On your Mark
Revival in the desert
“And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and
preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean
countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their
sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:4,5, NIV).
Isaiah had prophesied that before the Lord came, a messenger
would be raised up in the desert.
Why the desert? Why not the city, the seacoast or a verdant
On about 30 occasions, I’ve been in the location where John
the Baptist ministered. I always marvel that he could attract people down to
where he was, 1,200 feet below sea level. Jerusalem is a steep 20-mile climb of
more than 3,500 feet, and the Judean countryside is highland area. It’s only a
30-minute drive, but try walking!
Perhaps you wouldn’t mind the day’s walk downhill to where
John preached and baptized, but you certainly would not like the walk back up!
Who today would walk one day to get to church, and then another day to get back
When planning strategically for new church buildings, we
want location, location, location. We want to make it easy for people to come,
park and walk to the front door. We are all about access.
That’s all well and good, but John was not about access. You
had to want to get to him.
And God wanted John out in the desert — that’s why
Isaiah prophesied it 800 years earlier.
Throughout church history, the Holy Spirit has used unusual
places to begin powerful spiritual movements: a small town in Germany called Wittenberg
where Luther posted his 95 theses, a mission in London where John Wesley felt his
heart strangely warmed by hearing Luther’s commentary on Romans being read, a
former stable in Los Angeles converted into the Azusa Street Mission where the
Pentecostal Movement caught fire, a rented opera house in Hot Springs, Ark.,
where the Assemblies of God was born.
God is not impressed with the grandeur of a place. He is
concerned about the emptiness in the heart. John addressed that emptiness by
passionately proclaiming that God forgives sins.
That’s why people were coming to John down near where the
Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. He had an authentic message from God.
When an authentic message from God is wedded to an authentic
hunger in the heart, a powerful spiritual movement gets underway.
That’s the challenge before us. Those who proclaim God’s
Word must do so with conviction and passion. People will not be attracted by
those who mumble religious words or simply say interesting things — even
if they do so in multi-million-dollar buildings.
On the other hand, the greatest preachers of God’s message
will see no results if hearts are not open to receive, repent and be cleansed
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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