Deacons, Revival, and Spiritual Awakening

At 9 p.m. on a Saturday evening, a pastor and a small group of deacons met to ask God for a revival in their church. Their church was struggling. Church members felt spiritually dry and weak. Few people were coming to faith in Christ. Month after month that small group of deacons sought God together every Saturday night, and He began to work powerfully in their lives. One evening the pastor challenged the men concerning unconfessed sin in their lives. Something changed in the atmosphere of the room. In tears, the deacons began to reconcile with one another and the pastor. God was making His presence real to those men as they persisted in praying together.

Five years later in 1971, revival came to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Canada, pastored by Bill McLeod and prayed over by that faithful group of deacons. The rapidly growing crowds forced the services to relocate multiple times. Finally settling into the local civic auditorium, the revival meetings continued for seven weeks as over four thousand people gathered together each night. Affecting the entire city, the revival would go on to influence churches throughout western Canada. However, this was not the first time God had used deacons to transform a church and its surrounding community!

Revival and the Forerunners of Deacon Ministry

People were upset. Hurtful words and accusations were exchanged. The church was dividing into two factions, and the community was watching. The very next step would determine whether the church would die or thrive. Sound familiar? Except this story isn’t one of many unfolding weekly across our country, but rather it describes a critical moment in the early church (Acts 6:1-7).

At the direction of the apostles, the church chose seven men to step into the conflict. As the forerunners of deacon ministry, “The Seven” were respected, wise, Spirit‑filled men. Ministering to individual members of the church, they were a catalyst for healing and spiritual growth within the body of Christ. The change was so profound, that the entire community noticed and became extremely receptive to the gospel. New Christ-followers were pouring into the church (Acts 6:7). When the early church experienced their first revival, spiritual awakening soon followed!

Far from being extraordinary, revival and spiritual awakening became normal experiences among the first Christians. Revival usually refers to an experience within the church, while spiritual awakening describes the impact of a revived church on the surrounding community. God never intended that His people would live and accomplish His mission apart from Him. When believers begin to think of the church as a human‑powered institution, rather than a supernatural body with Christ the King as their head, they will miss God’s plan and purpose for them as a church. A church without the presence of God may appear to be doctrinally orthodox and relationally healthy, but in fact, they have abandoned their first love (Rev. 2:2-4).

Revival is a fresh encounter between God and His people. As their hearts begin to align with His heart, individual Christians are renewed in their desire to please Him in everything. Repenting of sinful and selfish pursuits, believers rediscover His beauty and long to enjoy His presence every day. The apostle Peter taught that access to the presence of God was the birthright of every Christian when he said, “. . . repent and turn back. . . that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19-20 CSB). Notice the word “seasons” is plural – referring to more than one experience. God desires that you encounter His presence many times! The church draws her life, her direction, and her power from the presence of Jesus Christ.

Deacons as Instruments of Revival

Does your church need a fresh encounter with the presence of God? What can you do as a deacon to pursue the presence of God in your life and in your church?

Feed on the Scriptures. The church recognized “The Seven” in Acts 6 as men who were full of “wisdom” – their approach to people and their problems stood out from the crowd. Where does wisdom come from? Wisdom comes from God alone. In the wilderness, manna from heaven represented God’s daily provision of nourishment and life for His people. Just as your body needs physical food, Jesus stressed that your spiritual life depends entirely on your intake of God’s Word (Mt. 4:4). Like a hammer, the Bible will shatter and reshape your worldview. As you absorb the truth into your mind, the Holy Spirit will cause you to become wise – a man who is able to “see” God, yourself, and your world from His perspective.

Draw Near to Him in Personal Prayer. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He stressed the importance of being alone with Him (Mt. 6:6). When we draw near to Him, He has promised to draw near to us (Jas. 4:8; Heb. 11:6)! Prayer is your pathway into His presence – a time to love and enjoy the Lord Jesus – and an opportunity to unburden your soul at His feet (1 Pet. 5:7). However, a sustained effort to draw near to Him will expose impurities in your life, forcing you to choose between secret sinful behaviors or a heart-level devotion to Him (Is. 6:1-5). Your continued journey into His presence depends on your readiness to repent of any sin that is blocking your way forward into His presence.

Cultivate a Sensitivity to the Spirit. As one of “The Seven,” Phillip was known for his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. By depending on the Spirit to guide him every day, Phillip knew when it was time to leave a busy ministry assignment to go out in the middle of nowhere, only to discover a man who was ready to receive Jesus as his Savior (Acts 8:26-38). We grieve and quench the work of the Spirit when we ignore His promptings (Eph. 4 :30; 1 Th. 5:19). As we grow in our sensitivity to Him, the Holy Spirit will reproduce the life and ministry of Jesus in us (Gal. 2:20, 4:19).

Pray Together as Deacons. Because Jesus promised His presence to any group of Christians seeking Him together, the early church made prayer a primary activity in all of their gatherings (Mt.18:19-20). Prior to any revival or spiritual awakening, God stirs the hearts of His people, opening their eyes to the need of the church, and drawing them to call on God for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit. In the process, the praying ones often experience His presence long before the larger body of believers. When deacons pray together over time, their faith will grow, their relationships to one another will deepen, and their church will be changed.

Can you imagine being part of a church where – every Sunday for five years – someone was saved or joined the fellowship? Where marriages were being transformed and prodigal children were coming home? Where God was clearly at work every day? I can. I was part of a church like that many years ago.

The church had a vibrant Sunday School and an anointed preacher, but the “secret” to what the church was experiencing did not lie in their quality programming or personnel. What they had were groups of men and women who prayed every day, and the deacons encouraged prayer by their example. In a typical deacons meeting, the men might discuss their “business” for a few minutes, but they would quickly move into a season of prayer. Recording needs on a dry erase board, they would spend the bulk of their meeting time on their knees. Jesus came and took over from there!

Deacons are more than mere participants in revival. They have been God’s chosen instruments of revival in the past. Is your heart being stirred to pray with your pastor and fellow deacons? What you do next will affect the future of your church for years to come.

For further reading:

Blackaby, Henry T., Richard Blackaby, and Claude V. KingFresh Encounter: Experiencing God’s Power for Spiritual Awakening. Nashville, TN: LifeWay, 2009.

Catt, Michael. Power of Surrender. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014.


(Written to encourage deacons, this article was originally published as Deacons, Revival, and Spiritual Awakeningin the Winter 2018 issue of Deacon Magazine, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

7 Ways to Protect Your Pastor

As you read this, there is a pastor near you who is “on call” every day of the week. He pours his heart into his sermon preparation, but no one seems to notice. He visits the sick, but someone is telling him he doesn’t visit enough. Someone else is asking him what he does with all of his “free time” during the week. The church isn’t growing. He feels like he is failing in every area of his work. There’s a deep sadness rising in his soul. The joy is gone, and he thinks frequently about quitting. He is losing the heart of his kids. He rarely gets to spend time with his wife.

Too many pastors are living this story every week. Your pastor is in danger. Here are seven ways you can help protect him.

  1. Cover your pastor with prayer. When teaching on spiritual warfare, Paul urges us to bathe all we do in prayer, and to intercede for “all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Everyone needs someone praying for them, and your pastor is no exception. He is a primary target of the enemy, who wants to exploit every weakness and magnify every failure.

Include him in your prayers at home and as the Lord brings him to mind during your day. Call or text him, letting him know when you have lifted him up. Your pastor prays with others almost daily, but how many people stop to place a hand on his shoulder and pray for him? Drop by or schedule a brief visit during the week for the sole purpose of praying for him directly.

  1. Share with your pastor how God is using him. In addition to the time-consuming activities of visiting, counseling, and planning, your pastor spends countless hours preparing to preach and teach God’s Word each week. As members leave the building on Sunday, it’s easy for him to wonder “is God using me?” Pastors need encouragement.

While it’s true that happy people don’t complain, they should speak up! Let your pastor know how God is using him in your life. Text him at the end of a long Sunday and tell him what you saw God doing through him. Discuss his messages with him, taking time to share what God is teaching you through his preaching. Your specific and personal words of encouragement will be deeply felt and long remembered by your pastor. 

  1. Attempt to meet needs and solve problems before you report them. What do you do when a member comes to you with a ministry need? It would be a mistake to think that you are “helping” your pastor by simply telling him what you have heard. He probably has plenty on his plate already!

Since pastors are called to equip God’s people to do ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), deacons should be the first to model a mature believer’s response to the needs and problems that surface in the church. Relying on the Holy Spirit and drawing on God’s Word, explore how God might use you to take the first steps towards a ministry solution.

  1. Minimize murmuring to the maximum. Years ago the deacons in our church embraced the task of “minimizing murmuring to the maximum.” The slogan expressed their desire to meet needs and handle complaints in a way that helped the church remain spiritually vibrant and relationally strong.

By routinely correcting misunderstandings, answering questions, and quelling rumors, you can lead members to a deeper willingness to trust the heart of their pastor. When a member remains dissatisfied, offer to accompany him to a meeting with your pastor. Your presence can have a positive and calming effect on the conversation.

  1. Stand with him when he encounters destructive criticism. When the widows complained to the Apostles in Acts 6 that they were not being treated fairly in the church’s relief ministry, they were not attacking the leadership: they were voicing an unmet need. Understood in this way, complaints can become pathways to the creation of new ministries in the church. Similarly, criticism can be constructive, leading to positive changes and needed improvements. Deacons do not need to fear conflict, but because it is inevitable among sinful human beings, deacons should “go to school” on the biblical process of peacemaking (see the recommended resources at the end of this article).

Not all conflicts are the same. Your pastor is not perfect, he makes mistakes, and he is growing in Christ – just like everyone else in the church. Consequently, if someone wants to find fault in a pastor, he will always be successful! When an individual’s complaints and criticisms turn into personal attacks and hostile accusations, you need to stand with your pastor, providing visible and verbal support. Church bullies cannot be ignored. If you refuse to engage and confront the inappropriate and sinful behavior of an antagonist, the conflict can quickly escalate with catastrophic damage to your pastor, his family, and the church.

  1. Help him recharge and avoid burnout. When a pastor becomes chronically tired, discouraged, or overwhelmed by the incessant demands of ministry, he can suffer from burnout, losing his motivation and becoming susceptible to intense levels of temptation. Members are usually unaware of the stresses associated with pastoral ministry until it’s too late.

Deacons need to help a pastor protect his use of time and avoid the abuse of his body. How? Don’t expect him to attend every church function. Ask him whether he’s taking a day off. Take an interest in his family, watching for opportunities to affirm and support his efforts to be a good father and husband. Be sure that he schedules and uses his vacation time. Lead the church to bless the pastor and his wife with an evening out (providing a gift card and free babysitting) or a weekend getaway.

  1. Do ministry together. What is your ministry as a deacon? What is it that God has called the deacons of your church to actually do? In too many churches, the “ministry” of the average deacon has been reduced to sitting through a monthly meeting. God has called you to much more. Like “The Seven” who stepped up to meet the needs of the widows in Acts 6, pray about taking on an area of ministry that would alleviate personal demands on the pastor, while addressing a needed area of ministry in your church.

As an individual deacon, one of the most encouraging things you can do for your pastor is to go with him as he does pastoral visitation, travels to a speaking engagement, or attends a denominational meeting. Together you will have a greater ministry impact on the people you see. Your presence will go a long way towards alleviating boredom, fatigue, and loneliness. Your relationship with one another will deepen, becoming more authentic and genuine.

Great pastors of healthy, growing churches never get “there” by themselves. God always uses a team of men to support, encourage, and protect that pastor. Are you part of a team like that? Are you one of those men?

For further reading:

Sande, Ken. The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004.

Sheffield, Robert, and James E. White. Equipping Deacons to Confront Conflict. Nashville TN: LifeWay Christian Resources, 1986.


(Written to encourage deacons, this article was originally published as 7 Ways to Protect Your Pastorin the Winter 2017 issue of Deacon Magazine, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

The Way

I cannot ascend spiritual mountains on man-made trails. I cannot achieve Holy Spirit objectives with plans conceived by a human heart. I cannot advance against a supernatural enemy while confined within the thick walls of science or superstition. I cannot live if only death waits for me at every exit. But there is a way to ascend, to achieve, to advance, and to live… that way is a person, and His name is Jesus. ~ DP


“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit…” Zechariah 4:6

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1:20

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

When Praying Gets Hard

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and NOT LOSE HEART…” ~ Luke 18:1

“For I want you to know what a great CONFLICT I have for you…” ~ Colossians 2:1

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always LABORING fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” ~ Colossians 4:12

“…who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement CRIES AND TEARS…” ~ Hebrews 5:7

Prayer is not the last resort of the weak-minded, it is the inner refuge of indefatigable men and women who know how to wait before their infinitely wise and mighty God.

The great struggle in prayer is not between God and you, as if you were straining to wrest some meager token from a stingy deity. Because of His unreserved love for you, your Father knows what you need before the thought is framed in your mind or any word leaves your lips.

No. Your battle is not with God.

But the moment you set out to go to God in prayer, all hell breaks loose. Distractions will come. Interruptions. Discouraging thoughts. Powerful emotions that posture as the truth but act as blinders to it. Instead of finding rest you seem to incur greater distress in your soul. Your path to Him lies submerged beneath a swirling eddy of anxiety. Your praying seems useless beneath the smothering effects of your circumstances.

And all the while, He is still there, He hears you, and He loves you.

It bears repeating: your battle is not with God.

Your battle lies in shutting out the mad noise of the outer world…

  • slipping into the secret place and sacred space of your inner world…
  • to lay down your worries and weights and terrors at His feet…
  • to move over and surrender the controls…
  • to let go of your fiercely-held “maps” to your happiness…
  • to enter the sanctuary of His Presence…
  • to simply be with Him…
  • and to discover He has been seeking you for this relationship all along!

The noise of battle ends in the loving Presence of the all-sufficient King and the infinitely satisfying Savior… Jesus!

Insight: Arthur Wallis on a Tender Heart

The Bible speaks often and profoundly of the human heart as the real “you.”

  • My heart pursues what I truly love, and is indifferent to the things that I don’t care about (Matthew 6:21).
  • My heart is susceptible to external influences — good and bad — and must be guarded (Proverbs 4:23).
  • My heart can be consumed with one thing, or it can be partitioned by affections for many things (Psalm 86:11, Mark 12:30).
  • My heart can be pure, or it can be morally unclean, clouding my perception of truth (Psalm 51:10).
  • My heart can erupt in joy, or it can be be shattered by sorrow (1 Peter 1:8, Psalm 147:3).
  • My heart is that immaterial part of me that exercises belief or unbelief (Romans 10:9-10).

And most significantly, my heart can be hard or tender towards God (2 Chronicles 24:37). Comparing the human heart to a field that must be prepared before there can be a harvest, the prophet Hosea writes,

…break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD… Hosea 10:12

Is my heart like a long-neglected field, hardened against the quiet winds of God’s Spirit blowing across my soul?

In his 1956 book In the Day of Thy Power, Arthur Wallis (1922 – 1988) penned a classic reflection on genuine spiritual revival. In the following quote, he explains the vital role of a tender heart in apprehending (or missing) who God is and what He is doing around me.


“Here then is the first great condition of revival, that brokenness of heart that is sensitive to the least touch of the Spirit, and that has only to know the will of God to do it. One may cross fallow ground and not see where the feet have trod – no impression has been made. But when the plough and the harrow have done their work, and the soil is soft and friable, then the print of the foot is clearly seen. When our hearts are sensitive, responsive, and impressionable to the movements of God across our lives, we may be sure that the fallow ground is broken.”


Source: Wallis, Arthur. In the Day of Thy Power. London: Christian Literature Crusade, 1956.

Insight: John Newton on Seeking God

Every Christian is on a journey to know God more fully (John 17:3)… but rarely does anyone explain that the path is not an easy one nor is it well-populated. It can be strange and disorienting, especially as you look around and it seems no one else is travelling with you, or that no one else has passed this way before (not true, but it can feel that way).

John Newton (1725-1807), best known as the author of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ in another hymn describes the way our Father draws us near and refines our faith into the finest spiritual “steel”…


I ask’d the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answer’d prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favour’d hour
At once He’d answer my request,
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seem’d
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried,
“Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“’Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith:”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”

~ John Newton (1725-1807)


Source: Winchell, James M., ed. An Arrangement of the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Isaac Watts. Boston: James Loring, and Lincoln & Edmands, 1832.

Wenceslas, Stephen, Boxing Day, and Gift Returns

What do a Czech duke from the 10th century, the first Christian martyr, a British public holiday, and a crazy rush to return unwanted gifts to the store… have in common?

They all happen on the day after Christmas!

  • Known for his unusual charitable lifestyle as a wealthy man, “Good King” Wenceslas went outside on an unbearably cold day to bless a poor man on December 26… at least that’s what the Christmas carol reports!
  • Stephen was the first Christ-follower to lose his life for preaching the gospel of salvation. Celebrated in many countries and church traditions with a variety of customs, the feast of St. Stephen falls on December 26.
  • Boxing Day in the United Kingdom is a public holiday with roots in the 17th century. Servants and tradesmen required to work on Christmas for nobility were given the day off on December 26, often with a “Christmas box” of cash and small gifts.
  • And then December 26 is that day when America heads to the stores (or the Post Office) to return or exchange gifts… unwanted or duplicated Christmas gifts! With thousands headed out to stand in long lines, the retail success of the day hinges on how early the store opens and how deeply the after-Christmas sales slash prices.

Four streams of tradition flowing on one day, together drawing attention to the capacity of the human heart to give and to receive… to sacrifice or to be self-absorbed. What makes the difference?

Or better, WHO makes the difference?

That man or woman who hears about Jesus, then meets Jesus, and then follows Jesus by faith… that one has a different heart… a heart that beats in union with His heart.

December 26 is no ordinary day… but it should be. There’s nothing wrong with returning a gift. But as you make contact with others today, thank God you have a gift to return… and gifts still to give.

  • The gift of a smile.
  • The gift of a kind word.
  • The gift of a patient manner.
  • The gift of encouragement to a harried worker, who has to serve you today.

It may be the day after Christmas, but His birth was not the end of His mission. It was just the beginning. He not only came to inhabit our world.

He came to inhabit you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23, 25