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Friday, May 04, 2007

Greenville's National Day of Error

I had never participated in the "National Day of Prayer" in Greenville. I jumped in my truck and headed for the city circle just before noon. As I approached "the fountain" I could hear the music and noticed a larger crowd than I anticipated (though it wasn't huge). I actually thought it would just be a gathering of a few pastors and local government officials praying quietly together. I had no idea there was a program of sorts involved. I walked up to the edge of the crowd, found a pastor I dearly respect, and stood there to take in the action.

Highlight: Our city's mayor, Greg Fraley, gave the most gospel saturated, Christ exalting prayer. He prayed about our sin, Christ's payment, that He is the Only Way and that salvation can only be known through faith in Him. (A cool side note. While he was praying, a semi pulled through the circle, causing the sound to echo throughout downtown. Almost like God wanted that to be the portion most proclaimed!)

Pastor Gary Ozer led the portion about confessing sin. I was thankful that he did not just vaguely speak about "national sins," but instead dealt with personal sin. He also acknowledged that Christ is our only means of forgiveness from those sins.

Other observations: There was a fairly large group of pray-ers. As far as I know, they were all protestants, but there certainly were a number of styles and topics prayed for. There were many social issues mentioned, with abortion getting the majority of the attention. One pastor prayed that city officials would find ways to improve our economy. One pastor prayed that Zimbawe's +2000% inflation rate would be curbed and that most of the world would start getting more than $2/day income. One representative gave a rather detailed prayer, including mention of bills he had introduced to the state senate. Another pastor prayed with great emotion, from yelling--to crying--back to yelling again (possibly all in one sentence).

Lowpoint: Our city's mayor, Greg Fraley, gave the most gospel saturated, Christ exalting prayer.

[Before I continue, allow me to give the caveats I so hate to have to give, but find necessary. I am not making any assessment of these pastor's hearts or ministries. I am not claiming they are anything but God fearing, Christ loving men (and women--who were not pastors, I might add). I am not stating their intentions were off, nor that they had impure motives. And I am not claiming these men do not know the gospel or preach it.]

While I find it encouraging that our mayor is a believer (his testimony has been made known many times before this day), I find it sad that he and Pastor Ozer were the only two who actually articulated the details of the gospel. There's nothing wrong with praying for justice and wisdom for politicians, peace in our schools and the diminishing effects of poverty. In fact, it is commendable to pray for all of these things. But these things are not just lesser issues than the gospel, they actually do not find their satisfaction in anything else but the gospel. (For instance, I have greater confidence that a judge in our county will find wisdom and justice knowing He has trusted Christ with his life and is in a church that holds him accountable.)

My concern can be summed up by one brother's passionate prayer. This brother prayed that God would send revival to our city, county and country. He poured his heart out to God as he begged the Lord to send down "revival fire." However, no mention of the gospel was given. How do we expect revival to come, if not at the proclamation of the gospel? While I share his desire to see "revival fire," by declaring the gospel before this large crowd, he could have participated in God's desired mode of bringing revival, not just wishing to see it happen. Revival could have begun with a conversion from the gospel being declared during the prayer rally. Fellow believers may have begun revival as they were again reminded that their lives are nothing apart from the gospel. We don't begin revival by talking about revival, we begin it by declaring the gospel.

So what?

If you live in Greenville...write Mayor Fraley a thank you. Seriously, whether you were at the rally or are just hearing about his prayer in this post, write the mayor and encourage him. Let him know you appeciate his clear articulation of the gospel. Also, fulfill you duty to pray for your government, and encourage him that you are doing so.

If you are a pastor...or would have opportunity to ever pray publicly, please take advantage of the opportunity to present the gospel. It doesn't matter what the topic or occasion, the gospel is the core answer. Don't simply pray to Jesus, don't just pray about Jesus, walk through the tenents of the gospel. Lay out that Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us life. Present that man cannot attain favor with God apart from the blood of Christ. Articulate that it is by faith alone that eternal life with Christ can be gained.

[In a nutshell, it is an insufficient prayer if any atheist, Jew, Muslim or Catholic (to name just a few) could hear your prayer and not be uncomfortable. This is counter our "tolerance society" but our allegiance should be to the gospel, not to societal pressures. I'm not saying to be belligerent or rude, yet one can allow the content--graciously presented--to be confrontational. Praying in a way that people do not feel confronted will not transform lives. Praying in a way that presents the gospel could transform a life for eternity.]

If you sit in the pew...be proactive to speak to your pastor about this. Let him know you are not ashamed of the gospel and want to hear your pastor declare it in public venues. Let him know you will stand by his side and support him, even through boos or negative editorials in the paper. In fact, let him know it is your expectation, that as a minister of the gospel, he will present the gospel.

And if your pastor should ever get opportunity, and he fails to clearly articulate the gospel...gently reveal this to him. Do not assume his motive, nor challenge his faith. Simply encourage him to be clearer next time and challenge him to be bold. (Then assess his response, it will tell you volumes.) I have had a person confront me immediately after a message before. I had failed to be clear with the gospel (though I wanted to be). It stung a little, but later it was wonderful to know I have one locking arms with me, wanting the gospel to be boldly declared to the nations.
and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.--2 Chronicles 7:14
This verse is often quoted at prayer rallies. But notice, it is not enough for people to gather together and pray. They must turn from their wicked ways and seek the Lord's face. This can only be done through the articulation of the gospel.

While I'm thankful that a group of people want to gather together and pray, I hope next time Greenville does it, we'll take better advantage of the opportunity afforded to us. Maybe next time, instead of just the Mayor's prayer, the entire event will be a highlight.

5 Comments:

  • At 8:51 AM, Blogger ~d said…

    I'm not sure I get your point, Danny. If two people already presented the Gospel while praying, are you saying that wasn't enough? That every one of the pastors should have done the same? And if that were to happen, would they have been sincerely talking to God or to the people? (I know - a motivation that is hard to discern). I have long resented it when a pastor says, "let's pray" but really just keeps on preaching. It seems less than authentic.

    I'm not sure why you believe that every request has to be prefaced by a presentation of the Gospel by every believer present just because it is in a public setting.

     
  • At 1:04 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    it is precisely the dilema you describe that changes things.

    if i am praying simply for the audience to hear me (fellow men) then i will assess who is in the audience and what has already been said, and pray accordingly.

    however, if i am truly praying to God, then I will desire to exalt His name and magnify Him, and it won't matter who is present and what has already been said.

    i'm not saying to pray the gospel for evangelism purposes (though it can have that effect). i'm saying you pray in the context of the gospel--reiterating it, because He is glorified in its proclamation, not intimation--because the gospel is the only true answer.

    is greenville's economy (or zimbabwe or the rest of the world for that matter) improving a God pleasing thing? not outside the context of the gospel it isn't. is screaming and crying for revival God pleasing? it may reflect a God honoring desire, but an emotional plea for revival void of the very source of revival is missing the mark.

    i guess what i'm saying d, is that while i was encouraged to hear the gospel from the lips of our mayor...i would have been much more thrilled to hear it from the lips of the other pastors present.

     
  • At 1:07 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    also, IF each of these men do love Christ and believe His gospel is the source for all life and revival....do you not believe that would have been an incredible strength and testimony to hear men from multiple perspectives theologically (on church government, baptism, etc) stand on a platfom and show unity over the urgency of the gospel?

     
  • At 3:48 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    ok, i think i understand what you are saying....i think.

    for example - the guy praying for revival ought to have prayed that it come from a spiritual awakening in the hearts and minds of the people, that they would realize the depravity of self apart from Christ....that there would be sincere confession and repentance....that hearts would be changed, desiring to love and serve God instead of self....but instead he just prayed for revival?

    if that's the case, i'm with you. if not, you'll have to explain it to me more tonight at the shower :)

     
  • At 8:49 AM, Blogger BReformed said…

    We don't begin revival by talking about revival, we begin it by declaring the gospel.

    Amen!

     

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