.  Yes , PCC has taken some stands that I disagree with.  Yes, I think they are wrong in some areas.  But the Bible says "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."  A lot of our separation isn't Biblical, its fleshy wicked carnality, and we need to repent of it.
  Turn to Romans 15.  In verse 4 it says "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  I'm going to say this as  nicely as I know how; as a group, our biblical ignorance is embarrassing.  We spend an inordinate amount of time strutting and crowing about our precious King James bible, and scant time reading it, meditating on it, or preaching it. You men here that preach, please let me admonish you as a brother.  There is a difference between preaching the Bible and merely using the Bible while you preach. If your messages are a mile wide, and an inch deep, you should repent. If the people you are preaching to aren't either learning something new about God or being reminded of something they already knew about God, you are wasting everyone's time, and should repent.  I speak as one who has wasted peoples time, and as one who has had his time wasted.
  The scriptures are sufficient in themselves. We say that, and then we use them as a launching pad to project our own issues onto God's people. The preaching that goes on in MOST independent Baptist circles is a reproach to the term.  I could give you example after example of messages I've sat through that were no more messages from God than they were messages from Kermit the Frog.  The root of that is laziness. We are biblically lazy.  It's hard to preach correctly. It's hard to expound on a subject and give a balanced treatment from the scriptures, week after week, month after month, year after year. But it must be done.
  I've said this before, that I think sometimes, in some areas, those of us that got saved as adults have a certain advantage. We have issues, and baggage, but we also have advantages.  You see, when I got saved, I just assumed that everybody that was already saved knew all this Bible stuff, and that I was behind the curve. I felt like all these church kids were ahead of me, if that makes any sense, and that I had to work extra hard to catch up. So I read my Bible over and over again. I sucked up  all the teaching I could find.  It was years before I realized most church kids don't know any Bible, and all indicators are they are ok with that. Some of the blame for that must rest on the pastors of our churches, but some of that blame rests with the rest of us.
  Church member, your pastor is not your priest. You need to read your Bible on your own, for yourself.   You're not a baby anymore, feed yourself.  You don't need to go to the next camp-meeting or gospel sing as badly as you need to read your Bible. You don't even need preaching as badly as you need Bible. If you have been saved 3 or 4 years and you still haven't read your Bible all the way through, what's the hold up?  Be a grown-up Christian, and fix it!
  Ok, take a look at 1 Timothy 3, starting at verse 1."This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things."   In case you were wondering, 1 Timothy 3 is one of the reasons I'm not a pastor, and my hat is off to the men who day-in and day-out live 1 Timothy 3. I think you really are worthy of "double honor" like the Bible says.  I also think you are very very rare.
 But back to the passage. There is frankly, a ton in these verses, more than we have time to accurately expound, so let's zero in on this. The bishop is supposed to be an example , according to 1 Timothy 4, so the things that God requires of them God also requires of everybody else.  The bishop is supposed to be "grave" and "sober".  His children are supposed to be "in subjection with all gravity".  His wife is supposed to be "grave"  and  "sober" and "faithful".
  If all that's true, then where do we get this weepy,  flaky, emotionally-driven Christianity so common in our circles?  Where did we get the notion  that running, shouting, screaming, wailing, etc..are the marks of the Holy Spirit?  The mark of the Holy Spirit, according to the Bible at least, is self-control, and sobriety.  I'm all for happiness, and I'm all for zeal, but what we are seeing more and more often in our camp-meetings and revival meetings and tent meetings is absolute foolishness.  You may not like me very much, and I might even be inclined to agree with you, but you cannot take a Bible and justify any of that.
  Hey, look up here. I get it that you're mad.  But we need to fix this.  We're supposed to be the ones that have the truth. We need to stop acting like clowns.
 1 Corinthians 10 is our next stop. The Bible says, in verse 13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." Now think about this for a minute. The Holy Spirit is talking to saved, blood-washed church folks about temptations that are common to man, and  the first one he mentions is idolatry. You see, most of us don't connect those two verses, but there's a 'wherefore' right there at the beginning of verse 4.  Idolatry. Interesting, isn't it?
  We know from Colossians 3 that covetousness is idolatry, and we know that  idolatry is listed in a pretty ugly list in Galatians 5. We know that some of the things that the nation of Israel did in the wilderness are called idolatry, including rising up to play.  Part of idolatry is doing things your way instead of God's way.  Part of idolatry is putting your desires above God's desires. I heard a man say once that we were guilty of 'worshiping the worship". You could do a whole study on that, which we won't, but let me just throw this out there; in our circles, we worship our emotions, and our experiences and our traditions, and our heroes, living or dead. We elevate them higher than they deserve, and they become the standard, instead of the Bible. I'm just going to leave that there for the  two or three of you that aren't mad yet to think about.
  My last point is found in Mark 16, verse 15, which should be very familiar to you. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." One of the things that my crowd, and your crowd needs to fix is we do not, as a group, practice biblical evangelism.  Evangelism is not gimmicks. Evangelism is not church inviting. Evangelism is not having deacons swallow goldfish to boost attendance.  Evangelism is not preaching to people who already agree with you. Evangelism is not  an emotional sales job where the choir sings 37 verses of "He Knows My Name" until some weepy church kid hits an altar or hugs his moms neck or something. Biblical evangelism is dealing with lost men and women, on their own turf, about matters of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.
  Their own turf might be the gas station, or on the job, or even in your own house if you have kids.  Lost people deserve a thorough, biblical explanation of the trouble they are in, and how Jesus Christ is the solution. The Bible calls that gospel "glorious".  God gave a knucklehead like you something glorious. We literally have the cure for death, and we handle it so sloppily and so carelessly that we ought to repent of how we conduct the ministry of Jesus Christ.
  We even have men who have taken the title of 'evangelist', and who run around on other peoples dime preaching to people who already agree with them, and they never once preach to a lost person that somebody else hasn't hand-delivered to them. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for what we have turned the ministry into, and for what we've let it become.
  Well, there you go brothers and sisters. A lot of you have driven a  long way, and spent a lot of money to be here. This is my advice. You want revival? Repent of your foolishness. Fix your life, and then go back home to your community and live for Jesus Christ the rest of your days.   Not only would that be revival, in my book, but it might qualify as a miracle.
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