Some dear friends of ours who were missionaries in Papua New Guinea for over 30 years were sharing a story with us one day about some of the frustrations they had in the village where they served. These friends were sent by New Tribes Missions, into a small village in a remote part of the country where the gospel had not yet been heard. Their job was to learn the language of the people and then translate the Bible into that language and find ways to present the gospel to them in a way they could understand. This particular tribe was a tribe of hunters and gatherers who lived day to day on the meat they trapped, or hunted, and on the herbs or trees that they collected that day or that week.
Seeing the need for sustainable food for these people, my friends began to order corn seed from their mission station to be delivered to them in the village where they could plant it and teach the people to plant, tend and harvest their own vegetables or produce. And so it began, the missionaries placed the seed in the ground, watered it, weeded it, fertilized it and produced a crop of corn with enough of it’s own seed to be used in the next planting. It was a fantastic idea that they brought to the field, that sadly died in the field.
Here’s what happened: They would teach the people to plant the seeds in the ground, but in this harvesting/gathering culture, there wasn’t time or attention given to the seedlings to be sure they grew. The gardens were unattended during the days and nights and the wild pigs would come in and root up anything that thought about growing, eat it and leave the garden destroyed. The plants that would miraculously survive and grow into full ears of corn were consumed immediately and none of the seed set aside to plant again. So, the locals would return to the missionaries on a regular basis asking for more seed to plant since theirs was consumed.
I remember hearing the story and thinking, “Why in the world didn’t the people catch on to the fact that they needed a sustainable food supply?” It seemed logical to me that they should apply themselves to planting and farming, but alas, my 20/20 vision here would prove to be fuzzy in another area of life where I live….
Now travel to my continent and visit the churches where my culture and generation go to worship. You will see the same frustration on the faces of the pastors and workers as you would have seen on my missionary friends. Week after week, year after year, many of these pastors and leaders labor over the scriptures. Gleaning insight and wisdom, nurturing faith, and applying truths they have learned, many pastors will devote over 30 hours to the one sermon they will prepare on Sunday morning. Within the study and presentation of the message will be enough “seed” to plant and grow for a lifetime and certainly enough to feed one for a week of time. But the same problem persists. Our culture doesn’t know what to do with the seed. There isn’t any time devoted to nurturing the seed or be sure it is growing properly. Our busy, hectic schedules find us running constantly and leaving our spiritual life at the mercy of the elements and our enemy. While we are out hunting and gathering possessions, positions, and reputation, our spiritual gardens wither and die off. We don’t put fences or boundaries around our spiritual lives; but instead we allow them to be opened up to whatever wild hog happens to be running through. Sometimes that wild hog will be the movies we watch or the company we keep. Our sustainable life is consumed before we know it.
Then there is Sunday when we run back to our churches and places of worship and say “Feed me! That last seed didn’t take, and we are hungry! Not only that, but we have children too and they need fed.” It’s common to hear Christians say that their church just doesn’t feed them or meet their spiritual needs, or that it would be a better church if it had better programs for their children, or their teenagers. The problem, however, often lies in the lifestyle of we who come hungry. Are we feeding ourselves throughout the week? Are we feeding and nurturing our own children? Are we tending our own spiritual lives, or leaving them unattended?
I hear so much talk of revival, and honestly the “talk” part has worn me out. Who will actually own their own hunger? That’s my question. If we are really hungry for the things of God, then why aren’t we planting, nurturing, and tending our own spiritual life? If we are desiring more of God, why aren’t we looking for Him or seeking Him faithfully with our free time? If we want victory over our addictions and sins, why aren’t we inviting accountability into our lives and doing the hard work of repentance and changing? Why does our garden look like it’s been ransacked by hogs? Where is the seed to get us through tomorrow and our children through their childhood? Doesn’t revival start in our heart and then work it’s way out from there? And if our churches aren’t meeting all of our hungers and needs, isn’t there a way that we can bring into our live the kind of prayer partners that will pray with us and encourage us on this path to revival? What exactly do we need?
Why do we ask Him for revival when we are not willing to take steps of repentance? Why should our churches make the worship longer or the prayer times more frequent, if we have no plans to cultivate that part of our lives throughout the week and watch it take root? Why should we desire better programs for our children, when we intend to let them watch ungodly movies and tv shows, surf the internet unattended, and play games we have never screened nor plan to pay attention to? What is the sense in that?
My point is this, revival will happen when we own our own hunger. When we really sincerely believe that our spiritual life and the lives of our children are worth protecting, nurturing, cultivating, and continuing. Revival’s earmarks will be repentance, accountability, prayer, study, and love for one another on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Instead of wild hogs running through our lives on the weekends, you will see us tending our fences and teaching our children. The Holy Spirit will have so much to work with because we will have finally turned our lives over to this Jesus that we call “Lord”. Instead of one pastor growing a garden to feed a village, the village will grow the gardens that feed the world. That’s how the gospel is spread. That is how the gospel is enjoyed.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2Chronicles 7:14