Month: November 2022

Q&A: Annual meeting speaker believes conditions are right for next great revival

‘I just think it’s coming’

Bill Elliff is a pastor (The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark.) and author who has pursued revival since experiencing the Jesus Movement on the campus of Ouachita Baptist University in 1970. On Nov. 15, he will be the President’s Lunch guest speaker at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting. Elliff recently spoke with Texan editor Jayson Larson about what revival is, what it isn’t, and why he is more hopeful than ever that the next great movement of God could be just over the horizon.

Revival is a word that is often used and spoken about in our churches,
but what is revival?

BILL ELLIFF: Well, I love Richard Owen Roberts’ definition that I’ve used for years—revival is the extraordinary work of the Spirit of God among His people that produces extraordinary results. In other words, there’s the ordinary movement of God that’s happening all the time … but then there’s the extraordinary movement of God, those seasons in a life or a church or even a region or nation when God seems to open the heavens and come down and manifest Himself, what we talk about as the manifest presence of God—clear, visible, unmistakable. It’s when God’s people come back to life again.

We use the term spiritual awakening to refer to something that happens after revival. That is when lost people begin to just wake up, by the grace of God and the activity of His Spirit, and come to Christ in amazing, record numbers. We often tie revival and spiritual awakening together, but they’re two separate components of the same activity of God—one in the church and one in the world.

If that is what revival is, what is revival not?
In other words, what is misunderstood about revival?

BE: It’s certainly not a series of meetings. That’s what we often think of. We think, “Well, we’re having a revival tonight” or “we’re having a revival this week.” That word has lost its meaning to so many because the idea for some people is, we’re going to have a series of meetings when we set aside some time to seek God. That may result in real revival or it may not, but revival is a God word. It’s when God chooses to revive His people. So it’s not humanistic. It’s not man-made. It’s not orchestrated by us. It’s divinely orchestrated, but we cooperate. In order to see that, we need to cooperate with God in what He’s doing.

"We are primed and ready for the next great revival. Apart from prayer and apart from us coming to the end of ourselves and calling on the name of Lord, we will not see revival and we will not see that awakening."

What is the anatomy of a revival? What commonalities have you found among the revivals that have been recorded in history?

BE: Well, it’s really fascinating. First, there is always what I call the preparatory work of God in revival. R.B. Jones, who was a pastor in the Welsh Revival and wrote a book 20 years after that, said revival is never of sudden origin. In other words, it doesn’t just happen in a moment. When you study the five nationwide revivals in America, you can very clearly look at the eight to 10 years prior to that revival and see certain identifiable marks. 

I like to think of how John the Baptist came [prior to] the manifest presence of Christ. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. So when revivals come, God starts raising up voices, which is exactly what He is doing right now, and there’s a message of repentance and coming judgment and the hope of Christ. There is desperation—an urgent, desperate cry begins to come from God’s people, crying out to Him to do something that they can’t seem to do. Then you start hearing of these little outbreaks of the movement of God, just these extraordinary mercy drops. We’re seeing exactly that right now.

You can’t find revival in the Bible or history, and certainly not in our American history, where real revival is not preceded by desperate, increasing levels of unified prayer. When people start calling us to pray, they’re not just telling us we ought to pray. No! God is showing us our need, bringing us to desperation and turning us to the one place where that can be resolved. 

When revival comes in the church, there’s always repentance, because the thing that’s pulled us away and made us unrevived and distant and calloused is our sin. God reveals our sin, and there’s always repentance and a return to Christ. Real revival is always Christ-centered. The emphasis is not on revival. The emphasis is on Christ and coming back to Him.

Then a final result of revival is testimony—people start witnessing and telling. People can’t stop telling what they’ve seen and heard. That leads to spiritual awakening among lost people. This is why every great missions movement in history has come out of seasons of revival. That’s provable. 

What are you seeing in our world today that leads you to believe we could be ready to experience the next revival?

BE: I’ve been studying it for 50 years, ever since the Jesus Movement. I am more hopeful right now than I’ve ever been. The reasons are, number one, the condition of our nation and world. Revival doesn’t come when everything’s great. It comes when everything is dark. God’s people get desperate and they cry out. This decade reminds me so much of the 60s. There was a spirit of anarchy, there was rioting, there was a whole new level of sexual perversion that was happening. There was real discontent on the campuses … and that’s exactly the season we’re in right now. [The circumstances of the 1960s] resulted in the Jesus Movement in the early 70s, which was the last significant movement of revival and awakening that we’ve had in our nation.

Number two, I see God raising up voices all across America. Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t scare up a conversation about revival. Now, every thinking pastor I know is talking about revival and awakening and prayer. God is raising up voices. That’s what He has always done. There’s a call to repentance about the coming judgment of God if we don’t repent. The role of the Holy Spirit and the role of prayer, that has by and large been lost, is being returned. That really encourages me. The desperation that is happening, I think, is a sign. The extraordinary prayer that’s going on [is a sign]. The National Prayer Committee chairman, Dave Butts, said to me not too long ago that they believe more people are praying right now in America than any time in American history.

So I think the signs are right. This is completely subjective, but I’m telling you, I feel it in my spirit so deeply and I’m so moved when I talk about these things, I get overcome. I’ve had seasons where that was not the case. I just think it’s coming.

‘In Jesus’ Name’: Southern Baptists prepare to observe global prayer day

Editor’s note: Sunday, Nov. 6, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

CORDOVA, Tenn. (BP)—She Loves Out Loud Founder Diane Strack recalls asking Cru Founders Bill and Vonette Bright, now deceased, how they dealt with different theological beliefs when praying for the nations.

“I said how do you work through all the different kinds of beliefs people have in doctrines?” Strack, a member of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., told Baptist Press in advance of the Nov. 6 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

“And he said, ‘What we do is we pray in Jesus’ name, and that’s all we focus on. So no matter what country they’re from, no matter what their doctrine is, we come back to this. Can we pray in Jesus’ name together?’” Strack recalled. “And that’s what we’re doing on this day.”

Women who live amid persecution in southeast Asia worship God at One More Child international ministry event. One More Child photo

Strack will join other women from Southern Baptist churches and ministries and evangelistic missions in engaging women in prayer from 30 countries Nov. 5 in advance of the international observance.

Donna Gaines, women’s ministry leader and wife of pastor Steve Gaines, will host the She Loves Out Loud event at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, reaching women onsite, nationally and internationally through a registration-only silmulcast event.

Christi Haag, a speaker and advocate for children through Florida Baptist Children’s Homes’ One More Child initiative; Jackie Green, founder of Women of Legacy at the Museum of the Bible; Norine Brunson, a survivor with her husband Andrew Brunson of Christian persecution in Turkey; and Carole Ward, a missionary in northern Uganda and South Sudan, will join Strack and Gaines as speakers at the event, some of them joining virtually.

Several survivors of Christian persecution will share their testimonies and experiences. Participating churches attending virtually will include times of prayer onsite at their churches during the event, Strack said.

“We’re asking God to call women to missions, to foster and adopt, to just the many opportunities there are to serve,” she said, “whether it’s small or large. What the invitation will be at the end is, ‘God I’m available.’ All of us can say, ‘God I’m available.’”

The She Loves Out Loud simulcast is among numerous events marking the international prayer outreach, an annual observance birthed in 1996 to pray for persecuted Christians globally. The annual observance coincides with the Southern Baptist Convention Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church for the first time this year. Previously, the day of prayer for the persecuted church was held in June of the SBC calendar.

The International Mission Board has released resources to help churches pray for those persecuted for their faith. IMB encourages churches to pray that the Gospel continues to spread despite persecution, that God reunites families separated by persecution, that the persecuted would remain faithful, and that God would hear our pleas and deliver the persecuted.

Voice of the Martyrs spokesman Todd Nettleton appreciates the additional emphasis on prayer for the persecuted.

“It is great to know that even more churches will be following Scripture’s command to ‘Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body’ (Hebrews 13:3),” Nettleton told Baptist Press, “on the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians.”

Prayer is a key aspect of the VOM’s multifaceted ministry that has served persecuted Christians globally for more than 55 years. Nettleton points to several reasons, including Scripture, why prayer is a VOM hallmark.

“We’re commanded to remember those in prison, and we’re told that when one part of the body of Christ suffers, other parts are supposed to feel that pain. Secondly, prayer is the first thing our persecuted brothers and sisters ask us to do for them,” Nettleton said. “And finally, I think it’s important to remember that our prayers make a difference.

“When we pray, it makes a difference in encouraging those in the midst of persecution. It makes a difference in government leaders’ and courts’ decisions about our brothers and sisters. Prayer for persecuted Christians is a vital activity that every church and every Christian should be a part of.”

VOM offers prayer resources here, including a global prayer guide.

Christian persecution is considered one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Globally, someone dies for their faith every two minutes, IMB said.

More than 360 million Christians serve Jesus amid high persecution because of their faith, religious freedom advocate Open Doors said in its 2022 World Watch List. Among countries where Christians face the greatest persecution are Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran and India, Open Doors said. She Loves Out Loud registration is still available for home-hosted groups, although individual church registration has closed. Home groups may register here.

Connecting, expecting, and encouraging!

Ialways say it: fall is my favorite time of year. It brings some of my favorite things like cooler weather, Thanksgiving, football, and the annual gathering of our Southern Baptists of Texas Convention family. It truly is a great time of year.

This year, our SBTC Annual Meeting is being held Nov. 14-15 in Corpus Christi. It is going to be a great time of gathering together for worship, prayer, preaching, and hearing how God is using SBTC churches to advance the Great Commission across Texas and the world. I can’t wait to be with our SBTC family. 

Annual meetings are important in the life of a convention. They are certainly a time of reconnecting with friends from across the state. They are also a time to reengage the mission of reaching Texas and impacting the world together. There are a lot of activities and yes, some business, but the overall purpose of gathering is to realign our hearts together. 

One of the greatest ways we do this is to pray. At the conclusion of Monday evening, we will have a prayer service. There is nothing that compares to followers of Jesus getting on our knees together. I am so excited for this prayer time. As you prepare to come to the annual meeting, may I suggest a few things?

"Anytime we gather together, it is our hope to experience a movement of God."

Come expectant

Anytime we gather together, it is our hope to experience a movement of God. Through our time of worship, preaching, and praying, we desire for the Lord to meet with us in a powerful way. I know many of you will come weary and burdened. However, I pray the Lord will refresh our hearts together.

Come excited

This meeting should be a great celebration. Though some time will be given to necessary business, even the business time should be exciting since it is giving us the road map to be on mission together. At the meeting, you will hear stories and reports of how God is using your church to advance His kingdom through the SBTC network. These are exciting opportunities for us to celebrate together. 

Leave encouraged

When the final session is complete, it is our desire that you leave encouraged. You will have been around some of the greatest pastors and leaders anywhere and reconnected with friends. You will have also heard about what God is doing across Texas. You will have spent time worshipping the Lord, praying together, and feasting on His Word. I am praying that when you start your journey home, your heart will be encouraged to be a part of the SBTC family of churches. 

I can’t wait to see you there. I am anticipating two wonderful days together. I am looking forward to connecting with you once again. I love you and am humbled to serve the wonderful churches of the SBTC!

Pastor se mudó de una gran ciudad viendo al Señor moverse en área rural

“Yo sé que Dios tiene grandes cosas para estos pueblos pequeños”

E

n medio de la planificación de su jubilación y de viajes para disfrutar con su familia, José Luis Hernández nunca imaginó que recibiría un llamado de Dios que literalmente cambiaría el curso de su vida.  

Dios comenzó a preparar el camino para este cambio cuando Hernández y su familia decidieron mudarse a un pequeño pueblo rural, llevándolo de la vida de ciudad, donde amaba vivir y ministrar, a un entorno rural por primera vez en su vida.  

“Siempre me ha gustado estar rodeado de gente y el bullicio de la ciudad”, dijo Hernández, “pero hoy amo este lugar”.

Hernández y su familia se mudaron a Itasca y están plantando una iglesia a una hora de camino en Mexia, una ciudad con una población de poco menos de 7,000 habitantes situada a unas 40 millas al este de Waco y a una hora y media al sur del Metroplex de Dallas-Fort Worth. 

Antes de plantar en Mexia, Hernández recibió una oferta para pastorear una iglesia en Fort Worth. Ese mismo día, buscó dirección en oración para saber cuál era el plan de Dios para él y su familia. 

“Una hora después de orar, recibí una llamada del líder de una asociación de iglesias afiliadas a la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas diciéndome que le gustaría que los apoyara en Mexia”, dijo Hernández. 

Esa llamada telefónica llevó a Hernández a plantar la Iglesia Bautista Alcance Hispano. Esta plantación de iglesia es parte de una visión más amplia que pretende plantar más iglesias hispanas entre las 22 iglesias anglosajonas de los pueblos pequeños limítrofes a Mexia.  

Hernández dice que nunca había trabajado en una zona rural, pero después de platicar la idea con su esposa por 31 años y sus hijos (que van desde adultos hasta adolescentes) y continuar orando sobre esta oportunidad, sintió el llamado de Dios y aceptó el desafío.

“No conocíamos a nadie”, dijo Hernández. “Sólo nos dijeron que empezáramos a trabajar y a conocer a la gente de la zona”. 

Comenzaron en enero de 2022 y durante dos meses se dedicaron a recorrer las calles de Mexia, orando y declarando la Palabra de Dios por el pueblo. Todos los domingos visitaban diferentes iglesias de la ciudad y de los pueblos aledaños para hacer conexiones y darles a conocer la nueva obra que estaban comenzando.  

Chuy Ávila, asociado principal de SBTC en español, animó a la familia Hernández a buscar formas intencionales de conocer e interactuar con la gente de Mexia.  

“Al principio fue difícil para mí, pero mirando la vida del Apóstol Pablo, vemos que él intencionalmente iba y platicaba con la gente y se quedó con ellos”, dijo Hernández. “La gente conoció al apóstol Pablo hasta que pudo enseñarles el evangelio, aceptaron a Jesús y luego hicieron lo que él les había enseñado”.

“Esto no es fácil. Hay mucho trabajo, lágrimas y alegrías, pero estamos muy emocionados por lo que Dios está haciendo. Yo sé que Dios tiene grandes cosas para estos pueblos pequeños”.

A partir de marzo, Hernández y su familia comenzaron a repartir tratados en gasolineras, lavanderías y fuera de las tiendas del pueblo por varios meses. En otras ocasiones, la familia ponía música en un estacionamiento y se ofrecían a orar por los que pasaban.

No pasó mucho tiempo antes de que comenzaran a ver a Dios moverse.

“Personas comenzaron a aceptar a Jesús y preguntaban dónde estaba nuestra iglesia, pero todavía no teníamos un lugar donde reunirnos”, dijo.   

Comenzaron a orar para que Dios les proporcionara un lugar mientras podían seguir haciendo la labor evangelística, hasta que un día tuvieron un encuentro especial con cuatro jóvenes en un estacionamiento de Walmart. Como había estado haciendo durante meses, Hernández se acercó a los jóvenes para darles un tratado y orar por ellos. 

Esta vez, algo diferente sucedió. Uno de los jóvenes le preguntó a Hernández si estaba dispuesto a dirigir un estudio bíblico en su apartamento. Hernández aceptó con gusto, y en ese apartamento se plantaron las raíces de lo que se conocerá como Iglesia Bautista Alcance Hispano.

Más tarde, ya con la necesidad urgente de tener un lugar para congregarse antes de realizar una fiesta en la cuadra, Hernández estableció contacto con Nic Collins, el ministro de jóvenes y educación de la Primera Iglesia Bautista de Mexia. A través de ese contacto y de una reunión posterior con el ministerio de misiones de la iglesia, la PIB de Mexia proporcionó una casa que podría ser utilizada como lugar de reunión para la plantación de la iglesia. 

Alcance Hispano celebra reuniones de oración los viernes y servicios de adoración los domingos. La iglesia ya cuenta con unas 25 personas, muchas de ellas de diferentes países, que han pasado de la muerte a la vida al aceptar a Cristo, reuniéndose cada semana, creciendo en la fe y alcanzando a otros hispanos.  

“Esto no es fácil. Hay mucho trabajo, lágrimas y alegrías”, dijo Hernández, “pero estamos muy emocionados por lo que Dios está haciendo. Yo sé que Dios tiene grandes cosas para estos pueblos pequeños”.

Pastor who moved from big city seeing the Lord move in rural area

‘I know God has great things for these little towns’

In the midst of planning his retirement and trips to enjoy with his family, Jose Luis Hernandez never imagined he would receive a call from God that would change the course of his life.  

God began to prepare the way for this change when Hernandez and his family decided to move to a small, rural town—taking him from a life in the city that he loved to living and ministering in a rural setting for the first time in his life.  

“I always liked to be surrounded by people and the hustle and bustle of the city,” Hernandez said, “but today I love this place.”

Hernandez and his family moved to Itasca and are planting a church about an hour’s drive away in Mexia, a town with a population just shy of 7,000 people located about 40 miles east of Waco. 

Before planting in Mexia, Hernandez received an offer to pastor a church in Fort Worth. That same day, he sought direction in prayer to find God’s plan for his family and him. 

An hour after praying, Hernandez received a call from the leader of an association of churches affiliated with the SBTC expressing interest in starting a Mexia church plant.

That phone call led Hernandez to plant Iglesia Bautista Alcance Hispano (Hispanic Outreach Baptist Church). The church plant is part of a larger vision that aims to plant more Hispanic churches among the 22 Anglo churches in the small towns bordering Mexia.  

Hernandez says he had never worked in a rural area before, but after discussing the idea with his wife and their children (who range in age from adults to teenagers) and continuing to pray about the opportunity, he felt God’s call and accepted the challenge.

Chuy Avila, SBTC en Español’s lead associate, encouraged the Hernandez family to look for intentional ways to meet and interact with the people of Mexia.  

“We didn’t know anyone,” he said. “We were just told to start working and get to know the people in the area.” 

They started in January 2022 and for two months dedicated themselves to driving around the streets of Mexia, praying and declaring the Word of God around town. Every Sunday, they visited different churches in the city and surrounding towns to make connections and let them know about the new church they would be planting.  

“This is not easy. There is a lot of work, tears, and joys, but we are very excited about what God is doing. I know that God has great things for these little towns.”

“At first it was hard for me, but looking at the life of the apostle Paul, we see that he intentionally went and talked with the people and stayed with them,” Hernandez said. “The people got to know him until he could teach them the gospel, they accepted Jesus, and then they did what Paul had taught them.”

Beginning in March, Hernandez and his family handed out evangelism tracts at gas stations, laundromats, and outside stores for several months. On other occasions, the family would play music in parking lots where people were gathered and offer to pray for those who passed by.

It wasn’t long before they began to see God move.

“People began to accept Jesus and were asking where our church is, but we still had no place to meet,” he said.   

They began to pray for God to provide a place while they continued to do evangelistic work, until one day they had a special meeting with four young men at a Walmart parking lot. As he had been doing for months, Hernandez approached the young men to give them a tract and to pray for them. 

This time, something different happened. One of the young men asked Hernandez if he would be willing to lead a Bible study at his apartment. Hernandez happily agreed, and in that apartment, the seeds of what could be known as Iglesia Bautista Alcance Hispano were planted.

Later, already in urgent need of a place to congregate before holding a block party, Hernandez established contact with Nic Collins, the minister of youth and education at First Baptist Church of Mexia. Through that contact, and a subsequent meeting with the church’s missions ministry, FBC Mexia provided a house that could be used as a meeting location for the church plant. 

Alcance Hispano holds prayer meetings on Fridays and worship services on Sundays. The church already has about 25 people, many from different countries, who have gone from death to life by accepting Christ, meeting every week, growing in faith, and reaching other Hispanics.  

“This is not easy. There is a lot of work, tears, and joys,” Hernandez said, “but we are very excited about what God is doing. I know that God has great things for these little towns.”