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What's the value of adding zeros?


A totally redeemed church could dramatically and dynamically impact our society, but how many churches are thoroughly Christian? What is a Christian? Is a Christian merely someone who believes the tenets of our faith? Is a Christian someone who willingly confesses that he or she is a believer? Is a Christian someone who has identified with a local church?

The Word of God indicates that a genuine Christian is one who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, born again, changed by the power of the cross and known by his/her fruits (Matthew 7: 20). When churches are constituted by Christians like that a spiritual revolution can occur, because the only kind of church that is going to significantly impact the 21st century culture in which we live is a redeemed church.

Years ago Francis Schaeffer argued that there is a danger in acting as though we become Christians just because we enter the horizontal relationship of a church family or a church community. If just identifying with a so-called spiritual community is all there is to Christianity then it is likely to have little more value than some humanistic community. You must not join a church like you join a civic club or a country club.

Jesus said, "...without me ye can do nothing" (John 15: 5). Without Christ man is empty, void and unproductive, because all his good works amount to no more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6). Without Christ man is a zero. Schaeffer proclaims that if the individual man is a zero, then the church is only adding zeros. What's the value of adding zeros? The answer is obvious.

When total membership of the Georgia Baptist Convention is 1,375,536 and 355,273 are members in absentia - and the average total worship attendance on Sunday is only 524,348 - we may have been adding some zeros. Maybe we need to be subtracting some zeros. One thing is certain. You can't have revival unless folks have first been "vived" (Vance Havner).

So, first we need to have a redeemed church and the redeemed church must become a revived church and the revived church must start a revolution that will transform our culture. I don't see any other solution to the spiritual apathy and moral morass characterizing our society today.

The word "revival" doesn't always evoke an enthusiastic response today, even from church folks. Much of what has been called "revival" has not measured up to the promotional "hype" that preceded it. In some cases efforts to have a revival are greeted with a ho-hum attitude and the kind of coolness that James Whitcomb Riley must have had in mind when he wrote When The Frost In On the Punkin. Once in a while a church has a season of fanatical exhilaration that produces goose bumps galore and many transient professions and interpret the experience as revival.

So, it is no wonder that devoted, conscientious Christians are skeptical of the modern day concept of revival. Yet, a genuine revival is the greatest need of the church today. It can't be worked up. It must be prayed down.

When I think of the demonic activity in the world, America's dangerous drift away from our Christian heritage, and the deadly slumber that characterizes many churches I know that it is "knee time" in our land.

Most churches want to experience the results of revival, but they don't want to pay the price for revival. Revival is costly, just like the salvation of sinners is costly. On pages 10-11 of this paper Rick Gage speaks of the cost of an evangelistic crusade. A successful crusade demands and requires much. Similarly, revival requires of Christians an abasement of self, faithful and fervent prayer, a relentless pursuit of God, and a genuine repentance (II Chronicles 7:14).

Let the day come when the preachers proclaim the gospel with the clarion sound of a trumpet, when the people weep between the vestibule and the altar, when the shepherds return with their recovered flocks, when women have found the piece that was lost, when prodigals come back to sonship, when the redeemed cannot help but speak the glorious things of God and when the Spirit of God is so alive in the house of God that it shines with a heavenly luster.

Then we will no longer be adding zeros, but multiplying saints as it was in the early days of the church.