How to Awaken Fresh Interest in Our Churches
Sermon given by The Moody Church’s founder: D.L. Moody. Date unknown. This message appeared in The Moody Church News in July/August 1965.
“How to awaken fresh interest in our churches?” It is a most important question. There is not a Christian man or woman but ought to be interested in it. What is more, we ought to take it to heart, because not only our own families are interested in this matter, but all those about us. If the church is cold and formal, there is no chance of reaching the young people—that is sure; and what we want today, I think, all over this country is a fresh interest. The first thing we have to discover is that we are in a low state spiritually.
I think the great trouble with the churches is that we are too well satisfied. We are rich and increased in goods, and we need nothing. Until we see our need, we will not be hungering and thirsting for fresh life and power in the church. The moment we do wake up to the fact that we need it, I think there will be no more trouble about God opening the way and showing us what we need to do.
We are not to rely on the sword of Gideon alone, nor upon God alone—we must put the two together. I think every child of God ought to work as if everything depended upon him, and pray as if everything depended upon God. A great many people seem to think that revivals come like famines and like hurricanes, and that they have nothing to do with it; that God will come in His Own time; and they sit down, fold their arms and say, “When it pleases God to revive His work, He will do it; but of course we can’t do anything. There will be a fresh interest when God comes to revive His Work.”
I firmly believe it is in our power to have a new interest in the church of which we are members if we are living rightly, if we are seeking and desiring it above everything else. The question comes, How? Well, if everything is flat in the church, and the church meetings have gotten into a grove, and it is hard to get new life and new zeal into the church, and the same ones do all the praying, and the young people take no interest in the meetings, and the minister is really burdened himself, I would make this suggestion: Let him go to the fathers and mothers of the church congregation who have children that have gone astray, for whom they are anxious, and talk to them privately and say, “Mother, don’t you want your children reached?” You will not find a mother or a father in the church but will say they do. They are not so dead or asleep but that they want their children blessed and reached. But are we doing all we can to reach them?
Then I suggest that we have special prayer meetings, not for the church, not for the world, but for ourselves. Suppose we get twenty or thirty or forty people together to pray, and let the work of God begin in our own hearts. Let parents—let all Christians—get quickened themselves and pray for power, and then when they have their own hearts quickened and their own lives strengthened and blessed, let them call in the congregation and have a public meeting; and when the minister and others that are taking part speaking let the rest be praying, and how long do you think it would be before there would be interest in the church? How long do you think it would be before there would be people inquiring what they must do to be saved? I never in my life found an anxious church that didn’t find anxious inquirers. I never saw a Christian really burdened for the salvation of souls. But there were souls about that Christian inquiring what they must do to be saved.
I remember the first time I was ever in a real revival. I was invited to go down into a little town in Michigan. A minister, who was a perfect stranger to me, came to the depot and met me and took me to his house to dinner. After dinner he took me out to the meeting. There were about twenty-five wives and mothers on their knees, as I went into that house, weeping and praying to God to bless their unconverted children and their unconverted husbands. It seemed as if I was at the very gate of heaven. Then he took me off to another end of the town and introduced me to an old Elder who was dying of consumption. When he was given up and could not get out of the house, he began to wake up to the fact that he had not been a faithful steward. He must soon give an account to God of his stewardship. There was not a young person in that congregation who was a member of the church. Not one of the sons or daughters of the officers and elders or members of the church was a member of the church. There had not been a revival there for a great many years. He was soon to stand at the bar of God and give an account of his stewardship, and he began to pray. He got himself revived first. That is the first thing to do—begin with ourselves. If we want fresh interest, let us not go around to someone else, but let us pray to God to revive our hearts first. Well, he got quickened. Then he sent for his brother elders and told them how he felt, and wanted to have them pray. They had become so discouraged and disheartened that they said it was no use. Then he sent for the male portion of the church and talked to them. They had become discouraged, and they too said it was no use. Then he sent for the mothers and lady members of the church, and that old dying elder pleaded with them to meet together to pray God to revive His work, and that had been going on two weeks when I got there. That night I preached, and it seemed as if I was preaching against the air. It seemed as if every word came back to me. But that night, about midnight, a boy came downstairs to his father, who was a member of the church and a professed Christian, and said, “Father, I want to have you pray for me.” The father said he could not pray. He didn’t sleep that night. But the next morning at the prayer-meeting he got up and told us that, and said he wanted to have us pray for him. A father that professed to be a Christian and could not pray for his own boy who was weeping over his sins! Well, we prayed for him, and inside of twenty-four hours there was not a young person, whose father or mother was a member of that church, upward of twelve years old, that did not give evidence of being converted. God came suddenly to His temple, and there was a mighty work—I think one of the grandest, one of the best works I have ever seen in my life. The work was revived when the church began to pray to God to revive the church.
Then, I think we have to have a personal effort. We have to see these people personally. If they don’t come out in the church publicly, we must go to their houses. That is the way the Apostles did. Let the elders and the wardens, and the church stewards, and ministers, and the burdened anxious ones go and see one another, talk to them in their homes, pray with them, and just lift up one united voice; that is, all you can get united, and if there are but five voices, get those five to pray. If there are ten, get those ten to pray, and hold up the church before God and pray Him to revive His work, and He will not disappoint us.
Then another thing. When we do get up these meetings, let us bury this miserable stiffness. A man comes in and takes the lead of the meeting, and he is so stiff and formal he throws a stiffness all over the meeting. He gives out a long hymn, reads a long chapter, and says all he can think about it. Then he throws the meeting open, and there is a long pause; there is a coldness—a stiffness in the meeting, and the whole life is gone—no power. Let us bury this stiffness and get it out of the way. We want to be just as free and natural in the meetings as we are outside the meetings. Very often the very best part of our meetings is after they break up, and the people get to shaking hands with one another.
Another thing. To have fresh interest in our churches, I believe we have to have some new music. Have now and then a new hymn. I don’t object to the old hymns; they are good in their place, but when you come to hear them over and over again, right along, year in and year out, they lose their power; they lose their freshness; they don’t take hold.
Now, I am moving around a good deal, and I get into a good many churches, and generally they will open the meeting with “All Hail.” That is a standard hymn, but I would rather hear “Crown Him.” Young people like freshness. They like something new. And I don’t know why we should not have new songs and new music. A man who doesn’t throw life and energy into his business soon becomes a bankrupt. I believe it is the fault of the leaders. I believe they don’t seek to work up an interest.
Now, I know of a minister who was not near as able a man as the minister that preceded him. He could not preach nearly so good a sermon, but when he took the prayer meeting—it was a little prayer meeting of about thirty or forty—he first went to work and visited his members. He would says, “Mr. Jones, I never see you around to the Wednesday-night prayer meeting.” “Well, no, I don’t go.” “I would like to have you come around. We have interesting meetings. I would like to see you there and hear a word from you.” “Why, I couldn’t do that. I never did such a thing as that in my life.” “Well, you can’t begin any earlier. It will do you good. We would like to have you come around and let the friends know you are on the Lord’s side. It will do you good.” Then he talked the same way to A and B, and that man’s prayer meetings have averaged the last two or three years six or eight hundred. He works them up, and he don’t allow two or three men to kill the meeting. You know there are a good many men who just make a business of killing a meeting. They talk and talk and never say anything, just ruining the church. This minister would go around kindly to those men and say, “Brother, I want to get out some new voices. You have spoken now at every meeting for the last three or four months, and we don’t want to hear any more from you at present.” He just keeps down those men that kill the meetings. Now, it is my duty, if I am leader of a meeting, to look after the interest of that meeting, to go to him and tell him he is doing wrong; that he must keep still. I don’t believe we can have a fresh interest in the church without working for it. I believe we get what we work for in religious things as we do in temporal things; and if we work for fresh interest in the church, and work for life and zeal, and to spread the influence of Christianity and Christ, we will not fail.