Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vance Havner on the Ministry

Here is an excerpt from Vance Havner (1901-1986), the prominent Baptist preacher. He is reflecting on Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. His words are at least as relevant to us today as they were then. So much of what people today call 'succesful' in ministry is simply the exertion of the flesh to impress the world with our show and numbers as Havner describes here.
We’re a little short on prophets. We need to rebuild the broken altar and put the sacrifice of a dedicated life thereupon. But before we can expect any fire from heaven, we must drench the altar. I’ve heard plenty of preaching about rebuilding the altar. I’ve heard sermons about presenting our body as living sacrifice. But the hardest lesson for anybody in Christian service to learn is that we cannot help God out in the slightest by warming up the altar in the energy of the flesh. We try to start a fire of our own and think that’ll help out God’s fire. It won’t do it. We’re ashamed to be laughed at by the world. We don’t dare face the Midianites with Gideon’s band, so we mob-o-lize.
We don’t mobilize, we mob-o-lize a multitude who know little and care less about spiritual warfare, who never have understood that the Bible is the Lord’s and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We’re afraid to face old Goliath today with sling and stone. We want to wear the latest equipment, and Saul’s armory is working overtime. We must be up-to-date and borrow all the technique of the world to do the work of God. But you can’t organize revivals as you do secular things, as the world puts on its drives and campaigns.
You can’t run a church as you would a business corporation. You can’t work up mere human enthusiasm to put over the work of the Lord. We all give lip service, of course, to the Holy Spirit: “Not by might nor power, but by my Spirit” (Zech. 4:6). We sing, “Kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours” (Isaac Watts, "Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,” 1707). But actually we’re so wired up to our own devices that if the fire doesn’t fall from heaven, we can turn on a switch and produce some false fire of our own. And if there’s no sound of a mighty rushing wind, we’ve got the bellows all set to blow hot air instead. But God answers by fire, not by feelings, not by fame, not by finances. You can blow up quite a blaze today on Carmel. We can do it, yes. But people are not crying out today, “The LORD, he is the God” (1 Kings 18:39).
Vance Hanver, When God Breaks Through: Sermons on Revival, edited and complied by Dennis J. Hester (Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel Publications, 2003), 54-55; emphasis mine
(HT: Kairos Journal- registration required)


James said...

I really enjoy Vance Havner's books. I also like his sermon "Is This That?" from Acts 2:16. In these days of ice cream truck evangelism and creative arts worship I think such a message isn't well revieved. Ravenhill's "Why Revival Tarries" is also a good one to get you thinking along those lines.

Nathan Finn said...

Wow, what an indictment on much of modern evangelicalism. Thanks for posting the quote.

Steve Weaver said...

Great quote! I hope to see you in Greensboro.

Ray Van Neste said...

I hope to see you too Steve. I'll be around the Union booth. Thanks for the link from your blog.