I have been privileged, once in my lifetime, to witness what we call Revival – in the classic sense of the term. Although limited in area and effect it bore all the hallmarks of a move of the Spirit of God. It occurred in the early 80’s in a remote area of the Highlands of Scotland predominantly under the preaching of an itinerant evangelist and his companion. I recall going to the first meeting held by these men in the schoolroom of a remote hamlet. Apart from the evangelist and his companion, my friend and I were the only ones to attend. The evangelists suggested we retire to a nearby house in which they were staying in order to pray. I can recall very clearly sitting down in one of the few seats in the room. Suddenly from the floor behind my chair I heard what I can only describe as someone assaulting heaven in the most passionate outpouring of prayer I had ever heard. To cut a long story short within a few weeks that same schoolroom was packed with people – and so was every meeting they held thereafter. Many people came to faith – hardened people, complacent people, respectable people – even church elders! Some were suddenly struck by conviction and were desperate for the moment when they were visited by the evangelists in order to put things right with God. I recall one man in particular who, for a number of reasons, disliked me intensely. He was radically transformed by the grace of God and we became very close friends and one of the kindest men you could ever meet. I subsequently lost touch with him when he moved away from the Highlands – and was saddened to hear of his death a few months ago.
I can also remember clearly sitting in a car one evening returning from a home meeting in a distant village at which the evangelist had spoken. One of my companions in the vehicle, an elder in certain church, said – “We don’t really need … [and he named the evangelist] – we can do this ourselves”. I felt then [and still feel today] that such an attitude towards the man God was using would end the move of the Spirit – and such proved to be the case. God uses men not methods.
I have a friend who has an international ministry which had also birthed many conferences, seminars and teaching courses. These are good and proper and I am in no way ciritizining them. However – you cannot recreate his presence – you cannot recreate the anointing which God has so clearly placed on his life and personality. Others who have known something of his revelation may walk in to a room or conference centre with their own gifting and talent but they do not bring the unique qualities of his person and Christlikeness. God uses men not methods.
I spent some time last week with an old friend who has a heart to see the Church which he leads grow and flourish after many years of decline. He shared with me some of the courses and various attempts, all admirable, that the church have taken in an attempt to see people come to faith – and some have. But as I looked at him – his passion – his heart – his love for people – I could not help but think that what the Church really needs is more people like him. God uses men not methods.
Seminars, conferences and courses all have their place and purpose and again I am not criticising them and their value – but I believe that above and beyond them what we really need are people who have been undone by the Fathers love, are deeply in love with Jesus and have a passionate love for others.
Last weekend, shortly after being in a small church I had not visited for many many years, I had a flashback to sitting in the same building as a small child. I could see as clearly as if it were yesterday an old man preaching with deep conviction and compassion. As he did so tears rolled down his cheeks. I suspect he never knew – but he had a great influence on my life and on the lives of many others. God uses men not methods.