How to Revive a Church: They Found the Way in a Gathering
Under the trees beside the road to the suburbs, there is a two-story house with a courtyard surrounded by the low elms. The white iron fence makes the house outstanding in the peaceful place near the hill and by the river. This is the house of Huang Shoudao. On a Sunday, Zhao Mei, Liu Zhong, and Li Tao come to visit Huang.
Huang Shoudao takes them to his study and asks his daughter, Huang Jiayin, to serve water. He guesses something from Zhao Mei’s sad face and asks her with burden, “Sister Zhao, how is the state of the brothers and sisters in your meeting place?”
Zhao Mei sighs, “Alas! The brothers and sisters are commonly negative and weak in their spirits. Many of them cannot overcome the temptation of evil tendencies. They, like unbelievers, are longing for money and enjoyments of the flesh, comparing themselves to each other, and following the secular world. Some haven’t come to the meeting for several weeks. I’ve tried to support them many times, but each time it doesn’t have any effect. They always make excuses that their children have grown up and they have to buy them cars and houses so that they are too busy in making money to come to the meetings. Some promise to come but no one sees them in the next meeting. Alas! Brothers and sisters are living in such a state and I cannot support them. I’m really indebted to the Lord! To be honest, I’m also thirsty and dark in my spirit like those negative brothers and sisters. I can’t feel the Lord’s presence when I pray; I’m not moved when reading the Bible; I have no new light in preaching. I’ve been in this state for some time. If it continues, how can I give account to the Lord? I’ve been uneasy these days. We believe in the Lord but have lost His presence. This is a signal for danger. I think we have to do something to improve the condition.”
Huang Shoudao says with a sad face, “To do something? These years we have tried all kinds of ways to revive the church: We’ve fasted and prayed together; the co-workers have prayed in turns; we’ve held revival meetings and dinner meetings; we’ve invited preachers of other churches to give sermons; we’ve even prepared various programs to cheer brothers and sisters up during meetings. However, these ways seemingly make them active. When the novelty fades, everything is the same as usual. Alas! I’ve also discussed with experienced preachers of other churches about how to revive the church. They have no good ideas either, but say all possess the good will of the Lord and we should patiently wait for the Lord’s coming.”
Huang Shoudao’s words make everybody silent. At that time, Liu Zhong’s eyes flash as something occurs to him, and he says, “The Lord’s coming you mentioned reminds me of something. Recently, I hear that there is a church testifying to the Lord’s coming. Many good sheep and head sheep of other sects have investigated and accepted it. I think that if the Lord has really come back and we fail to follow the Lamb’s footsteps, we will surely be abandoned by the Lord! We really need to have an investigation to see whether the Lord has come back or not. After all, the Lord Jesus once said: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you’” (Matthew 7:7).
“Well, we have tried everything but not the way the Lord has shown us!” Huang Jiayin agreed immediately, clapping her hand on her forehead excitedly. “I agree with Brother Liu. If the Lord has really come back, we should go and seek Him. We should not wait like this any longer …”
Huang Shoudao interjects before her daughter has finished, “This is how I see it. If the Lord has come back, we should indeed go and seek Him. But we all have been preachers for years. We’ve been keeping the Lord Jesus’ name and toiling for Him to shepherd the flock. We have suffered a lot and have paid a big price. If the Lord has come back, how could He not give revelation to us first?”
Li Tao listens to Huang Shoudao carefully and nods from time to time, “Yep, Brother Huang is right. For years in storm and rain, we’ve toiled, sacrificed, and expended for the sake of the Lord, vigilantly awaiting His coming back. I also think that we will be inspired first when the Lord comes back. He will not abandon us.”
Everybody is in silence again. This issue confuses not only Huang Shoudao and Li Tao, but also others. Frowning, Liu Zhong looks at Huang Shoudao and Li Tao, and says, “I have a different view on this. We think that since we have toiled, sacrificed, and expended for the sake of the Lord, we should be inspired first when the Lord comes back. Does this view come from our notions and imaginations? Let’s think back to the days of the Pharisees of Judaism. They compassed sea and land to preach God’s way, during which they had suffered a lot and paid a big price. So, they also thought that they should most deserve to be first inspired by the Lord when the Messiah came to work. They, living in their own imaginations, never sought or investigated with modesty. They didn’t acknowledge that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah, the coming One, even though they had seen with their own eyes that the Lord Jesus could make the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers cleansed, and the dead raised. They stubbornly held on to their own imaginations. They didn’t accept the Lord Jesus but asked their followers to resist and reject Him. They even crucified the Lord. These Pharisees also worked hard, but they received no revelation from the Lord and instead were cursed by God in the end. As the Lord Jesus put it: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matthew 23:15). We should learn a lesson from the failure of the Pharisees!” Hearing this, Huang Shoudao and Li Tao look at each other speechless.
Zhao Mei nods and says, “Yes, it’s true! What Brother Liu has said reminds me of the disciples of the Lord Jesus at that time, like Peter, John, and Matthew. They all had a searching and thirsting heart and heard many teachings of the Lord Jesus before they were able to recognize that the Lord Jesus was the coming Messiah. Even Peter also followed the Lord Jesus for some time, heard many of His teachings before he came to have some knowledge of Him, received the revelation from the Holy Spirit, and recognized the Lord’s true identity—He is the Christ, the Son of God. I think we should take it seriously to welcome the second coming of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said: ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). At the end of the last days, when we hear someone testify to the Lord’s return, we should have a heart of seeking and thirsting for the truth and be able to recognize the Lord’s voice like the wise virgins. Only in this way can we welcome the return of the Lord!”
When Zhao Mei finished, Huang Jiayin, who had been listening quietly, said immediately, “I agree with the sister. We should be the wise virgins and pay attention to listening to the Lord’s voice in welcoming His return. God has mentioned many times in Revelation that ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ From this we can see that God will look for His sheep by expressing words. Isn’t it that those who can recognize God’s voice are the wise virgins? In other words, those who don’t listen to God’s voice or who hear God’s voice but can’t understand are surely the foolish virgins!”
Hearing this, Huang Shoudao says to himself, “The wise virgins? The foolish virgins? Will I be one of the foolish virgins? I’ve read the Bible my whole life and have suffered so much for the sake of the Lord. Won’t He give revelation to me first when He returns?” Huang Shoudao shakes his head mournfully.
Liu Zhong says sincerely, “Brother, we believers in God should seek the truth and take God’s words as the basis of everything. We should not live in our own notions and imaginations. The Lord Jesus has said, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). If the Lord directly reveals to us, causing us to believe in Him when He returns, why did He say that God’s sheep hear His voice? Isn’t it a paradox? God will reveal whether we belong to Him or not by testing whether we can recognize His voice or not. Those who recognize God’s voice and accept Him without His revelation are truly blessed. Therefore, to investigate the true way, it doesn’t hinge on whether we are inspired by God, but on whether we can recognize God’s voice from His words and see that God’s words are the truth and then accept Him. Only such people are the ones who truly believe in God, love the truth, and thirst for God’s appearance. If we blindly expect God’s revelation in a vague and abstract way, but don’t seek His voice, then we will be the foolish virgins and eliminated by God. Just as the Lord Jesus put it: ‘For whoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted’ (Luke 14:11). We are familiar with the Bible and have been toiling, so we take it for granted that we don’t need to actively seek God’s voice and that we’ll be first inspired when the Lord comes back. Aren’t we too arrogant and haughty? Can we fathom the Lord’s deeds? Can anyone of us be His counselor? What qualifications do we have to be first inspired by the Lord? If we continue to live in our conceptions and imaginations without seeking or investigating, I’m afraid we will not be inspired by the Lord in the end but be cursed and abandoned by God like the Pharisees for resisting and rejecting His work.”
Then, Zhao Mei says, “The Lord Jesus once said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). We should be the ones who seek the truth with modesty as the Lord Jesus required. We should pay attention to listening to God’s voice as the wise virgins do. This is the reason that we should have before God.”
Huang Shoudao looks at the ground in meditative silence.
After a long pause, Huang Shoudao nods his head silently and sighs with emotion, “Alas! I’m familiar with the Bible and have worked in serving the Lord for many years. I take these as capital and think that I will surely be first inspired when God returns. Even though I’ve heard that the Lord has come back, I have no desire to seek Him with modesty, and even less do I actively seek His voice. What an arrogant and haughty man I am! The Lord taught us to be humble and be the ones that seek with modesty. But I don’t practice according to the Lord’s words and instead live in my own notion and imagination. I would rather see brothers and sisters die of thirst and hunger than go out to seek for the Lord’s appearance. I’ve suffered losses in my life. What’s more, I’ve delayed the brothers’ and sisters’ life progress. Thank the Lord! Today’s communication comes from the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination. I should not stubbornly hold on like this anymore. I should lead brothers and sisters to seek and investigate the true way actively. I should bring God’s sheep before Him. It is my duty!”
Zhao Mei says happily, “This completely conforms to the Lord’s will!”
Li Tao nods his head and says with indebtedness, “Yeah, as co-workers in the church, we should be responsible for brothers’ and sisters’ life!”
They go on communicating cheerfully. The birds’ chirping sounds drift into the room, which are so clear and sweet.
» You may be interested in reading more on our Wise Virgins page, or in the articles below:
• How to Gain the Presence of God in Spiritual Weakness
• What Should We Do in the Face of Famine in the Church Prophesied in the Bible?