Because I use YouTube regularly to post videos about the Christian life, and open air preaching of the Gospel, I came across a video outreach called “I’ll Be Honest.” It is part of Grace Community Church in San Antonio, Texas, led by Pastor Tim Conway. I don’t know if I should categorize what is going on there as a revival, or simply a renewal movement. But something is happening. I don’t know if it would be a stretch to compare Conway to Jonathan Edwards of the 1740s Great Awakening. But there are comparisons. Many of the videos they post are very good, as they address issues of sanctification or holiness in the Christian life. Thousands and thousands of people are watching them over the Internet! Not only that, they have gotten in touch with the spirituality of the old Puritans. THEY ARE MODERN-DAY PURITANS! It’s great! They hold to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. It is interesting to note that this Puritan movement is happening in the context of the 2008-2011 economic recession. It seems as if America’s financial crisis is driving people to their knees, and helping them see they need to stop pretending to be superficial church goers, and really “examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).
Conway has given a platform to other preachers who have the same convictions he does. One of these is the fiery Paul Washer, who is well known in revivalist circles as the guy who preached “Modern American Christianity” to a Southern Baptist Youth Evangelism Conference in 2002, in Montgomery, Alabama. He utterly annihilated them with Scripture! He tore through all the superficiality, all the hypocrisy, and all the lame excuses of hypocrites. He preached repentance and sanctification with all his heart. It was one of my favorite and most inspiring sermons to listen to when I was going to college. Sermonindex.net used that sermon to make Washer into a key revivalist, by God’s will no doubt. Another site, sermonaudio.com, published the sermon under a different title: “Shocking Youth Message Stuns Hearers, So Shocking the Preacher Was Never Invited Back.” Other sites posted it as: “Shocking Youth Message Stuns Hearers. So Shocking and Biblical the Preacher was Never Invited Back.” It was this last title I caught wind of through a Facebook theology buddy. It appears that sermonaudio.com is responsible for posting the video initially on May 29, 2006, which was coincidentally my 21st birthday. Now Conway has re-released it simply as “Shocking Youth Message,” and has launched Washer back into the spotlight–thank God.
Other key preachers in this Puritan renewal are Tim Conway himself, and some older men: Charles Leiter (author of Justification and Regeneration), Mack Tomlinson (author of In Light of Eternity: The Life of Leonard Ravenhill – this is noteworthy of Ravenhill’s influence on the movement), Bob Jennings, and the younger Kevin Williams (an active open air preacher in the UK). Who knows, this might have been the revival that Ravenhill was praying for his whole life. But I know he would not be satisfied until this swept the entire country with Christian conviction, and swarming with sincere church attendance, fiery repentance preaching in virtually every pulpit, and frequent and passionate PRAYER MEETINGS.
Recovering the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Not too long ago, I was listening to a preacher named Andrew Strom. He is Charismatic like myself, but has a lot of the same views on the Gospel that the “I’ll Be Honest” guys do. One sermon he preached in 2007 was called “WE’VE LOST THE GOSPEL.” Strom’s messages have totally wakened me up to the reality of how Gospel ignorant I have been, and most seminarians are, to the basic saving doctrines of justification by faith, regeneration, and sanctification. And how little these essential doctrines are being preached! Millions, by the way, are dying and falling down to Hell every day. But praise God for the Andrew Stroms, Paul Washers, and Tim Conways who are rising up and preaching the truth! It’s about time someone did!
I Urge Caution About Calvinist-Arminian Tensions
With the recovery of interest in true Gospel preaching, also comes the devilish controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism. Strom is an Arminian, I am an Arminian–and let us never forget: Leonard Ravenhill was an Arminian! Now let’s see: Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinist, and so was Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and a great many other revival preachers in the past. Evan Roberts was a Calvinistic Methodist. John Wesley and Charles Finney were really powerful revivalists–nobody can deny that who knows revival history: and they were very Arminian. If you examine their soteriology closely, you will find that a lot of these guys had both Calvinist and Arminian convictions at times: although they might have shunned the labels. Whatever our views are about God’s sovereignty and free will, I think we need to be flexible about the issue of “Once Saved, Always Saved.” It is not an essential Gospel topic. It has really nothing to do with justification, regeneration, or sanctification. It is possible to preach the Gospel without even mentioning eternal security–it is a side issue. However, if preachers choose to preach about eternal security, as an Arminian who is fearful of the warning passages in Hebrews–I would urge both Calvinist and Arminian preachers to warn their listeners to shun any “cheap grace” or “Antinomian” views on eternal security. Jesus’ death on the cross does not give Christians a license to live in sin. Both Puritan and Methodist-Arminian types can agree on that! However, being the Arminian that I am, I suggest you read Steve Harper’s defense of the Wesleyan Arminan view of eternal security in Four Views on Eternal Security by J. Matthew Pinson.
The Need for National Media Exposure
The “I’ll Be Honest” revival on YouTube is just simply amazing. Sermonindex.net has been influencing preachers for several years now, but now this is reaching the laity of the church. I believe that these could be the seeds of a national Great Awakening. But that’s all they are right now: seeds. We need an Evergreen forest that spreads across America, the UK, Australia, etc. But how can this be possible except by using the media? TV, newspapers, books, magazines, you name it. I would love to see Paul Washers, Tim Conways, and Andrew Stroms on TV preaching regularly for years and years. I would not expect Paul Crouch to let them on TBN. Another route will probably have to be taken. I believe the national consciousness of millions, through television especially, is the key to nationwide Gospel revival. In my humble opinion, this revival needs to stop being confined to YouTube, but must spread to Fox News, CNN, and Larry King! I don’t know how to accomplish this, but I do know it can be accomplished with some sanctified reasoning. I’m going to e-mail this article to Tim Conway. Hopefully he will repond positively to my media idea. Perhaps it’s overzealous of me to think this, but it might be necessary for nationwide awakening!