Extending ministries

A Prayer for Revival

Partners with the President with Kevin Kompelien.

In the fall of 1986, I entered the upcoming ministry season with an overly optimistic outlook. Becky and I were in Winona, Minnesota at the time, where I was pastoring a church. God was moving. The church was growing. And within a couple of weeks in September, we added a second service, I hired our first full-time staff member and Becky delivered our twin boys. At the time, I thought we could handle it, but looking back, I was lighting the candle at both ends (and several places in the middle). I learned several things that fall, especially the value of planning ahead and having a realistic mindset on how much I can handle in ministry.  

As we enter autumn this year, I’m reminded of the pastors and ministry leaders working hard toward a fruitful ministry season. The fall season is a unique time in our culture. Students go back to school. Farmers are busy harvesting crops and preparing for winter. Many families have returned from summer vacations. As these rhythms create a sense of expectation and as the rush of excitement and anticipation grows, it’s important to take a step back and reflect.  

In the July issue of Partners with the President, I called us into prayer for a spiritual awakening. That God would do a work of revival in us, in EFCA churches and in our nation. On our own, we don’t have the power to make that happen. The task is too great. We need God to move in our midst. While this season is a time for pastors to renew their ministry focus, celebrate with God’s people and build ministry momentum for the year, it also can be overwhelming and discouraging.  

That God would do a work of revival in us, in EFCA churches and in our nation. On our own, we don’t have the power to make that happen. The task is too great. We need God to move in our midst.

For all of its joys, ministry is also hard work. As people reconnect, so do their burdens. This reality increases the pressure on pastors and ministry leaders as we invest in their lives. We pray the hard work will reap rewards, that lives will be changed and more people will come to know the Lord Jesus. So we work diligently to pave pathways for gospel transformation.  

But in striving for ministry fruit, we may miss what God desires for us.  

Asking for revival 

In recent days, I’ve been reflecting on revival by reading chapter by chapter through Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book Revival. He has a profound word for those seeking revival. He asks, “Why should we ask God for revival? Are we praying for revival so that it would simply solve our problems?” Here’s his answer to that question:

“No, our overriding controlling reason for having any interest at all in these matters should be the glory of God. Does it grieve you, my friends, that the name of God is being taken in vain and desecrated? Does it grieve you that we're living in a godless age, an age when men have sufficient arrogance to speak in public and in private with sarcasm of the record of God's mighty deeds and actions?...When God acts, he can do more in a minute than man with his organizing can do in 50 years. Let us realize this tremendous possibility, therefore, and plead to God to make known His power, and to manifest His glory in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation of people. People that even blaspheme His Holy name and deny His very existence, for God's sake, for the glory of His name, let us intercede and pray for a visitation of God's Spirit.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote those words in 1959, when I was two years old. It was the one-hundred year anniversary of the 1859 revival. And as I was reading, I was struck by the similarities between his time period and ours today.  

We want ministry to flourish. We want more to come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Like my overly optimistic self in my early years as a pastor, we see the need, we see the problem, and we work hard to solve them, but with the best intentions, we may take on too much and lose sight of the goal. We may put more trust in our own hands than the hands of God. 

In this story, we believe the lost son is the one who spent his inheritance. However, Tim Keller notes in one of his sermons, “Both sons wanted what the Father had, they didn’t want the Father.”

In Luke 15, Jesus gives us the parable of the lost son. Many would point to the son who takes his father’s inheritance and recklessly spends it all as the lost son. When the son returns and the father welcomes him back by throwing a celebration, his older brother becomes angry. He wants what he believes he earned, while his brother received a party for nothing. In this story, we believe the lost son is the one who spent his inheritance. However, Tim Keller notes in one of his sermons, “Both sons wanted what the Father had, they didn’t want the Father.” 

In this time of reflection as we pray for revival, let us consider this: Do we want the Father? Or do we want a blessed ministry and a good life and peace in our heart and eternal life? These are all good things, but do we want them more than we want the Father? 

Do we want revival to solve our problems, or do we want revival for God’s glory? 

A prayer of God’s glory 

One of my favorite prayers in Scripture is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21: 

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” 

What if we prayed this passage in Ephesians 3 every day? What if we prayed, “Lord, would You show us how wide and how high and how deep Your love is for us? Would You remind us that You can do more than all we ask or imagine? Would You give us Your heart for lost people in a broken world?” 

What if we prayed this passage in Ephesians 3 every day? What if we prayed, “Lord, would You show us how wide and how high and how deep Your love is for us? Would You remind us that You can do more than all we ask or imagine? Would You give us Your heart for lost people in a broken world?”

In March of 2016, I traveled with ReachGlobal leaders to Ephesus, the city where Paul shared the gospel and planted a church. In those early days of the church, the gospel transformed the hearts of many people away from idol worship, which caused a riot at the local theater (Acts 19:23-41). We visited that same theater and sat at the top of the bowl. We were told of the incredible acoustics in the theater, but we were told, “You can't go down on the stage area to deliver a sermon. So I said, “Well, what can we do?” And somebody said, “Well, you could sing. You love to sing, Kevin. Go down there and let's see if we can hear you.”  

I walked to the bottom of the theater with another leader, and began to sing the doxology. The lyrics of praise to God and His glory resounded in that theater, which echoed Paul’s heart for the people of Ephesus to know God’s love, be filled with the fullness of God and to give Him all the glory and the praise.   

We don’t know if, when or how God will bring about revival in the Church. He could be doing it now. Yet, whether in this season or the next, let’s continue to praise God for what He’s done and lift prayers to Him who can do immeasurably more than anything we can ask or imagine. Together, with God’s help and power, let's hold fast to our mission to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people. 

Kevin Kompelien

President, EFCA

Kevin Kompelien is president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, serving in this role since June 2015. He previously served more than 20 years as a local pastor in the EFCA and then nine years as international leader of the Africa division with EFCA ReachGlobal. He and his wife, Becky, are members of Hillside EFC in San Jose, California.

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