There’s a new word I’m hearing a lot from Christian leaders: “Desperate.”
I’m hearing it from church planters who have watched too many plants wither.
I’m hearing it from Christian colleges, as their classes dwindle.
I’m hearing it from Christian writers, navigating culture wars.
I’m hearing it from pastors whose hearts are broken over poverty, racism, human trafficking, violence.
It’s no wonder we’re feeling desperate!
The good news is: desperation holds immense potential, if we respond right.
I’m watching desperate Christian leaders respond with fear, scrambling to come up with new approaches, new ways to prop up their crumbing institutions, their crumbling hopes. But it’s not working. And they’re worn out! So what if we chose a new response to desperation?
Romans 8:15 says,
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (NRSV)
We have taken on responsibility for the running of the Church for so long that when our efforts fail, we just try new efforts. Are we living in fear, working like slaves, shouldering the burden of this work alone? What would it look like to feel the desperation, not as slaves, but as children?
If you’re a slave and you feel overburdened, you resent your master and work harder.
If you’re a child and you feel overburdened, you do the only thing a child can do: You cry out to your father. Children don’t even know what to ask for, they just know who has it.
So, what would it look like for us to just cry, “Abba! Father!”
“Abba” is found only three times in the New Testament but in every case, it is not a word said about God but a word said to God. It is cried out by those who know their dependence on Him and trust His goodness and provision.
We need to say “Abba!” because things are getting desperate.
Our most pressing problem right now is not to fix the same-sex marriage question or the conservative/liberal question or the 2016 election question or the shrinking church question or the gender roles question or even the racism or poverty question (as important as those questions are).
Our most pressing problem is our belief that the burden is on us to fix it all.
What if we stopped our slavish, fearful striving long enough to remember we’re not slaves and to cry out to our Father? It may not provide an instant, obvious fix to the pressing problems of the Church and the world but I believe it will bring a different, better solution.
When we cry, “Abba! Father!” His spirit will testify to our spirits that we are indeed His children. His Spirit will remind us that we are not alone, that our work is His, that His Spirit is striving with our spirits, longing with our spirits. Revival is not measured in new buildings or programs or book sales or conferences. Revival is measured in hearts turned to Him.
And so, it’s humbling and uncomfortable but surprisingly simple:
Revival begins when His people acknowledge their need for Him.
Revival begins when human hearts remember how to cry, “Abba! Father!”
And when we do, who knows what can happen!
My church has been praying this responsive prayer for the past 5 weeks. Join us in it!
When we live in a spirit of slavery and fear, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
When we live by the power of death, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
When your church has lost its way, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
When we’ve forgotten your truth, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
When we model ourselves after the world, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where men and women and children are for sale we cry, “Abba, Father!”
When human life is cheap we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where people are desperate and violent, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where we see with eyes of mistrust and hate, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where families are torn apart, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where cities are in distress, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where those in power abuse the needy, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where food is withheld from the hungry, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Where we have destroyed the beauty of your creation, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
In every way we are small, afraid, broken, alone, and desperate, we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Let your Spirit testify to our spirits that we are your children.
[Photo: zhezhe2010, CC via Flickr]