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Kelley: U.S. mega-cities may be just one person away from revival

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–America’s metropolitan areas may be just a “Sam” or a “Susan” away from revival, said Charles “Chuck” Kelley Jr., president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Southern Baptist scholar in the field of evangelism.
Just as God used the Old Testament prophet Jonah to spawn revival in the ancient city of Nineveh, “somewhere there may be a city that’s just a Chuck away from a revival,” Kelley told students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., Sept. 7, emphasizing obedience to God is a prerequisite for revival.
Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary since 1996, was director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s first center for evangelism and church growth, located on the New Orleans campus. He has been a professor of evangelism at NOBTS since 1983.
Speaking from the small Old Testament Book of Jonah, Kelley likened Nineveh, the city to which God called Jonah to prophesy his wrath, to cosmopolitan regions today, an evangelistic focus this year of SBC President Paige Patterson, who is also president of Southeastern Seminary.
The SBC has targeted Chicago and Phoenix for urban church plants in 2000, Boston and Las Vegas in 2001 and Seattle and Philadelphia in 2002. Plans call for starting 180 new churches in America’s inner cities over the next three years.
Nineveh was “just a Jonah away from a revival,” Kelley said. “Nineveh was just a Jonah away from a mighty act of God.”
Kelley said he wondered about the possibilities of repentance today in America’s “great cities.” “Is New York City a John away from revival? … Is Chicago a Susan away from revival? … Is Seattle a Sam away from revival?”
A striking element about Jonah’s calling from God to preach to the people of Nineveh is “they were not searching for God,” Kelley said. “They were not on a spiritual quest. They had not been praying, ‘Oh God, would you send us a messenger to tell us the truth about eternal things.’”
But while the people of that great city were not interested in God, “God was interested in them,” Kelley said. God “used a reluctant, embittered prophet who didn’t even want them to be saved to bring revival to Nineveh.”
“How many of us have been called to be the instruments of God, but while we’re on the sideline pouting because God wants us to go someplace we don’t want to go, there is a revival, there is a great mighty stirring of God that is unborn because of our disobedience.”
Kelley said revival is lacking because in too many cases “the church has rejected the judgment of God on the lives of believers.”
When Christians “stopped believing they were held accountable by God for their behavior,” they began to think it was “inconsistent and illogical” for God to hold the lost accountable, Kelley said.
“People need to hear about the love of God,” Kelley said. “They need to hear about the patience of God, but they also need to know that hell is hot and waiting for those who will say ‘no’ to Jesus Christ.”
Just as non-Christians have a penalty to pay for their unbelief, Kelley said, Christians bear a penalty “whenever we live out of fellowship with God, whenever we refuse to accept the call of God, whenever we abandon what God wants us to do.”
Kelley challenged preachers to proclaim “the reality of the believer’s accountability before a holy God, the necessity for church discipline and the reality of judgment, not only for the lost, but also the judgment of God for the saved who ignore the will of their heavenly Father.”
God never intended for the great cities of the world to be devastated by pestilence, disease, famine and drought, Kelley said, and he never intended for neighborhoods to be filled with crack-heads.
God does not want “our public schools to be places that require a police [officer] present with guns just to keep the kids from shooting each other,” Kelley continued. This all occurs because “we live in a sinful world, and as a result, we could pay the consequences of that sin that has become a part of our existence because of our great rebellion against God.”
Just as God’s passion for the wicked people of Nineveh compelled him to command Jonah to call the Assyrians to repentance, God calls Christian men and women today “to redeem and reclaim the most lost of the lost,” Kelley said.
“Yet the Bible reveals to us the great passion of God for the lost, for God knew what was going on in the city of Nineveh,” Kelley said, “and rather than using that wickedness as a cause of immediate judgment, God wanted to give them an opportunity to repent of their ways so that they could be spared.”
Like Jonah, Christians will never begin to understand the passion God has for the lost “until we get to the people who bring to us the greatest sense of revulsion, those who make us the most angry, those who create in us the greatest sense of fear and dread, those whom we know the world would be a better place without,” Kelley said.
Just as God was patient with Jonah, “God stays after us and he is willing to give not just the pagans a second opportunity to repent [but] he is willing to give you and me a second opportunity to obey,” Kelley said.
The God who loved the city of Nineveh “loves all of us, no matter who we are and what we are like,” Kelley said.
“God is going to be patient with you. He’s going to keep calling until you obey. God wants you to be faithful to him, not because he gives you an assignment that you desire, not because he gives you a great blessing. But he wants you to be faithful to him, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the conditions, because you have confidence in his faithfulness to you.”

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  • Debbie Moore