“. . . making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).
Hopefully, in these remarkable days, we pastors have more time for reading. We might not get this chance again in our lifetimes. Let’s make the best use of it.
I urge you to read books that can launch you into more fruitful ministry than ever before. After we get through this, people will be glad to get back into church. Many will be radically open. Let’s not disappoint them. Let’s not simply resume the tired patterns of the past. God is giving us an historic opportunity for renewal.
Here are three books on revival I recommend for this time of preparation, as we ramp up for what can become the greatest moment of our lives:
First, Jonathan Edwards on Revival contains three brief essays. “A Narrative of Surprising Conversions” tells the story of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Edwards’s church in 1735. He didn’t make it happen. He was surprised—hence, the title of his essay. “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God” gives us wise categories, from the New Testament, for knowing the difference between a real experience of God and a made-up experience of our own. “An Account of the Revival of Religion in Northampton 1740-1742” is a letter Edwards wrote to a pastor in Boston, painting the picture of how God visited that church yet again.
Because Edwards is a theologically serious man, his mind-blowing experiences are all the more striking.
Second, Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir, is team-written by a journalist and an historian. It is not sensationalist but sober as it bears witness to the risen Christ making himself a felt presence in recent history. The conclusion sums up the take-aways that can help us today.
We pastors rightly ask God to bless the work of our hands. But what if we ask him to take the work up in his own hands? What if we open up to him at that deeper level? Here are factual accounts of Christians who did. Their stories do “stretch and stir.”
Third, Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, offers us pastors both theological insight and practical approaches to ministry marked by renewing power. The outline on page 75 is alone worth the price of the book. It lists the emphases that can lead our churches out of the boring same-old same-old and into regions of divine blessing that some of us have never experienced.
Here is the blurb I wrote for Lovelace’s book: “Dynamics of Spiritual Life has made a unique contribution to my ministry. No one else clarified for me the convictions that can guide a church into a revival-ready condition. The genius of this book is not that Lovelace invents new strategies for pastoring but that he shows us, in practical ways, how the gospel is the power of God for our ongoing salvation.”
When we get through this dreadful COVID-19, many thousands of people will come back to church longing for personal reality with the living God. Let’s get ready. Let’s release our grip on the defunct patterns of the past and reach out by faith for what only God can do.