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Someone once wrote that “A church is never more like the New Testament church than when it is praying.” Worship is important. The teaching of God’s Word is crucial in every church. So is fellowship and evangelism. The Bible is also clear that every church must be committed to prayer. Colossians 4.2 says: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Prayer is to be like breathing for the follower of Jesus!

Praying is a means from God to sustain us even in the darkest of times. Prayer is essential for the power and presence of God to be evident in our lives and the life of the church. If we do not pray, then we are essentially dead in the water. Often prayer is something we do after we have exhausted our own resources, but as Oswald Chambers wrote, “Jesus wants us to pray before we do anything at all.”

Jesus is our example of individual prayer. Luke 5.16 says that “Jesus would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Not only are we to pray privately like Jesus, but we are to place an invested emphasis on praying together as a church Corporate prayer was an essential activity of the first church. D.A. Carson wrote, “Prayer meetings were the arteries of the early church. Through them, life-sustaining power was derived.” We absolutely must pray together—or God will certainly pass us by.

Charles Spurgeon wrote…

The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among the people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of first tokens of His absence will be slothfulness in prayer!

~ Bryan

 

Prayer_2Here are ten reminders for pastors about the vital need to cultivate their personal prayer life, as articulated by notable ministers from church history.

1. True effectiveness in ministry comes not through methods, but through prayer.

A. C. Dixon: When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on. Nor am I disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place, but when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.

Source: A. C. Dixon. Cited from John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, 71.

D. L. Moody: Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer.

Source: D. L. Moody, Great Preaching on Prayer, 8:119.

E. M. Bounds: What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Ghost can use — people of prayer, people mighty in prayer.

Source: E. M. Bounds, The Classic Collection on Prayer, 584.

* * * * *

2. A pastor’s prayer-life is indicative of the state of his walk with the Lord.

John Owen: A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.

Source: John Owen. Cited from I. D. E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury, 192.

Charles Spurgeon: I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this, the measure of the intensity of your prayer.

Source: Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 41:518.

* * * * *

3. Prayer is a vital means of sanctification.

J. C. Ryle: Prayer and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer.

Source: J. C. Ryle, Home Truths, 114.

John R. W. Stott: To pray is not only to be truly godly; it is also to be truly human. For here are human beings, made by God like God and for God, spending time in fellowship with God. So prayer is an authentic activity in itself, irrespective of any benefits it may bring us. Yet it is also one of the most effective of all means of grace. I doubt if anybody has ever become at all Christ-like who has not been diligent in prayer.

Source: John R. W. Stott, Christian Basics, 128.

* * * * *

4. Neglect in prayer leads to vulnerability in temptation.

J. C. Ryle: Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows them to have a tremendous fall.

Source: J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 70–71.

John Owen: If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: “God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.” When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.

Source: John Owen, Triumph Over Temptation, 165.

Charles Spurgeon (in a letter to his young son): One of my sweetest joys is to hear that a spirit of prayer is in your school, and that you participate in it. To know that you love the Lord and are mighty in prayer would be my crowning joy; the hope that you do so already is a happy one to me. I should like you to preach; but it is best that you pray; many a preacher has proved a castaway, but never one who has truly learned to pray.

Source: Charles Spurgeon. Cited from Charles Ray, The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 381.

* * * * *

5. Busyness is never a valid excuse for neglecting prayer.

Martin Luther: Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.

 

“Prayer is the breath of faith. Prayer meetings are the lungs of the church”

 ~ Charles Spurgeon

 

“All good is born in prayer, and all good springs from it.”

~ Charles Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpg

“Prayer can never be in excess.”

~ C. H. Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon said…

“What can we do without your prayers? They link us with the omnipotence of God. Like the lighting rod, they pierce the clouds and bring down the mighty and mysterious from on high.”

“Oh! yes, (the prayer meeting) is the place to meet with the Holy Ghost, and this is the way to get His mighty power. If we would have Him, we must meet in greater numbers; we must pray with greater fervency, we must watch with greater earnestness, and believe with firmer steadfastness. The prayer meeting…is the appointed place for the reception of power.”

~ Charles H. Spurgeon

The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among the people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of first tokens of His absence will be slothfulness in prayer!” (Charles Spurgeon)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpg

by Matt Smethurst

Where Did All These Calvinists Come From? avatar

Seven years ago this fall, a young journalist named Collin Hansen wrote a cover story for Christianity Today titled “Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism Is Making a Comeback—and Shaking Up the Church.” In it he remarked:

Partly institutional and partly anecdotal, [the evidence for the resurgence] is something a variety of church leaders observe. While the Emergent “conversation” gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon.

Two years later, Hansen released his movement-defining book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists (Crossway, 2008). Traveling to destinations like the Passion conference in Atlanta, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Southern Seminary in Louisville, and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, he sought to tell the stories of young people discovering Reformed theology. (Hansen, now editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, has since reflected on the book and the movement herehere, and here.)

One year earlier in 2007, Mark Dever proposed in a series of blog posts 10 factors that sparked this resurrection of Reformed theology among younger American evangelicals.

mark_dever4

Now six years later, the “young, restless, Reformed” movement has only grown. The fact you’re presently reading The Gospel Coalition blog, which didn’t exist as recently as 2009, offers additional evidence.

Last week, Dever dusted off his 2007 series and delivered it, with a few changes, as an hour-long lecture at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. “If there were so few self-conscious Calvinists in the 1950s,” the pastor-historian asks, “how did we get so many today?” In what follows I offer a taste of his non-exhaustive, roughly chronological attempt to answer that question—12 sources God has used to reinvigorate Reformed theology in this generation (timestamps included).

1. Charles Spurgeon (10:39)

Dever likens the 19th-century Baptist preacher to an underground aquifer “bringing the nutrients of early generations to those after him.” Surprisingly, though, the “aquifers who brought Spurgeon to us” were countless 20th-century pastors—many of them anti-Calvinists—who enthusiastically commended his sermons.

“If you keep being told to buy Spurgeon, eventually you’ll read Spurgeon,” Dever says. “And if you read Spurgeon, you’ll never be able to believe the charge that all Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists and cannot do evangelism or missions.” Indeed, the Prince of Preachers seemed about “as healthy and balanced as a Bible-believing Christian could be.” It’s an irony of history that many of the ministers who “now decry what young Calvinists believe are the ones who recommended Spurgeon to them.”

2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (14:43)

Though lesser known in America than in Britain, “the Doctor” had a preaching ministry for more than 50 years that “shaped countless thousands of Christians” in the mid-20th century. “Even if many born in the 1970s and 1980s haven’t heard of Lloyd-Jones,” Dever remarks, “chances are their ministers have, and have been influenced by him. Both John Piper and Tim Keller have offered eloquent testimony to ‘the Doctor’s’ influence on their own preaching.”

A pastor of enormous influence, Lloyd-Jones was “the one man in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s British evangelicalism you had to deal with.” As Dever recounts, “No other figure in the middle of the 20th century so stood against the impoverished gospel evangelicals were preaching—and did it so insightfully, so biblically, so freshly, so regularly, so charitably—all without invoking a kind of narrow partisanship that wrongly divided the churches.”

3. The Banner of Truth Trust (23:03)

Have you ever read a Puritan book? Chances are you can thank Banner of Truth. In 1957 Iain Murray and others with a shared vision and budget began reprinting classic Puritan and Reformed titles. “No such editions from the English-speaking tradition had been popularly published for a century,” Dever explains.

Motivated by truth more than by sales, the Banner’s “assiduous work in publishing in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s has clearly helped to bring forth a harvest in the 1980s and 1990s and still today.” The libraries of pastors today are filled with books written centuries earlier due in large part to this vital publishing ministry.

4. Evangelism Explosion (27:15)

The charge that “Calvinism kills missions and evangelism” has long been leveled against Reformed theology. Therefore, Dever believes, an “unlikely aide” to the Reformed cause—and probably least expected of all his sources—was the widespread popularity and apparent success of Evangelism Explosion. Created by a Reformed pastor (D. James Kennedy) and promoted through a Reformed church (Coral Ridge Presbyterian) beginning in 1962, this evangelism program became a “quiet but telling piece of counter-evidence against the stereotype of Calvinism killing evangelism.”

5. The inerrancy controversy (34:08)

By the mid-1970s, American evangelicalism’s “battle for the Bible” had reached its boiling point. Touching several denominations including the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention, this controversy gave prominence to several Reformed theologians (e.g., J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, Carl F. H. Henry, James Montgomery Boice, Roger Nicole) and reintroduced the Old Princeton divines (e.g., Charles and Andrew Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen) to a new generation.

Not only did the debate get people talking about theology, but the “very shape of the arguments used to promote inerrancy” exemplified the Reformed view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. (Was Romans written by God’s absolute sovereignty or by Paul’s willing choice? Yes. Were you saved by God’s absolute sovereignty or by your willing choice? Yes. You get the idea.)

6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) (37:50)

Born out of theological controversy in 1973, this denomination’s official doctrinal standard is a revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith—a document “so associated with the history of Calvinism,” Dever suggests, “it could almost be said to define it in the English-speaking world.”

“By the late 1990s,” he recalls, you could virtually assume the “most seriously Bible-preaching and evangelistic congregations near major university campuses would not be Bible churches or Baptist churches, but PCA congregations.” From the success of various seminaries to the influence of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) on campuses to Tim Keller’s ministry in New York City, it’s clear the “organizing and growth” of the PCA has been a major contributing factor to the Reformed resurgence.

7. J. I. Packer (40:50)

First published in 1973, this Anglican evangelical’s landmark book Knowing God has been read by hundreds of thousands of Christians. In fact, Dever surmises, it’s probably “the most substantial book of theology” many American Christians have ever read. The “current grandfather of this Reformed movement,” Packer’s voluminous body of work over the past 60 years has made him one of the “clearest and most popular theological tutors of Christians who grew up in the evangelicalism of the 1980s and 1990s.”

8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul (43:52)

Thanks in part to the advent of new technologies like cassette tapes, radio broadcast, CDs, and digital audio files, the teaching ministries of these two men have enjoyed remarkably far-reaching effect for more than four decades. “Their conferences are attended by thousands; their books are legion; their characters are, by God’s grace, unquestioned,” Dever states. “More steady than spectacular, more quiet and consistent than sudden and electrifying,” the manner of their labor smells of Wesley more than Whitefield. Thousands of contemporary Calvinists cut their theological teeth on the teachings of Sproul and MacArthur and their respective ministries, Ligonier and Grace to You.

9. John Piper (46:41)

“This is the one you’re all waiting for,” Dever quips. Though he hesitates to say so given the stature of the foregoing sources, Piper is probably “the single most potent factor in this recent rise of Reformed theology.” Dever explains:

All the previous factors are part of the explanation, but they are part of the explanation for how the wave became so deep, so large, so overwhelming—all preparing the ground, shifting the discourse, preparing the men who would be leaders in this latest resurgence. But it has been John who is the swelling wave hitting the coast. It is John who is the visible expression of these earlier men. He is the conduit through which many of them now find their work mediated to the rising generation.

Through Piper’s sermons, books, and appearances at conferences like Passion, his and Desiring God‘s role in the contemporary resurrection of Reformed theology can scarcely be overestimated.

10. Reformed rap (51:46)

The first time I met Dever, the stairs leading up to his study buzzed beneath my feet. Opening the door, I was startled to hear hip-hop music blaring through the speakers of an old boombox in the corner. “Hi, I’m Matt,” I shouted. I had no clue how Cambridge grads rolled.

Christian hip hop has provided a unique soundtrack for the new Calvinist movement. Reflecting on the formative rise of The Cross Movement in the mid-1990s, Dever insightfully observes how an aggressive focus on the glory of God makes sense as a response to secular rap’s aggressive focus on the glory of man.

After highlighting the influence of Lamp Mode (e.g., Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Stephen the Levite, Json), Reach Records (e.g., Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, KB, Andy Mineo, Derek Minor), Humble Beast (e.g., Propaganda, Braille, Beautiful Eulogy), and others (e.g., Flame), Dever remarks:

There are groups of young people all over the place, in less-than-healthy churches, who are being taught and equipped theologically by these artists. Even our intern program has served our church in ways we never intended. Shai Linne, Trip Lee, Brian Davis [God’s Servant], and others have given our congregation a much closer look at and acquaintance with this part of the Reformed resurgence.

For the rest of the post…

C. H. Spurgeon

Yes! The very life of the church depends on it…

“The condition of the church may be accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be slothfulness in prayer”

~ Charles Spurgeon

May 2020
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