||What if, one day, you were at a busy mall that was
packed with thousands of shoppers? As you are
strolling quietly down through the mall, your cell
phone goes off. You answer it and you hear the
frantic voice of a close friend. She explains that
she knows you were going to the mall today but
you have to get out and get out now! As you try
to comprehend what she is saying, she confesses
that her husband is involved with terrorists and
through him she has learned that the mall will be
blown up at 3:00 pm. You look at your watch and
realize that’s only nine minutes from now! Your
friend is still screaming in your ear, but you push the off button and gaze dumbfounded
Now you have a choice to make. You have three different scenarios facing you. If you
weren’t persuaded at all that your friend was telling you the truth, then you could
dismiss her warning altogether. You could think what a vivid imagination she has and in
nine minutes perish with all your fellow shoppers.
If you were even slightly convinced of what you have just heard, you would gather your
family at least, slip out the nearest exit, and drive away just in case it were true. If it
were not true, you had not risked looking like a fool. If it did prove true, at least you had
But if you were fully persuaded of what you had heard, you would
abandon all sense of what others thought of you. You would run
panic-stricken through the mall and stores shouting to the oblivious
shoppers to clear the building. You would pull fire alarms; you might
even scoop up little children and carry them out to safety. You
would plead and warn with overwhelming emotion for everyone to
escape. You would not waste a second. You would not be afraid of
bothering your fellow patrons or you would not care what anyone
thought. You would save as many as you could before the ninth
minute was up.
Unfortunately, most of us who call ourselves believers fit into the second category. We
are convinced enough of the Bible and its claims that we have made sure we are
saved. We have quietly slipped out the back door of the mall and driven to safety.
However, we are simply not persuaded enough to be concerned with the eternal well
being of others. We just don’t want to risk looking like a fool to those around us.
The late Keith Green once said, “Every day people go down to the pits of a deepest
dark hell, your neighbors, your friends, your relatives – you don’t want to turn them off.
You don’t want them to feel like you’re trying to get them saved. So you don’t and so
they go to hell. I’d rather have people hate me and have the knowledge I tried to save
A radical statement, as Keith was prone to make, yes. Many of us just don’t want to face
this side of the New Testament. But facing it bears eternal fruit! Paul said, Knowing
therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men. The question is, are we
persuaded enough to persuade others?
It is true when we speak of an invisible King who died on a cross, rose again 2,000
years ago, and that He’s coming again, we risk being misunderstood. We even risk
being scoffed at. But the danger if we are silent is far greater. We risk seeing friends
and loved ones going to eternal destruction. Imagine, as we watch the angels drag
them kicking and screaming toward hell. Think of hearing their frantic screams as they
are hurled over the edge and into an eternal lake of fire.
My friend, something much, much worse
explosion at a mall is coming. We must ask God to
convince us of its reality and fill our lives with a
sense of urgency to tell others. We must have
enough zeal to forget what others think. We must
even be willing to stand and proclaim as others
scoff and laugh. We must repent of our shame,
silence, and indifference about the gospel of
Jesus Christ—we must become fully persuaded.
We must recover our zeal for Jesus and His
Only when God’s people rightly perceive the unimaginable tragedy of multitudes
losing their eternal souls will they respond to His wake-up call. Only when we realize the
failure of the status quo will we suspend the business-as-usual approach. Then and
only then will we get serious about calling out to God to turn a generation around
before it is too late. God’s expectation of how seriously we should approach this kind of
spiritual warfare is crystal clear from His instructions to Joel’s generation:
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a
holy fast, call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people, consecrate the
assembly; bring together the elders,
gather the children, those nursing
at the breast. Let the bridegroom
leave his room and the bride her
chamber. Let the priests, who
minister before the Lord, weep
between the temple porch and the
altar. Let them say, “Spare your
people, O Lord. Do not make your
inheritance an object of scorn, a
byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is
their God?’” Then the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people
We live in a refined, civil society where we have disturbing the peace statutes in place
to maintain a certain level of serenity. Even so, sometimes those norms do not apply.
Has your calm ever been shattered by the ear-splitting wail of a passing emergency
vehicle siren? Have you ever been jolted to attention by the reverberating moan of an
outdoor storm warning? Or perhaps heard the irritating loud buzz of the emergency
broadcast system interrupting your radio or television broadcast?
My wife and I live in what is known as tornado ally, so we have a great appreciation for
the concept of WARNINGS. We always take it serious when a storm warning is issued.
We recently attended a mission’s conference in another town here in Texas. Shortly
after entering our hotel room I noticed a placard on the back of our door with the rather
disturbing image of a tornado, with this announcement: The office of emergency
management and this establishment are concerned for your safety. As a result, the city
has installed an outdoor early warning system to notify the public in the event of a
tornado or other emergency. If you hear an outdoor siren, please take the following
They were warning us ahead of time in case of an emergency that the rules of normal
genteel quietness would be suspended. Why do we tolerate such disturbing sounds in
our otherwise noise-protected environment? Because we understand that at that
moment an individual or even a whole community is in grave danger, and we all
recognize their well-being is more important than our momentary tranquility.
This is the exact approach God prescribes in this situation—Blow the trumpet, He
commands! This is God’s emergency warning system when spiritual peril approaches
His people. I believe in our day just such a situation is at hand with the crisis of faith in
our nation and we dare not ignore God’s warning. We must obey Him, put the trumpet
to our lips, and sound the alarm in America!
This is an Emergency!
Notice also the nature of God’s call to all His people—no one is exempt. It is a
resounding all hands on deck plea to rescue the perishing. Gather the people, elders,
teens, young mothers, ministers; even a honeymooning couple is not excused from the
sacred assembly (verses 16-17). And all for what purpose? Simply to intercede before
God for those in danger: Spare your people, O Lord.
While a great many churches have gotten away from the practice of holding revivals,
this is exactly what is needed today. We need to respond to God’s call for sacred
assembly. We need to pull ourselves away from the world and its influence and
consecrate ourselves fresh and new to God. We need to carve out time away from our
busy schedules and secular entertainment and begin to intercede for those around us.
We need to be calling out like Joel’s generation, Spare your people, O Lord!
Just as in Joel’s situation, we have to recognize the urgent nature of what is befalling
this generation and suspend normal operation. We must jettison every trivial pursuit
and run to the lifeboats, for the alarm has been sounded! Not only does Joel’s small
book tell us to sound the alarm and pull everyone together for rescue operations, it
even indicates what degree of emotion is appropriate.
Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and
the altar. I cannot remember the last time I saw a preacher actually weep while
declaring the Gospel. I know it has been at least a decade. That is too much out of
vogue for today’s sophisticated mindset. Generally, any time I have heard a modern
pastor refer to someone shedding tears in the pulpit, it is in a negative context—
something to be mocked or ridiculed.
It would seem such raw emotion is out of step with modern churchdom. Instead the
approach in much of the church world these days is more corporate in nature and style
than Biblical. Therefore, very few in this generation have ever heard an impassioned
plea to turn from sin and to God in heartfelt repentance. Our results speak for
themselves. We are losing this generation and have been for quite some time now.
We must return to a Christianity that carries some weight and authority, that properly
conveys the true gravity of people losing their souls. Preachers must awake and throw
off the apathy that has paralyzed our age. We must cast aside dignity and restraint,
and preach and plead with a force equal to the tragic result of people losing their souls.
Although it may currently be out of vogue, it is not difficult to find such powerful
Christianity. If you thoughtfully look back through the pages of church history, you will
easily note that we have lost much fervency in the way we present the Gospel. Today
we don’t look all that different to the church in England in the early eighteenth century.
Christianity had become a polite, unemotional affair, with fashionable, sensitive, user-
friendly services. The preaching style of most ministers of that day has been described
as controlled, dignified, and even stuffy. No intense emotional appeals were made for
sinners to repent, and just like us, the Anglican Church was also losing a generation.
The masses felt little need for what the church offered, until a young man named
George Whitefield stormed onto the scene.
This great English open-air preacher had a preaching style that was described as
intense, emotional, dramatic and with the unreserved use of tears. He once said, “You
blame me for weeping, but how can I help it when you will not weep for
yourselves, though your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction.”
He approached Christianity as it should be, as a life and death struggle for the souls of
mankind. He preached 18,000 messages in his life, to approximately ten million
hearers. His preaching not only rocked England and Scotland, his open-air preaching
tour of 1739 sparked what is now called America’s Great Awakening. Immortal souls are
also on the verge of destruction in our generation; we too should be weeping.
The prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, also had a passionate ministry philosophy
when it came to reaching the lost. He said, “If sinners will be damned, at least let
them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with
our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay… Let not one go there
unwarned and unprayed for.”
How desperately this generation needs church leaders, like Spurgeon, who
comprehend the dire spiritual peril of our situation today. We need preachers who are
not afraid to stir God’s people by articulating the unpleasant reality that lost people are
dying and going to hell. I am convinced that it will take nothing less to actually wake us
up and turn this generation around.
What is abundantly clear when you read the writings and accounts of church history’s
greatest soul winners is they cared deeply about the plight of the lost. I certainly do not
mean to imply that no one cares today. However, the urgency of the situation demands
that we raise the bar and begin to match the emotional intensity of past generations in
the way we pray and in the way we present the Gospel.
Our casual laid-back approach is not getting the attention of those around us. We
would do well to look at the Word of God as our example of an appropriate emotional
level as we form our ministry philosophies. If we could return to a level of passion and
commitment anything like that of the early church, that would be called revival and it is
what we so desperately need.
When the Apostle Paul met with the Ephesian church elders upon his final departure
from them, he characterized the exact nature of his ministry style. His opening sentence
clearly demonstrates the emotional passion with which he conducted his ministry among
them. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I
was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord
with great humility and with tears. (Acts 20:18-19a Emphasis added).
And his closing statements reveal when it came to their spiritual well-being, in three
years of ministry he lost none of his emotional intensity. So be on your guard!
Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day
with tears (Acts 20:31 Emphasis added).
Lord, Make Me a Beggar!
One of the most life-changing encounters with God’s Word that I have ever experienced
came when I was a very young preacher. I was working full-time, attending Bible
College, serving as a youth pastor at a local church, and just beginning evangelistic
ministry. Every Saturday a few members of my church went out door-to-door to tell
people about Jesus. This was a real stretch for me because I am by nature very shy.
The thought of ringing someone’s door bell and then launching from a cold start into a
conversation about the Gospel petrified me. One Saturday morning I was praying and
trying to summon the needed courage for the day’s outreach. I opened my Bible to a
passage that forever changed the way I thought about presenting the Gospel.
All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what
Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come
into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world
to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out.
This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s
ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ
himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be
reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 Living Bible).
First of all, I realized that it was a privilege to be
entrusted by God with such a glorious message as
the Gospel. Secondly, it forever defined for me the
exact nature of that message, reconciliation with
God. But thirdly, it showed me the depth of emotional
dedication and commitment expected of me as an
ambassador of Christ.
When I read those words of Paul saying, we beg you
as if the Lord Jesus Himself were here pleading
with you to receive the love he offers, I was
nothing less than awestruck. I imagined the living
Lord Jesus imploring sinners to come to Him. A
prayer formed in my heart and mind and escaped out
of my mouth before I could reconsider the
Lord, make me a beggar, I said. Lord make me so aware of people’s lost condition,
their deplorable end result, their overwhelming need for a Savior, that I would beg them,
if necessary, to be saved. If what it takes to wake them up from their destructive,
spiritual stupor is for me to depart from the polite status quo, then so be it. If I have to
lose my dignity and my sense of personal pride, then so be it. If I have to get on my
knees and beg them to listen, then I will trust You to give me the grace to do that.
I realized then and there telling someone about Jesus is not like marketing a new car. It
is not simply a matter of telling them His good points, and asking them to sign on the
bottom line. To actually reach someone’s heart is a life and death matter and requires a
depth of emotion that is sometimes uncomfortable.
I cannot say God answers that prayer every day, it is not always necessary for me to
beg someone to listen to the message of Jesus. Even though it has been many years
since I first prayed that prayer, sometimes God does answer it. I remember one such
We had been traveling and preaching in Germany for a month. The last couple of
weeks had been spent doing a sports camp in conjunction with a church we had been
assisting for a couple of years. At the camp, we had invited all the kids to a final special
event. Wonderfully, close to 300 kids showed up at Cross Point, of which only about 30-
40 of them came from the church’s youth group.
The youth pastor told me the rest were what they call gangster kids from the streets.
Many of them were immigrants from Russia and other Eastern European countries. It is
impossible to know exactly how many of them there were. They sat on the floor in the
church sanctuary, packed wall-to-wall, out the back door, and even into the church
The theme of the evening was Image is Nothing! There were some technical problems
with the computers and lights, so we got a very late start. Then there was lots of music
and a great skit from the youth drama team Bobo and Friends. They were an incredibly
energetic and talented group—the proverbial tough act to follow, which is exactly what I
had to do. It was after 10:00 PM as I got on the platform to preach and a large number
of kids started getting up to leave. Remember, these were worldly kids directly from the
streets, so politely sitting through preaching was not on their agenda.
I started preaching in German as fast as I could, desperately trying to regain their
attention. I felt such an intense spiritual struggle in my heart. I knew this could easily be
the first and only time many of these kids would truly hear the Gospel. I know that may
sound overly dramatic, but in the context of secular Europe, that is no exaggeration. I
desperately wanted them to hear about Jesus.
Not knowing what else to do, I suddenly dropped to my knees and begged them to
listen to the most important thing they would ever hear. I didn’t know how they would
react to this, but I was wonderfully relieved to see it really worked. They sat back down.
The room went completely silent and I sensed the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts.
Their attention seemed riveted to the words of the Gospel.
Still on my knees, I preached about being slaves to image and slaves to sin. I told them
at length about the cross and that Jesus had purchased their freedom. I talked to them
about Jesus standing at the door of their lives knocking, that they alone could open that
door to Him. I was able to preach about twenty minutes in all. It was a glorious evening
and I stayed until after midnight talking to individual kids about faith in Jesus.
On other occasions I have preached
from my knees in the free speech zones
of college campuses here in America to
similar results. It definitely gets their
attention. I am fully persuaded we
must suspend business as usual and
be willing to do whatever it takes to
capture the hearts and minds of people
around us who are on the brink of total
spiritual ruin. We must see this situation
for what it is, an emergency, and blow
the trumpet. Like the Apostle Paul, we
must warn them night and day with tears.
They are worth it, and we must do all that is necessary to change their direction.
This is a call to care and to care deeply about the fate of people all around us! It is a
call to pray, to change the way we do business, if necessary. It is a call to take a
serious look at the way we present the Gospel—to do all we can to rescue people from
Excerpts taken from The Soul of a Generation © 2007, and Zeal! Rekindling Your Passion for Jesus &
His Message © 1999