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17 February 2007

The New Pioneers of Revival by David Smithers

While driving to town the other day I unexpectedly came upon a busy stretch of highway that was under construction. Bumper to bumper, the line of cars ahead of me waited their turn to follow the directions of the brightly colored detour signs. Seemingly, without any thought or hesitation they all quickly sped away from their original course in pursuit of smoother traveling. The road ahead was unquestionably rough and unpaved, but it was still open to traffic and definitely the most direct route to town.

Suddenly I found myself thinking about the state of the modern Church. Many Christians today are being enticed into the well-paved highways of convenient Christianity at the expense of their personal calling and original destination. No doubt just the sight of that rough, unpaved road communicated "RISK" to many of the drivers that day. It threatened all of us with the risk of uncertainty, inconvenience and even the risk of physical danger or loss. As I sat there waiting for my turn to move, something else hit me. "All the well-paved roads in the Church today are only going places that most of us have already been." Those big, flashing church signs too often lead us away from where God’s pioneer work is being done. By the time the concrete sets up and the paint is dry, most of the heaven and earth moving is all over! . . . Read entire article.

How long will we continue to travel down the same old, predictable, powerless highways while the promises of God beckon us to enter into a fresh move of the Holy Spirit? There is still so much of the presence and power of Jesus Christ that is readily available and yet untouched. Be assured God is not standing still! He is even now seeking out and raising up a NEW generation in the Church who is willing to take extreme risks to REDISCOVER the highway of holiness and revival power. God is raising up a new generation of revival pioneers!

Go West Young Man!

The call to pursue revival is a call to be a pioneer! A revival pioneer courageously and even sometimes naively seeks to rediscover new and forgotten places in the Spirit. Pioneers instinctively challenge the modern Church to go places she has never been before, places long forgotten and overgrown by decades of man-made traditions and spiritual decline. Pioneers dare others to dream and trust God to do ALL that the Bible plainly promises. Pioneers are not satisfied with superficial reform. They hunger and thirst for spiritual REALITY. Their calling demands that they defy the laws and limitations of man-centered religion. In their pursuit of more of Jesus, they unknowingly challenge the foundations of so-called "NORMAL CHURCH". Like young Joseph in the company of his older brothers, the pioneer’s dream of revival often provokes strong reactions from within the established Church. -(Gen 37:5) The young pioneer is sure to be confronted by giants of intimidation and mountains of unbelief and religious control. At other times they are simply spurned and dismissed as immature extremists and idealists.

All the great pioneers of revival have had to face these same obstacles and hindrances in their zeal to bring Heaven down to Earth! Most of the early American pioneers that moved westward between 1760 and 1850 encountered countless dangers and extreme hardship, because they were not content with what they already seen. The knowledge that there was still something better beyond the horizon drove them to take extreme risks to improve the quality of their lives. A true pioneer is relentless. He refuses to compromise or substitute the barren plains of lifeless orthodoxy for the living presence of Jesus! No amount of religious rhetoric or decorum will ever satisfy his God-hungry heart. The God-breathed promises of Scripture hound his soul, reminding him over and over again of his destiny and calling. Promise of green forests, fruitful harvests and rushing streams compel him to continue to seek and pray for something MORE. -(Isa 35:7, Isa 41:18-19, Isa 44:3-4, Isa 51:3)

Forerunners & Mountain Movers

Revival pioneers are ordained of God to violently move Heaven and Earth. The English term "pioneer" was originally derived from a French word meaning PICK AX. Later it was also used to convey the idea of a foot soldier. The Germans use the term "trench digger" to convey the idea of a pioneer. A pioneer during wartime was one who marched before an invading army to prepare and repair the road. They did everything from clearing away barricades to setting mines for destroying the works of the enemy. Pioneers are pathfinders and scouts. Like Jeremiah, a pioneer is one who goes before to remove obstructions for the purpose of preparing the way for others that must soon follow. "See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant." -(Jer 1:10) These prophetic people do not set mines and level mountains of ungodliness just for the thrill of watching things blow up. No, the revival pioneer understands that it is his job to prepare the way and make it easier for others to enter into the manifest presence of Jesus Christ.

The revival pioneer labors to restore the highway of holiness, removing stumbling blocks, so it will be straight and level again. This work is done not only for the sake of a coming army, but also for the spiritually lame and crippled. The prophet Isaiah repeatedly reminds us of this important truth. He declares, "Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness…" -( Isa 35:3-8)

"And one shall say, ‘Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.’ For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones". -(Isa 57:14-15)

The High Peaks of Prayer

The American pioneers moving west were always looking for some high vantage point from which they could catch a glimpse of the path just ahead of them. The pioneers of revival are no different. From the towering heights of bent knees they scan the spiritual horizon for some small token of a coming move of God. These Holy Ghost trailblazers are consistently scaling the mountain peaks of prayer in hopes of spotting even the smallest sign of revival. Revival pioneers cannot afford to live on second hand reports and experimental theories borrowed from books. The divine immensity of the pioneer’s vision and calling demands that they hear from God for themselves! They need Heaven’s insight and perspective if they are to stay on course and avoid falling short of their eternal destination. Only through regular and extended times in prayer can they maintain their bearings and spiritual compass.

Every true pioneer of revival is well acquainted with the taste of hot tears and heartache. Prayer for the revival pioneer is not only a means of fresh direction, but also a supernatural outlet for the burden of a broken heart. The pioneer is repeatedly tormented by the growing crisis of a powerless Church in the midst of a lost and sin-sick world. Religious wastelands and deep valleys filled with sun bleached bones mock and challenge his hopes and dreams. Yet, strangely enough it is these same bleak and threatening spiritual conditions that keep the pioneers of revival praying and pressing deeper into new frontiers of the Holy Spirit. For them to stay and settle in such places would mean the death of their ministry and vision.

For those truly called to be a pioneer, revival is not merely another church growth trend or some spiritual luxury. Revival is a reason for being, a created purpose and divine destiny. Though at different times many young pioneers try to deny the vision and hope for revival, they can’t escape it! The tears and intense longings for revival always return. This passion and burden was part of their spiritual inception and new birth. They have become RUINED for anything less than genuine revival. The pioneer can’t rest or give up until God’s revival glory is released in the Earth. They would rather die than miss or abort the coming visitation of God. These young pioneers are driven to continue to pray, weep and believe for revival. Though at times, they grow fainthearted and discouraged in their heavenly pursuit, they always finds themselves rising again to cry out for God to rend the heavens and come down.-(Isa 64:1-4)

You’re NOT Crazy!

Has this divine heartache ever made you wonder if you were going crazy? Many of the early pioneers that pulled up roots and moved west often experienced similar emotions before leaving the safety and comfort of their established homes. In spite of the fact that they enjoyed and valued their property and neighbors around them, they still somehow felt as if they didn’t quite fit in and belong. As hard as they tried, they couldn’t seem to shake a growing hunger and burden for something more. The pioneer spirit deep within them was driving them to keep moving and looking west. In much the same way, today there are thousands of young revival pioneers who share these same intense and sometimes bewildering feelings. I am talking about something born of the Holy Spirit, a divine discontentment that will not let you settle for anything less than the manifest presence of Jesus Christ.

Unfamiliar with God’s revival process, some young pioneers seek to escape the touch of God upon their hearts. Over and over again, they struggle to fit in with the Church’s most recent "cutting edge" agenda. Yet, lasting relief seems to never come. Even in the midst of renewed and vibrant fellowships, the young pioneer oftentimes still feels like a spiritual misfit and outsider. While others in the Church seem completely satisfied, the revival pioneer in the exact same setting fights to hold back the tears and hunger for something more. Do these disjointed feelings and uncomfortable emotions sound familiar? Is your hungry heart confused and puzzled over where you fit in the house of God? Perhaps God has not allowed you to "FIT" in!

Often there is not a hearing for the pioneer’s prophetic message until after a fresh work of God has begun to be realized. Therefore, young pioneers should not be surprised when they are accused of being idealistic and impractical in their message and methodology. Such criticism and misunderstandings are often a part of God’s training process in becoming a spiritual forerunner. These trials help to deepen the work of endurance and humility in the pioneer’s heart. Though at times they are slighted and even harshly rejected, the true pioneer learns by trial and error, how to bear it all in meekness, patience and love. Nevertheless, let each pastor and spiritual leader take care that they don’t too quickly dismiss a young pioneer’s sincere passion and zeal as simply the critical spirit of an immature rebel.

Young pioneer, be encouraged! These feelings of loneliness and holy dissatisfaction are all part of God’s process within you. Pioneers have always gone out in small waves in order to prepare the way for the masses. Nevertheless, beware of letting the uniqueness of your calling be an excuse for fleshly strife and division with other believers. Remember that we will NEVER build the house of revival with Satan’s tools of anger and strife! Don’t waste your time constantly striving and wrangling with those who don’t share your vision and passion for revival. Get in the prayer closet and unburden your broken heart to the Father. Give yourself to fervent prayer and don’t stop until the glory comes. Ask the Lord to send people into your life with a similar gift and vision. Read the classic works on the great moves of God. The Father wants you to nurture this passion and vision for something MORE, but you will have to make sacrifices in order to keep it. The larger the vision, the lonelier the path you will have to walk. A GOD size vision ALWAYS requires a great amount of grace, love and humility.

The Law of The Frontier

A person’s chances of surviving on the open frontier were often determined by his or her own willingness to cooperate and work with others. One of the unwritten laws of the western frontier was, "be a good neighbor". The constant threat and uncertainty of life on the trail taught the pioneers to appreciate the safety found in numbers. Therefore, most pioneer families, when they set out West joined several other families who were making the same journey. Typically what often started as a disjointed band of individuals and small cliques usually grew into a healthy and vibrant traveling community. Serving and considering one another’s basic needs became a way of life. Cultivating an atmosphere of forbearance and unity was no longer just a luxury, but a daily NECESSITY! (Eph 4:14-16)

As we have already seen, a revival pioneer is called to walk a very demanding and lonely path. The pioneer is often misunderstood, rejected and even ridiculed for venturing into what seems to be new and unfamiliar territory. Therefore, he is the last person who can afford to recklessly neglect his covenant relationships. If the revival pioneer is to succeed in his calling, he cannot indulge himself in the slightest trace of stubbornness or an independent spirit. Our differences and diversity are meant to remind us of our great need for one another, not give us an excuse to separate from each other. The persistent revival pioneer inevitably learns this costly lesson of love and self-denial. The process and path of revival is challenging enough without us making it even harder by being willful and uncooperative!

Abandonment & Settling for Less

It was not uncommon for many of the early pioneers to be abandoned by some of their family and friends during the most difficult parts of the journey. After traveling hundreds of miles, some forsook their dreams and plans of the new frontier. A lack of supplies, fatigue, sickness and even death caused many a band of once zealous pioneers to split up and go their separate ways. Some retreated back to more familiar and less threatening territory. Others abandoned their original vision and settled on the open range. Settling for less was not hard to justify for a family of exhausted and discouraged pioneers. Even while still hundreds of miles away from their original destination, the rich natural resources of the open range usually far exceeded what most people had previously enjoyed back home. This was heartbreaking for those who still felt called to push ahead. Shaken and torn from their loved ones, many pioneers moved forward with the complaints of the weary and fearful ringing in their ears. The same fears that excuse and justify the faint-hearted to abandon God’s BEST, are often used by Satan to threaten and discourage the progress of those whom are determined to move forward.

There have been many want-to-be pioneers that have at one time truly sought and prayed for revival, only to turn back to the broken cisterns of so called "GOOD" church. Others have gone further in their pursuit of revival and yet they too have fallen short. They unknowingly became distracted by the spiritual blessings enjoyed during the revival journey. God in His mercy often gives us a foretaste of the blessings to come to encourage us in the path of faith and obedience. However, some are tempted to confuse these mercy drops of refreshing for the reality of revival. Distracted by the appetizers of future grace, some have stopped hungering for the fullness of God’s presence. Today many revival hungry souls are in DANGER of making this terrible mistake! Such shortsightedness threatens to rob them of their spiritual destiny, while also misleading countless others along the way. This premature satisfaction calls into question the validity and hope of our vision for a worldwide revival. It belittles and mocks the very character and faithfulness of a covenant keeping God. If what is being experienced today is truly the fullness of God’s revival power, then this generation is surely doomed!

Spiritual Foresight & Timing

Every step and decision of the pioneer is to be considered in view of how it contributes or hinders him and other pioneers from their final destination. Every action, plan and opportunity is evaluated in view of the end of the trail. A wise revival pioneer understands what is essential for the journey and what must be left behind. The revival pioneer must discern the difference between the things that are temporal and the things that are eternal. He must be willing to lay aside anything and everything that would potentially weaken his ability to reach his God ordained destination. (Mtt 13:22 & 2 Tim 2:3-6)

A sense of proper timing is a very important part of being a revival pioneer. Depending upon the place of their departure, the early pioneer bands had to leave in time to get over the great western mountain ranges before the first snowfall. Physical strength and abundant resources could not make up for a lack of proper timing and foresight. The pioneers of revival MUST likewise discern the Spiritual seasons correctly if they are to enter into their manifest destiny. The very calling and purpose of a pioneer demands that he GO out early rather than late! He has a farseeing eye and therefore doesn’t wait until everything is neatly established and nailed into place. Spiritual procrastination is the pioneer’s deadliest enemy. Proper timing often means the difference between becoming a revival participant or merely a religious spectator.

Spiritual Claim Jumpers?

There are some in the Church today that seem to desperately want revival, but reject the pioneer path and call. They want revival, but they want it on their own terms. Their passion for revival fails to include a prayerful endurance and patience with the broken and needy in their own midst. They would rather complain about problems than pour out their heart in prayer. They readily recognize all the needs around them but lack the courage and faith to do anything about it! The very problems that should naturally awaken them to intercessory prayer are twisted and manipulated to justify their wandering from one church to another. These revival claim jumpers want spiritual riches, but they refuse to bend their own back and knees to get them. They covet revival but lack the endurance to dig in and help birth and pioneer something in the Spirit. So they seek out a place where God is already moving while neglecting the deeper disciplines of prayer, loyalty and sacrifice that are necessary to sustain such works. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that it is wrong to visit churches where God is moving. In past seasons of grace, men and women have always been eager to witness a genuine move of God. If at all possible, they took every opportunity to partake of these wonderful events. However, afterwards they went back home to pray and labor in faith for God to do the same things in their own communities! This was often the means by which revivals spread from region to region or even to other continents. God’s plan for you is not one long, unending renewal road trip, but an abiding visitation of His glory. He is not content with merely a handful of renewal hotspots! The Lord of the harvest longs to pour out the Spirit of revival over the whole Earth, among every tongue, tribe and nation.

Revival Shortcuts!

Some of the early pioneers never reached their destination because they were too eager to cut corners and take shortcuts. Many of you history lovers will surely remember the tragic story of the Donner Party. In 1846 a group of some 300 pioneers set out along the Oregon Trail determined to reach California. George Donner, hearing of a new and faster route, encouraged his family and fellow pioneers to abandon the trusted Oregon Trail to follow the newly advertised Hastings shortcut. The new route promised to trim 400 miles off their overall journey. Ignoring the warnings of seasoned frontiersmen, the Donner party left the main trail at Fort Bridger. Soon after exhausting most of their supplies in the Utah desert and struggling through tree-choked gorges and riverbeds, they finally acknowledged their error and returned to the established trail. However, by this time they had missed their window of opportunity and suddenly found themselves unable to cross the mountains because of an early snowstorm. Exhausted and inexperienced, most of the Donner party died in the mountains, succumbing to cannibalism, frostbite or starvation. The lure of saving time cost most of them their hopes, families and very lives. It was later learned that Lansford Hastings had promoted this shortcut for his own political advantage and at that time had himself never successfully made the trip to California by this route.

If Satan cannot tempt you to abandon your vision for revival, he will then entice you to reach for the promises of revival with the hand of the flesh. This is perhaps above all else his most deceptive tactic. We must always remember that there are no guarantees once we get out from under the grace-filled direction of God. Like the Donner party, we are capable of resorting to anything when left to our own wisdom! Apart from God’s grace we have no idea where we may end up or what we might do. Extreme risks and uncertainties unquestionably mark the pioneer’s life. However, the risks that a pioneer is called to take will NEVER fly in the face of the established and unfailing principles of God’s word!

A New Season of Hope & Opportunity!

The early pioneers had an old saying, "all the cowards stayed at home and the weak died along the way." Wherever men and women defy the laws of comfort and convenience, heartaches and casualties are sure to follow. Nevertheless, "beloved, we are confident of far better things concerning you…" None of us need fall short or stay behind in these days of revival hope and opportunity. The LAMB has prevailed. Jesus has provided a sure path into new frontiers of revival blessing and harvest for all those who will trust and obey. We are living in a new season of unprecedented opportunities and possibilities. God is opening up new doors in the Church today that no man can close. Such times require fresh vision and strength. The Church needs every ounce of zeal, vision and power at Her disposal.

Proverbs 20:29 says, "The glory of young men is their vigor and strength…" The zeal and energy of our youth was never meant to be carelessly squandered away on chasing fun and entertainment. With every great gift comes the call to great RESPONSIBILITY! Now is the time for a new generation of Christians to fully surrender to the yoke of Christ and take their rightful place on the pioneer path. God is raising up a new generation in the Church today to rediscover the forgotten frontiers of personal holiness and revival power. He is preparing them to carry the seeds of revival to the very ends of the Earth! The prophet Joel prophesied that God would accomplish great things through such a generation. "I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions". -(Acts 2:17)

Such language will no doubt make some cautious churchman very uncomfortable. They might quickly remind us of Lam 3:27 –"It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth." This is certainly true! However, God’s yokes are designed to channel strength, not cripple it. The Lord’s yoke is not a fetter of bondage, but a tool for submissive service and labor! It was yoked oxen that pulled the pioneer wagons across rivers and over steep mountains. The strength of yoked oxen plows up the fallow and rocky ground for a coming harvest. Still, some fear the uncertainty and excess that sometimes comes with the zeal and enthusiasm of young oxen. Let’s not forget the divine wisdom of Solomon, "Where there is no oxen, the stall is clean, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest". -(Prov 14:4) Pastor what would you rather have in your church, a clean and orderly stall or an abundant harvest? It’s time to put the young oxen to work!

A Generation on Fire!

The greatest revivalists of the past were young men and women who dared to believe God for something more for their own generation! George Whitfield, Howell Harris, Count Zinzendorf, Charles G. Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Evan Roberts, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, William C. Burns, Hudson Taylor, C. T. Studd, David Brainerd and countless others were all mightily used of God while still in their twenties. Why then are so many of us still looking to the fruitless institutions of decaying Christendom for the steps to our revival dreams? We will never realize our spiritual potential by imitating the unrevived methods of status quo Christianity. God has not called us to mimic the weak and half-reformed religion around us. Like Abram, we have been called out of the land of barrenness to inherit the harvest-fields of revival fruitfulness for this generation and generations to come. -(Josh 24:2-3)

True spiritual pioneers are the embodiment of URGENCY and ZEAL. They recognize their eternal responsibility for their own generation. The apostle of faith, George Muller once said, "My business is with all my might to serve my own generation. In doing so I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord tarry…I have but one life to live on Earth and this one life is but a brief life for sowing in comparison with eternity for reaping." General Booth conveyed the same thought with the following lines: "Your days at the most cannot be very long, so use them to the best of your ability for the glory of God and the benefit of your generation." Catherine Booth, the mother of the Salvation Army, daily charged her nine children with something similar, "You are not here in the world for yourself. You have been sent here for others. The world is waiting for you!" More than once, I heard the late Leonard Ravenhill predict that God was going to raise up a new generation to bring the fires of revival to this sin-sick world. The late Keith Green, echoed these same urgent sentiments. In his final days, he repeatedly unsettled many of us with the following words. "This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the Earth!" Have you been awakened to your eternal and personal responsibility for this generation?

A good pioneer is always eager to learn from the insight and experiences of others, but stand still – NEVER! Not while the promises of revival are still unknown in this generation. Not while Christ is still a stranger to countless lost and dying souls around the world. Not while there is still one blind and stubborn heart that refuses to give praise and honor to our King Jesus! Are you willing to break new ground and rediscover some of the forgotten treasures of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to take His manifest presence to the ends of the Earth? Young pioneer, NOW is the time to look to Jesus Christ and dare to dream for something MORE! "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force". – (Matt 11:12)
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Ministry Article Site – Awake and Go: www.awakeandgo.com

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