The other day I was speaking to a minister in Sydney about his Christmas services. He told me, over Christmas he had 25% of his population in Church! Not 25% of his church members, but 25% of the population in church! Mind you, it’s a small place, but 25%! And not only that, every Sunday 10% of the population is in church. Week by week, Sunday by Sunday, this church has 10% of the population.

10% of the population in Bible believing churches was a goal we all aimed for. I’ve not heard of any other church reaching this target. Even the Archbishop said it was an impossible target but it gave us something to aim towards. And only one little church I know of has reached that target. These figures are revival figures.

I saw something of the impact the gospel is having on the people of this little place as I was walking with the minister. A young man in his mid-twenties ran up to us and began to share with the pastor some of the difficulties of his life. He had been in trouble with the law and was losing sleep worrying about what others were thinking of him. The pastor looked directly into his face and said in a way that communicated seriousness tempered with grace, “Look. Who really matters when it comes to what anybody else thinks about you? God, right?” The young man agreed and the pastor went on to encourage him by telling him how much God had done for him in Christ and to make sure that it is God who is pleased with him and not to worry about what man may think.

I recently read of an encounter another minister had where he had been able to share the gospel with a person in difficult circumstances. This minister said that he rarely had these sorts of gospel conversations even though he was Anglican minister whom you might expect to have these types of conversations on a regular basis. When I commented to the minister I was with about the conversation I had just witnessed and said that it was a rare privilege, he responded that he had these sorts of gospel conversations every day.

So what’s the difference? Why is there revival in one place and only rare conversations on the things of God in the other? Both ministers are godly men faithfully preaching the gospel and seeking to win people for Christ. The difference does come down to location but it’s not as simple as that. There are complicating factors about the people in their different locations and a discussion about that is for another place.

If I tell you the place where the revival is happening is a maximum security prison in Sydney, what is your reaction? Are you cynical? Do you nod and turn away with not much more thought? Do you rejoice at the work God is doing in that place?

If you want to have gospel conversations every day of your ministry, then become a prison chaplain. But these positions are limited in number and most of us will never have the privilege of being involved in that ministry. An important question to answer is about what in the human makeup is there that makes a person in prison seek God more than they might in more normal circumstances. Is a prison experience so extraordinary that what it does to a person just cannot happen outside of prison or are there heartfelt needs and fears that are part of the normal human experience the gospel speaks to but that we are just not touching?

Are the main concerns of people in our towns and suburbs really about gay marriage, global warming and the economy? Are we not more concerned about paying the mortgage, the health of our kids, being loved? Maybe if our preaching touched more of these kinds of issues we might see revival outside prison too.



Feature photo: andyputnam

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