Who Weeps Anymore?
By Leonard Ravenhill (1907 – 1994)
The church as we know it today seems a million miles from the New Testament church. That may be a great generalization, but I will stand on it. There is a gulf between our average Christianity and the church of the New Testament that makes the Grand Canyon look like a cavity in someone’s tooth.
What is it that is missing from our churches? To use an Old Testament term, it is the burden of the Lord. One of the tragedies of the hour is that the voice of the prophet is no longer heard in the land. Where is the lamenting for the lost? Isaiah was a man heavily burdened for his people and their sin. So was Jeremiah; his concern for the people caused him to weep day and night.
The last revival mentioned in the Old Testament is found in the Book of Joel. The Prophet Joel proclaimed a solemn assembly and said, “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar...” (Joel 2:17). Well, let’s face it, who weeps anymore?
We need a revival in the church, but we make a big mistake in placing the burden for revival on the pew. As I read the Scripture, God puts it on the pulpit. We need preachers who are eternity-conscious, who come to the pulpit bowed with the sin of the world, yes, and perhaps the sin of the congregation. Instead, we have someone coming along saying, “Look, just kneel here for five minutes and this is what you will get: your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life, a mansion on Main Street, a five-decker crown, rule over five cities, and a free ticket to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”
I yearn to hear a voice that declares God’s judgment on the godlessness he sees around him. Where is the denominational leader who has the Gospel boiling in his veins as Jeremiah did in chapter twenty? Many of our preachers seem incapable of being volcanic. Many sermons have become religious entertainment and move no one to tears of repentance.
The true prophet of God is not concerned first of all about the nation, or even about the church. He is concerned that God is insulted openly; that God’s laws are broken; that God’s Son is rejected, and this in a land that is seemingly saturated with the Gospel. Yet every day millions of sins are committed; the name of Jesus is taken in vain a million times; and all the while the country is inundated with religious messages.
Remember, Sodom had no preachers; Sodom had no gospel broadcasters. America has thousands of radio stations and a number of them, at some time in the day, carry a gospel program. But how many listen to it? The lights are flashing in the world around us; our civilization is on the edge of disaster and only a heartbeat from judgment; but who is warning us?
When Alexander Maclaren was called to the pulpit of a great Baptist church in Manchester, England, he sat down with his deacons and said, “Gentlemen, there is one matter to settle before I take this position. Do you want my head or my feet? You can have one or the other, not both. I can run around doing this and that and drinking tea, if you wish me to; but don’t expect me to bring you something that will shake this city.” God does not call men into the pulpit to become Jacks-of-all-trades to run errands. He calls them to get on their faces before Him. Dr. Maclaren’s deacons got the message; but who gets on his face before God today?
When I speak to preachers as I have done frequently in recent years, I tell them, “You have nothing to do biblically except to fulfill Acts 6 by giving yourselves continually to the ministry of the Word and to prayer.” In writing to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul said, “I am praying night and day.” What was he praying for? Not for a lost world or for the overthrow of the Roman Empire. He said, “I am praying night and day that I may see your face and supply that which is lacking in your faith” (1 Thes. 3:10). They had faith but it was deficient. It is the pastor’s task to supply that lack.
The burden of the Lord in the Old Testament was not for the Amalekites, Hittites, Perizzites or Jebusites; God’s chief concern was Israel. In the same way not a single epistle in the New Testament was addressed to the lost; every letter was addressed to Christians. Dr. Orton Wiley points out that the Epistle to the Hebrews contains not one word for lost men and women. Why? Because only a church strong in faith, a revived church, can be used of God to reach the lost.
The sickness of the church, I believe, is twofold. First, we have taught people to witness and to work but we have not taught them to worship. Christians will not take the time before God to see Him in glory and majesty and holiness. I know preachers who think nothing of taking three days for elk or duck hunting, but who do not care enough about human souls to get down and fast and pray and seek the face of God. I know deacons who begin to fidget if the Sunday service runs five minutes overtime because they want to hurry home to watch the ballgame. How do they think they will stand it in eternity?
The second cause of the church’s sickness is that the prayer meeting has become almost obsolete. I have visited some of the famous churches of the world and have discovered a curious thing about the mid-week service. Two-thirds of the average “prayer meeting” (if it is held at all) is actually a Bible study. A prayer or two is added at the end, and that is it. Paul said that he travailed in prayer. Are we greater than Paul? He said, “I travail in birth” (Gal. 4:19). I do not believe a man has a right to preach on the text “You must be born again” unless he has first “travailed in birth” that people can be born again.
Some pastors tell me that theirs is a New Testament church. Let me describe a New Testament church from Acts 4: the people went to church every day; they prayed every day; they broke bread every day; they brought souls to the Lord every day. Every deacon in that New Testament church was separated and tested to see if he was full of faith and the Holy Spirit.
What, then, is the burden of the Lord for today? He is concerned for sinners who are rebels, who have their fist up against God. He is concerned for preachers, that they should preach His judgment. And He is concerned for His church, the bride for whom He is coming. People ask me sometimes, “Are these the last days?” and I tell them, “No.” I think we are in the last minutes of this dispensation, or maybe in the last seconds as God counts time.
And yet – if I could, I would like to call together thousands of preachers in different countries of the world to spend a week in prayer for renewal. I would like to see them given instruction in prayer; not seminars on prayer, mind you, but exhortation to pray. We would spend the whole week praying, with periodic breaks. I believe this could be a detergent in the life of the church. It would be a cleansing process. We could go back to our churches and perhaps stave off judgment, and God would usher in the revival that must come. Before Jesus comes I am convinced that we will see a great, sweeping Pentecost that will out-Pentecost Pentecost. God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, as Joel said. Our sons and daughters will prophesy. God will produce a race of spiritual giants for the last mighty ingathering. Today God has these leaders hidden, but in the great Day of the Lord He will bring them to light, and the last shall be first. I pray that day will come soon.
– Taken from America Is Too Young To Die by Leonard Ravenhill. Copyright © 1979, 2012 by Offspring Publishers (offspringpublishers.com). Used by permission. This book is available through Amazon.com.