We need the Holy Spirit not Entertainment from men. One of the very sad features that characterizes much that goes under the name of evangelism today is the craze for entertainment. Here is an extract from a letter received from a leader in youth work in one of your great cities: writes Duncan Campbell:
We are at our wits’ end to know what to do with the young people who made a profession of conversion recently. They are demanding all sorts of entertainment, and it seems to us that if we fail to provide the entertainment that they want, we are not going to hold them.” Yes, the trend of the time in which we live is toward a Christian experience (or should I say experience and leave Christian out of it?), an experience that is light and flippant, and fed on entertainment.
Some little time ago I listened to a young man give his testimony. He made a decision quite recently, and in giving his testimony this is what he said, “I have discovered that the Christian way of life can best be described, not as a battle, but as a song mingled with the sound of happy laughter.”
Far be it from me to move the song or happy laughter from religion, but I want to protest that young man’s conception was entirely wrong, and not in keeping with true New Testament Christianity. “Oh, but, say the advocates of this way of thinking, “how are we to get the people if we do not provide some sort of entertainment?
To that I ask the question, how did they get the people at Pentecost? How did the early Church get the people? By publicity projects, by bills, by posters, by parades, by pictures? No! The people were arrested and drawn together and brought into vital relationship with God, not by sounds from men, but by sounds from heaven. We are in need of more sounds from heaven today.
It seems to me that heavenly sounds are dying out. I am sure you must have noticed that Pentecost was its own publicity. I love that passage in the Acts that tells us “when this was noised abroad the multitude came together.” What was happening in the midst of men? What was noised abroad? That men and women were coming under deep conviction. That men in the community appeared like drunken men because they were drunk by the mighty power of God.
That was God’s method of publicity, and until the Church of Jesus Christ rediscovers this and acts upon it, we shall at our best appear to a mad world, as a crowd of common people, in a common market, babbling about common wares. The early Church cried for unction and not for entertainment because they knew that unction creates interest and real soul-concern.
But you say, “Yes, that happened in the Acts of the Apostles, but dare we expect that to happen today?” Are there sounds from heaven today? Are men moved in this fashion today? Are men arrested by a power that seems to be apart from all human agencies today? I say yes, it is happening today! Some of us saw it happen in churches comparatively empty, the youth given to pleasure rather than seeking after God; then suddenly there was a sound from heaven.
Three young women were praying in a barn when there was a sound from heaven, and the whole community became saturated with God, and men and women were swept into the Kingdom. We had not organized, we had no publicity program, but heaven’s messengers moved in the midst of the people, and in a matter of hours churches became crowded as scores were swept into the Kingdom of God. Yes, unction is the dire and desperate need of the ministry today. They believed in unction and not in entertainment. Further, the early Church put power before influence.
The present state of our country presents a challenge to the Christian Church. Those who have eyes to see and who are truly observant tell us that at this very hour forces are taking the field that are out to defy every known Christian principle. The need is desperate, and it is awful. We have got to do something.
In many quarters there is today a growing conviction that unless God moves, unless there is a demonstration of the supernatural in the midst of men, unless we are moved up into the realm of the Divine, we shall soon find ourselves caught up in a counterfeit movement, but a movement that goes under the name of evangelism.
There are ominous signs today that the devil is out to side-track us in the sphere of evangelism, and we are going to become satisfied with something less than Heaven wills to give us. Nothing but a Holy Spirit revival will meet the desperate need of the hour. The early Church, the men of Pentecost, had something beyond mere human influence and human ingenuity. But what do we mean by influence?
The sum total of all the forces in our personality; mental, moral, academic, social and religious. We can have all these, and we can have them at their highest level, and yet be destitute of power. Power, not influence, was the watchword of the early Church. While at the Keswick Convention, it was my privilege to spend an afternoon with a leader in foreign mission activity. I was arrested, if not perturbed, by what that man said to me. Here are his words:
Today we have some Bible Schools in our land and they are turning out young men and young women cultured and polished but without power.
Was that a true diagnosis? I want to suggest that he was near to the truth. Polished, yes, we may be polished, we may have culture, but the cry of our day is for power and that from on high. I could take you to a little cottage in the Hebrides and introduce you to a young woman. She is not educated; one could not say that she was polished in the sense that we use the word, but I have known that young woman to pray heaven into a community, to pray power into a meeting. I have known that young woman to be so caught in the power of the Holy Spirit that men and women around her were made to tremble — not influence, but power.
The Apostles were not men of influence, “not many mighty, not many noble.” Oh, no, the Master Himself did not choose to be a man of influence. “He made Himself of no reputation,” all of which is equal to saying that God chose power rather than influence. I sometimes think of Paul and Silas yonder in Philippi. Why? They had not enough influence to keep them out of prison, but possessed of the power of God in such a manner that their prayers in prison shook the whole prison to its very foundations.
Not influence, but power. Oh, that the Church today, in our congregations and in our pulpits, would rediscover this truth and get back to the place of God-realization, to the place of power. I want to say further that we should seek power even at the expense of influence.
Will God do it Again?
God will do it again when he finds a church he can trust; when he finds a man whom he can trust with revival. God found such men in Lewis — I have no hesitation in saying that — men whom He could trust. God can do it through a man completely and entirely filled by the Holy Spirit, through clean hands and a pure heart! I want to think of this as a glorious possibility for you. You have heard of the movement in the Hebrides; you have heard of the movement in the Congo; you have heard of the movement in Korea and in Brazil. Then you exclaim: “God can you do it again?” I want to say this, and I say it on the authority of this Book, Yes…
- Tommy Tenney, God’s Favourite House If you Build it, He will come (Published by Destiny Image Publishers, 2000)
- Duncan Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival (Publishers Faith Press 1975)