Ice Cream + Backpacks + Other Stuff = Revival?

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Recently, I was watching a video of two denominational leaders chatting about the “moving of God’s Holy Spirit”. Although the minister being interviewed is a prominent leader in his Pentecostal denomination, his statements could have been spoken by leaders of other denominations (both Pentecostal, and Non-Pentecostal), because they reflect a faulty understanding of what being led by the Holy Spirit is, that is pervasive in America.

The conversation began with the interviewer reciting statistics reviewing the explosive multiplication of people in one of America’s largest cites. The short version is a church under 100 receives a new pastor. In only a few years the church explodes from under 100 to multiple thousands of people. This occurred in one of the poorest areas of this very large city.

Although I am seldom impressed with reports of such numeric growth, I was interested when the leader being interviewed reported as a pastor “I sow seeds. I am a seed sower”. Therefore, I anticipated something biblical and tangibly led by the Holy Spirit. What was reported, sadly, was quite the opposite.

Below is what was reported as seed sowing.

  1. To rent an ice-cream truck and give free ice cream to poor children in a very large city. One testimony is that years later one of the children receiving the ice cream was still attached to the church.
  2. To adopt a school and give out backpacks to poor students.
  3. To give material elements to single mothers.

In this video presentation, there were few testimonies of powerful conversion, although it was stated, “some got saved and baptized.” Those biblical necessities were almost asides, because the main proof of the move of the Holy Spirit, was the number of people in the church today. It is not a stretch that the video, presented as an encouragement, gave struggling and small church pastors an equation to turn things around, if they would only wait for the “seed sowing” to blossom into fruitfulness.

Ice Cream + Backpacks + Other Free Stuff = REVIVAL!

The question the interviewer should have asked is “Does this equation reflect seed sowing or a biblical means of revival?” 

The answer is no on both accounts. Let us dig in.

Giving ice cream cones to children in poor areas is not sowing seeds. It is stoking a person’s carnal desire for something that is unnecessary in their lives, while using the name of Christ, for the purpose of drawing people to a building and ministry. No matter how we may try to justify this activity as led by the Lord, it is not. Yes, it is true that our Lord declares, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”, but water is a vital and necessary essential of life. Ice cream, as much as I enjoy it, is not an essential of life.

To declare it “seed sowing” to adopt a school and give backpacks to poor school children, is also in error. It is also in error to proclaim the same of giving handouts to single moms in the inner city. Let us examine why.

In the New Testament there are only two teachings that deal directly with “seed sowing” and one passage which gives clarity on what that looks like in a person (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15; Matthew 13:25-43: I Peter 1:22-23). The two teachings are the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Tares Among the Wheat. In both parables the sower who is God, and by proxy those who follow Christ, sow the word of God as seed. This is plain and simple.

The passage giving dynamic illumination to what that looks like in a person is I Peter 1:22-23

1 Peter 1:22-23 (NKJV) Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,

To declare giving material aid is “seed sowing” that we must wait to blossom into fruitfulness, is in error. To take God’s word out of context, reading in what is not there, cheapens the gospel and dishonors the blood Jesus Christ shed on behalf of the world. To suggest as well that the giving of the material goods to the lost is a sure and justifiable way of sharing God’s love with people is also in error.

Along that line of thinking, many will say “See Mike, Jesus fed the 5000 and the 4000. There is all the justification I need”, but they are mistaken. Our Lord executed these fantastic miracles out of compassion, because they had followed him for days, desiring to be with him and hear the word of God. When we give things away en-masse, we do it that they may come to want to be with us, in our ministries and in our buildings. Do they want to be with Christ in us, because of the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit working through us in conviction unto salvation, or because they got something free?

In addition, our Lord Jesus Christ fed these thousands by a real miracle, what is miraculous or led by the Spirit of God in fund raising, begging, or belittling church people into giving money for handouts?

In response someone might say, “But Mike, Jesus said “to whoever you do to the least of these my brethren”. Yes, He did, but yet again it is out of context and scripture twisting to use Matthew 25:31-46, as a pretext and justification for ministry to the poor tired huddled masses of lost people around the world or in our communities. Read Matthew 25:31-46 and understand that the conditions met, are conditions suffered by Christians brothers, because of their identification with Jesus Christ.

For example, when Jesus declares, “When I was in prison, you visited me” or “sick and you ministered to me” or “naked and you clothed me” or “homeless and you took me in”, He is declaring when your brethren who were suffering in those conditions, because they love Me, you gave them what was needed, thus identifying with them and Me, regardless of the cost.

This is not to declare that we ought not to assist those who are in need who are our neighbors, as we are called to love our neighbor and the word of God declares…

Proverbs 3:27-28 (NKJV) Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you.

Sadly, we have gotten so far down error prone path, when we are not declaring the giving of things away as “seed sowing” we are saying we are sharing God’s love. This is gross error as well. 

There is one way that God reveals His love to sinners, that is that while they are still in their sin, Christ went to the cross and was brutalized for men and women to be forgiven and purchased by God (Romans 5:8-12). That is the message we are supposed to be preaching, not God loves you and shows that by giving lost people free stuff. This is nowhere found in the New Testament.

So, why is this the method for so many today? Because it is easier to give things away, endearing people to us, than to make disciples who are enamored with our Savior. This is why we work so hard to get people to say a sinner’s prayer, rather than spend the time investing in our Great Commision calling to make disciples of all nations.

Our problem is that we are wowed by numbers and see a church grow from 68 to thousands and automatically stamp it a move of God. Why do we think it a move of God that people in a poor area of one of America’s largest cities, who are given repeated handouts, will show up at church events and the church building that gives them the handouts? This thinking lacks discernment and may lead to apostacy.

When you give someone a handout, or a great event at the beginning of their religious experience, you build into them a sense of entitlement. When they begin to feel that their needs are no longer being met, they will either leave to find their fancy tickled somewhere else, or they will begin to feel unfavorable about the One, in whose name the handout was given. Our Lord Jesus spoke directly to this in John 6:26-27, after the feeding of the 5000.

If we would study history, we would understand we are doomed to repeat it. The Roman Catholic Church (the greatest forgery Satan ever created) took its money and economy into Africa, South America, Southeastern Asia, Central America, Mexico, and parts of the tribes of native Americans and gave indigent people food, medicine, and other stuff they did not have; while preaching to them a false Christ whose sacrifice was not sufficient to atone for all sin. Today, millions who received those handouts, sit in darkness, animistic Catholicism.

If we would take a step back from the lie of, “They will not listen until they know you care” we would see how flimsy our thinking really has become. Our Lord Jesus lead with the gospel with the woman caught in adultery. He did not condemn but called her out of her sin. In the video we hear of the ministry  of giving handouts to single moms.

In the town I live in our ministry team encounters single moms every week as we go out to share the gospel. In fact, the young and older women we meet are ravaged by having multiple children from multiple men. Most of them have dealings with the courts and are poor. Most of them are also on public assistance, so giving them handouts, is one more “agency” to keep them from doing what will transform their lives… REPENT and place their faith in Christ.

In that decision, Christian people ought to rally to aid them in learning how to live for Christ and if they need assistance, respond appropriately, but to lead with the church being a social service who loves and cares for you and will tangibly show it, sounds exactly like the promises of politicians, who have kept the masses under their control through handouts. As a matter of fact, politicians want more unwed mothers with multiple children, to push their political agenda.

Handouts will not move the meter of their heart one ounce away from iniquity but preaching God’s love in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ transforms the heart. We must stop following ministry methods pulled from thin air, for it does damage to the gospel.

When do we wake up and understand that calling people to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we should be preaching, is our calling? When we will understand that it is preaching this truth in love that brings the movement of the Holy Spirit, in miracles, signs, and wonders, that draws the masses to Christ (Mark 16:15-20; Acts 2, Acts 3, Acts 14).



About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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