What Should We Do?

When John the Baptist began preaching and challenging the status quo of his day, he caused quite a stir. Nowadays it's called revival. He was a non-conformist, an independent preacher. But he was not self-ordained, he had a prophetic call upon his life—even before his conception (Luke 1:13-17). His role in life and ministry was preparing people for the coming Messiah. When he preached—and it was strong preaching—people listened and responded (Luke 3:3-9). After hearing the strong words of John's message the people's response was simple—"What should we do?" (Luke 3:10 GW).

There was a different response on the part of the religious leaders of the day—indifference or rejection. But most people saw John for who he was—a prophet sent from God. The response to John's message—his preaching—was a stirring of the heart deeper than emotion. It's called conviction. People knew things were not right and their life needed change.

The great value of preaching is spiritual truth stirring a person's heart towards God. But there's a difference between preaching empowered by God's Spirit and good preaching. The first, like John the Baptizer and Jesus, stirs a genuine conviction of guilt and response of the heart towards God. Preaching that is good can be used by God, but also by the one preaching.

Preaching is persuasive. It stirs the heart to engage the mind. This is why it can be hijacked by the preacher pursuing his own end. When driven by God's Spirit there's a pure motive. But when driven by ambition, or some other human trait, it can be manipulative. Looking at the present state of the church, both in the US and worldwide, I wonder about the motive or ambition of many who are preachers. It is not my place to judge anyone's heart, but I am responsible to examine the fruit of any preacher's ministry (Matt 7:15-20), as my own preaching should be examined. 

Christianity, in developed nations, has enjoyed unparalleled popularity in the past few decades. Even in many closed countries there has been great growth in the spread of the Gospel. And yet, I wonder about the state of the church, especially in the US. If we have so much great preaching, which I believe is true, why are we not seeing a wholesale change in our nation—spiritually and culturally?

I'm sure there are many who would contest my question, pointing to the growth of many churches and the reported thousands who have committed their lives to Christ. So, how could I ask such a question? In my experience over the past forty-plus years of being a believer in ministry service, I'm seeing less and less instance of the question—What should we do?—the fruit of genuine conviction.

True revival changes culture, even within a decadent culture such as the Roman Empire. The birth of the church, in Acts 2, saw its first large ingathering of people who asked the same question—"Brothers, what should we do?" (Acts 2:37). Why are we not seeing more people asking this question? I believe if this were the case we'd see dramatic change within our own culture, like what is seen in other cultures throughout the world undergoing genuine revival.

When I hear teaching and preaching on the great ingathering of Acts 2:41, the focus is usually on how many people were added to the church and Peter's answer to the question. I wonder how different things might be if there was more emphasis on what happened for the people. In Acts 2:37, it says, "and they were cut to the heart"—that's true conviction by the Holy Spirit.

If that's not the response of people after preaching, why is this so? Does the message need to change, or the motivation of the preacher?

I long for genuine, Holy Spirit conviction to be seen. I long for it in my own heart. I've experienced this at various times in my life—even while doing the preaching—and that's even more convicting, but welcome. How about you—do you see this question in the hearts of people...in your own heart?