God's Cure For Barren Churches

Bible Book: Psalms  126 : 6
Subject: Church, Life in; Church, Barreness; Church, Growth
[Editor's Note: Though this message was delivered many years ago, its truth and relevance is even more important today, since we see the declining churches across America.]

In 1993, in the Southern Baptist Convention, 6,191 churches did not baptize one single convert to faith in Christ. My first impression upon reading that startling statistic was to assume that these were tiny rural churches located in very remote areas, with virtually no evangelistic opportunities.

However, according to C.B. Hogue, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, that was not the case. Many of them were fairly large congregations, situated in densely populated urban areas. And yet, all of them together spent an entire year of preaching, teaching, singing, and working, and still could not lead one solitary person to receive Christ as Savior and follow Him in baptism.

What an astounding and appalling truth that is!

While I have no accurate figures concerning other denominations, it is probably safe to assume that countless thousands of other churches outside the Southern Baptist Convention are just as barren. Spiritual poverty knows no religious boundaries. It afflicts the liberal, as well as the conservative, the moderate, and the fundamentalist.

Now, lest you misunderstand what I am trying to say, let me be quick to point out that I am not suggesting that the church of our Lord has taken to its deathbed, frantically gasping for its last breath. To the contrary. The church of Jesus Christ is alive-and in many places, vibrant and well. All over this land, hundreds and hundreds of Spirit-filled congregations are winning literally thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ every year.

But for anyone to suggest that all is well in our midst would be both ludicrous and naïve. The truth of the matter is, many of our churches are desperately sick. They have a religious illness, a Laodicean fever that has reduced them to spiritual barrenness, having a form of godliness and yet denying the power thereof. But thankfully, this paralyzing affliction need not be terminal, for God has given in His Word an unmistakably clear remedy for barren churches. In Psalm 126:6 (KJV), the Bible says, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

In that short, simple, and remarkably clear Scripture, God has given an unfaltering formula for victory over spiritual barrenness. And the wonderful part is, it works for everybody. It doesn't matter who you are, where you are, or what you are. If you will put to practice that simple principle given in this verse, it will produce a complete and thorough healing for spiritual barrenness. And so, let's take a brief glimpse at God's cure for barren churches.

I. Notice The Broken Sower

Look very carefully at what the first part of that verse (v. 6, KJV) says: "He that goeth forth and weepeth, ..." Most Bible scholars believe that this particular Psalm was written by Ezra shortly after the Jewish remnant returned from Babylonian captivity. The picture presented is that of a man walking out across barren fields, and as he looks upon the dry and scorched earth before him, he no doubt remembers how it once bloomed and blossomed with harvest.

But not any longer. Those fields now lie parched and lifeless, rudely stripped of their sweet harvest by long years of neglect. As that poor man stands gazing out across that fruitless soil, his heart is so overwhelmed with grief that he begins to weep over the barrenness before him. As you read that verse, you can almost hear him groaning, "Oh, barren fields! Oh, barren fields! Oh, barren fields!"

And, so, in the reckoning of heaven, the very first step in God's plan for healing barren churches is to be broken in spirit. Before any church can ever expect to have the blessings of God upon its ministry, it must be humbled and broken, for "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit(Psalm 34:18, KJV).

If you will carefully examine the Bible, you will notice that God has inseparably linked up brokenness with blessings. Wherever there is brokenness, there will be blessings; and wherever there is a blessing, there has been brokenness. You simply cannot separate the two.

For instance, it was because of the brokenness of Moses that God drew back His hand of anger and spared the rebellious house of Israel.

It was because of the brokenness of Hannah that God opened her barren womb and gave us Samuel.

It was because of the brokenness of Esther that God interceded and delivered His people from the wicked hand of Haman.

It was because of the brokenness of the prodigal son that the father opened his arms, kissed his son's cheeks, and restored his son to his place of honor.

It was because of the brokenness of Paul that God flung wide the doors to the nations and let one solitary man shake the entire unconverted world.

It was because of the brokenness of that early church that God empowered that little band of unlikely saints to march triumphantly across the earth, battering down the very gates of hell as they went.

Now, that divine principle never changes. Wherever you look in the Word of God, it will always be the same. Brokenness always precedes blessings.

Where there is no humbling, there will be no hallelujahs. Where there is no repenting, there will be no rejoicing. Where there is no crying, there will be no crowning. I recently had that truth called to my attention in a rather unusual manner.

I was conducting a revival meeting in Florida; and one night after the service, the pastor and I went over to a woman's home to have some refreshments. As we sat down around the table, I soon recognized something unusual about this woman. She was physically blind. As we sat there talking, she turned those dark expressionless eyes toward where I was sitting, and she said, "Brother Hill, do you know why I'm blind?" "No, ma'am, I don't," I replied. "Preacher," she continued, " a number of years ago the tear ducts in my eyes dried up, and no matter how broken my heart was or how crushed my spirit might have been, I simply could not cry. As a result of those dry eyes, I eventually lost my sight. Brother Hill, I'm blind because I cannot shed tears."

As I sat there listening to that sad woman tell of the tragedy of eyes that could not see, I thought in my heart, "Oh, Lord, what a remarkable comparison that is to many of our churches today-blind congregations who are spiritually barren because they have lost their ability to weep over those who are dying around them."

Oh, what a proud and haughty people we are! We're proud of our buildings. We're proud of our budgets. We're proud of our degrees. We're proud of our programs. We're proud of our robed choirs. We're proud of all that we're doing through the cleverness of human wisdom and ingenuity of carnal abilities. And, out of the midst of that repulsive pride, there has evolved a sickening brand of self-satisfied, dry-eyed church member who wouldn't shed a tear over some poor lost sinner if his or her very life depended upon it.

Is it any wonder, then, that we have barren churches? Is it any wonder that we have the smell of death hovering over our meetings places? Is it any wonder that the sweet refreshing breath of God's Spirit has been replaced by a stifling cloud of indifference and apathy?

Oh, that God would break our hearts and humble our spirits. And until we allow Him to do that, our spiritual barrenness will never be healed.

II. Notice The Blessed Seed

Look again at what the next part of that verse (v. 6, KJV) says: "bearing precious seed." See that man as he walks out across that barren ground and hear him as he cries, "Oh, barren fields. Oh, barren fields. Oh, barren fields." But as we walk along behind him, listening to him cry, we see something very interesting happening. All the time he is weeping, he is faithfully scattering seed. "Oh, barren fields, here is your seed. Oh, barren fields, here is your seed. Oh, barren fields, here is your seed."

What, then, according to the Word of God, is that seed? What does it represent in this particular passage? In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gave us the parable of the sowers, called by others the parable of the soils. Immediately upon Jesus' concluding that story, His disciples came to him and said, "What might this parable be?" (Luke 8:9, KJV). And Jesus said unto them, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:10-11, KJV). Again, in 1 Peter 1:23 (KJV), the writer said, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

So, then, we can deduce from these two passages of Scripture that the seed is the blessed Word of God, the Bible. And when we put that together with what the psalmist said in Psalm 126:6, here's what God is saying to the barren church of today: "My answer to your spiritual poverty is this: weeping and sowing-weeping and sowing." Dear friend, that's God's only solution to the problem-weeping and sowing.

In light of that remarkably clear illustration, you would think that every preacher and church in the world would readily embrace that simple principle, wouldn't you? But strange as it may seem, many don't. If you look at the religious world today, you see that there are at least three different responses being made to this simple remedy for spiritual barrenness.

A. Some Churches Merely Ignore It

Because they cannot accept the Bible as the infallible and inerrant record of God, some churches just cast it aside as irrelevant and unimportant, little realizing that all they're doing is adding barrenness to barrenness. You see, it doesn't matter what kind of buildings a person may build. It doesn't matter what kind of programs a person may institute. It doesn't matter how much money he or she may raise for worthy and legitimate causes. It doesn't matter how charismatic, suave, and

polished leadership abilities may be. It doesn't matter how high a person may rise in the ladder of religious success. If a person is building a church upon the exclusion and neglect of the preaching of the Word of God, then that person is building a barren church.

And yet there are many who do. There are hundreds of churches in this land who haven't heard an old-fashioned, Holy Ghost-inspired sermon in years. Their religious diets consist of nothing better than political propaganda, social activism, and improvement of human charms and cultural graces. With that kind of ministry, is it any wonder that we have barren churches? Is it any wonder that the power of God is strangely absent from many of our congregations?

B. Other Churches Merely Imitate God's Cure

You see, some folks have far too much religion to completely deny the Word of God. Because they have an outward form of godliness, they cannot bring themselves to totally reject the Bible as God's authority. And yet they cannot bear to accept the simplicity of it. And so, they very cleverly alter, rework, and redesign the message until it is, as they say, "unoffensive to the modern mind."

Brother, the world is not impressed with our efforts to mimic their lifestyles. That little band of tattered and persecuted saints in the book of Acts did not turn the world upside down by becoming miniature pagans. They revolutionized their day for one reason-they had upon their heads the authentication of heaven. The power of God was upon them. And do you know why it was? Because here was a congregation of believers who comprised that.

C. Some Churches Obediently Implement God's Remedy

The early church just had no more sense than to believe God. They took Him at His word. With simple faith, they accepted the fact that God knew more about spiritual matters than they did, and they merely put to practice what God had said in Psalm 126:6. And as a result of their faithful weeping and sowing, God opened the windows of heaven and literally altered the whole course of human history. And He's still doing it today.

III. Notice The Blissful Soul Winner

Look again at what verse 6 (KJV) says: "... shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." The interesting thing is, that's the same fellow we saw only a moment ago, broken and weeping. And not only that, he's walking in that same field that just a while ago appeared so parched and barren.

But, oh, how different it is now! No longer is he bowed over, burdened and broken. No longer does he weep over those dusty, dry fields. No longer must he spend long, tiring hours faithfully scattering his seed.

It's harvest time now. And across those fields we see him coming-leaping and rejoicing-laden down with sheaves, which God has given him in response to his faithful labor. Oh, what a beautiful verse that is! In the first part of it, God shows us "weeping and sowing," and then in the last part there is "rejoicing and reaping." And then, as if the Holy Spirit wanted to impress upon us the beauty of it all, He built an indestructible bridge hinging those two couplets together, and the word He used to do it is one of the most beautiful in all the Bible-doubtless. Doubtless!

Just think of it! While the world must take its stand upon the fleeting and shifting sands of doubt, the children of God can anchor their souls in the everlasting and eternal doubtlessness of God. Without doubt, it works.

Now there are probably some of you hearing these words right now who are saying to yourselves, "Well, that may work for some people, but it won't work for me. You just don't know what a difficult and hard place of service I have."

Dear Christian, you don't have to go empty-handed. You don't have to stand before Him without one single soul. The God of heaven has given you this unfailing formula for victory over barrenness, and,

praise His holy name, it works for everyone-"he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6, KJV).


The Power Of Heaven On Our Hands

Anywhere there is a preacher or church who will accept the principles of the Work of God and will faithfully implement God's cure for barrenness, the blessings of heaven will invariably come.

I saw that truth dramatically demonstrated in my own life several months ago. I had been invited to conduct a revival meeting at a rather large evangelistic church, and, for a number of weeks prior to the meeting, I had an unusual burden that the Lord would do something out of the ordinary. It seemed my heart was broken with an intense hunger to see folks get saved. As I began to pray about the meeting, I asked the Lord if there was something definite He wanted me to pray for. My heart was deeply impressed that I should ask Him to save at least 200 souls during that week of revival. So, for a number of days prior to the meeting, I prayed this earnest prayer: "Lord, please save at least 200 souls in that revival." Over and over again I prayed that prayer.

Well, the week came, and I delivered the same simple sermons I had preached in a hundred other places before, but, oh, how different it was that week! The power of heaven was upon my words. It turned out to be one of those meetings where the Lord falls upon a place, and you get caught up in the wonder of what He is doing. I left that meeting not fully knowing all that the Lord had done. When I got back to my home the next week, I went to the mailbox one day, and there was that church's bulletin reporting on the previous week's revival. And right there on the front of the bulletin in large, bold type were these words-"Hallelujah for revival blessings-200 professions of faith!" Praise God! Hallelujah to His dear name!

If the charismatic folks want to believe that they have a corner on Christian joy, then let them. But, brother, I have news for them. The days of old-time shouting Baptists aren't over yet! When I saw that bulletin and I realized that God had done exactly what I asked Him to do, I wanted to lift my grateful hands to heaven and to the top of my voice triumphantly shout, "It works! It works! Praise God, it works!"