I believe what we need in our day is not to presume the ineffectiveness of the Holy Spirit working through the preached Word but to repent of our decades of pragmatic methodology and materialist theology and to reclaim the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the power of salvation for anybody, anywhere, any time. The United States desperately needs churches re-committed to the weird, counter-cultural supernaturality of biblical Christianity. And this means a re-commitment to rely on the gospel as our only power.
Creativity and intelligence can certainly adorn the gospel of grace, but there is no amount of creativity and intelligence that can waken a dead soul. Only the foolishness of the gospel can do that (1 Cor. 1:18). Not even sacrificial good works and biblical social justice can wake a dead soul, for the law has no power to raise in and of itself. Only the foolishness of the gospel can do that. And it is a shame that there are an increasing number of churches(!) that are blanching at the foolishness of the gospel these days. But Paul knows that the hope of the church and the world is the alien righteousness of Christ announced in that scandalous historical headline. “For Christ did not send me to preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom,” he says, “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).
Paul knows that too often our creativity and intelligence don’t adorn the gospel, but obscure it. In some church environments, even though unwittingly, they replace it. But the apostle encourages us not to be ashamed—intentionally or even unintentionally —of the gospel, for it is the only power of salvation we’ve been stewarded. There. is. nothing. else. “I have resolved to know nothing among you except for Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
I know some reckon that steady gospel preaching and revival prayer do not amount to much compared to human ingenuity and industriousness. But the Holy Spirit can do much more than we think or ask. Let’s not run ahead of him. Let this, from Maurice Roberts’s sermon “Prayer for Revival,” be our prayer as well:
It is to our shame that we have imbibed too much of this world’s materialism and unbelief. What do we need more than to meditate on the precious covenant promises of Holy Scripture until our souls have drunk deeply into the spirit of a biblical supernaturalism? What could be more profitable than to eat and drink of heaven’s biblical nourishment till our souls become vibrant with the age-old prayer for revival, and till we find grace to plead our suit acceptably at the throne of grace?
The Lord has encouraged us to hope in him still. O that he would teach us to give him no rest day or night till he rain righteousness upon us!