WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In the midst of a culture of churches plagued by unbiblical proclamation and immature congregants and devoid of the glory of God, revival must begin in the pulpit, pastor Steve Gaines said at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Sandy Creek Revival Week.
Gaines, the new pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., preached a series of messages to bring spiritual refreshment to the next generation of Christians intent on returning biblical proclamation to the nation’s pulpits.
“The week is about renewal for you,” Gaines told students at Southeastern’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus. “Ask God to bring the glory back into your life because if you leave this seminary and all you have is a full head with an empty heart, you will fail. Get the full head, but also get the full heart.”
Gaines said revival is important, even on a seminary campus, because every believer needs strengthening from the Lord.
“I believe all of us need spiritual times of refreshment,” Gaines said. “We need mountaintops, fresh fillings and fresh cleansings. Yesterday’s touch from God won’t do. We need to constantly walk with God. Just like a bath or shower doesn’t last, we have to be repeatedly filled with the Holy Spirit and receive fresh touches from God.”
The seminary’s yearly Sandy Creek Week commemorates one of the greatest revival movements in history. That 18th-century revival began at nearby Sandy Creek Baptist Church, where the passion and vision of a pastor named Shubal Stearns sparked a movement of God that touched much of the southeastern United States and birthed many of the Southern Baptist churches in the region today.
Similarly, the nation finds itself in need of revival today, Gaines said in his Oct. 25-26 messages. Its problems include preachers who do not preach God’s Word and churches in which the Word of God has ceased to function as an authority.
“The No. 1 sign of a church that’s in trouble is perverted proclamation,” Gaines said. “If there is no Word from God in the pulpit, there will be no anointing from God.
“I’m concerned with the spiritual climate I see in our churches. I wonder if God has said, ‘You guys keep meeting. I’m out of here.’ I don’t want to be a member of a church God doesn’t attend. It doesn’t matter how many people come to your church if God’s not there.”
Members of a church often are no better than the men who fill its pulpits, Gaines added.
“Go to any Baptist church you want to, and you can find people who profess to be Christians but have little of the glory of God in their lives,” he said. “They complain if the service runs five minutes past noon. What makes you think you’re going to like heaven if you can’t handle more than an hour of church? What makes you think you’re going to heaven?”
Sadly, even in the church, one can find people who are hardhearted and mean-spirited. The remedy for this condition, Gaines said, is love of the 1 Corinthians 13 variety.
“If you want to see what revival is, it’s living out 1 Corinthians 13,” he said. “It’s living a life of love…. It won’t do you any good to have all of this theology systematized in your mind but be mean-spirited.
“If I’m mean, cantankerous and always looking for a fight, even theologically, in God’s eyes even if I give my life to be burned, it doesn’t mean anything to Him.”
The mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit, Gaines said, preaching from 1 Corinthians, is not the appearance of some spiritual gift. The mark of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit that begins with love.
“You tell me you’re mature, and you’re not a loving person?” Gaines said. “I tell you that you’re not mature. You’re only as mature as your love level.”
Gaines also preached in a special evening service for local youth. Using Philippians 2:5-11 as his text, Gaines underscored the lordship of Jesus Christ, calling for a response to His lordship.
“Jesus was Lord before He ever came to this earth,” Gaines said. “While He was on this earth, Jesus was Lord, and Jesus Christ will be Lord when He comes back again. The problem is if you wait until then, you won’t go to heaven.
“You can’t have Him as Savior now and Lord later. I believe people need to surrender their hearts, or they’re not really saved. I believe if there is no repentance, there is no regeneration, and if there is no surrender, there is no salvation.”
Gaines challenged the youth to respond to Jesus’ lordship in a variety of ways -– whether by receiving Him for salvation, modeling His humility or trusting Him in the midst of their struggles.