Lately, my husband and I have been trying our hands at gardening. In addition to our vegetable garden, we have two beautiful hanging petunia baskets that have been a joy to look after. Despite frequent drooping petals and dead blooms, our persistent pruning never fails to revive them, bringing even more vibrant life than was there before. We pull away the dead and make way for new growth. Earlier this summer, I was standing on the porch pruning, and pondering all that God has taught me about true, Holy Spirit revival this past year.
Not “revival meetings” where people come together for extended church services, but spontaneous, spectacular outpourings of the mercy of God to transform churches and communities by reviving saints and saving sinners. A few characteristic traits of every historical revival that brought true and lasting fruit are prayer, repentance, and confession of sin. Sadly, these things seem lacking in the church today. Prayer meetings are rare, and attendance is slim. Repentance isn’t preached and so there is little to no corporate confession of sin. As a result, the churches in America are increasing in cold indifference to the things of God.
So as I meticulously pruned my petunia, taking away more dead pieces than I thought a living plant could bear, it occurred to me that revival won’t come without pruning. After all, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2 ESV).”
To see revival, the church must repent of her sins. In doing so, pastors must preach the holiness of God, the seriousness of sin, the reality of judgment, and true repentance. Now imagine my joy when a prominent evangelist confessed his sin of not preaching the full gospel. Todd White, who is well-known and loved among charismatic Christians, shared that over the past six months, God has been painfully pruning him like never before.
“I am not perfect, but I am strongly convicted,” White said in his Sunday sermon on July 26, 2020. “This has been the hardest season of my life. I’m like, ‘Lord! What are you doing!?’ He said, ‘I’m pruning every branch that you have.’”
After explaining the seriousness of sin using the law and Ray Comfort’s parachute analogy, he says, “It’s hard for me because I feel like I haven’t preached the whole gospel! And I repent. I repent! You have no idea! I will not be responsible! I believe that when I preach that the blood of people is on my hands.”
His presentation was filled with emotional expressions of his conviction of sin and admittance that this full gospel message is very different from the half-true ones his congregation is used to hearing. He said though it’s taken him 16 years, he now understands that he must bring the reality of the law into his preaching to show a person their need for grace.
“If we don’t see that we’ve sinned against a Holy God, there really can’t be repentance,” White said. He has a longing for true revival but recognizes up to this point his message has been incomplete. He expressed confidence that his church will see an intense revival in the coming days, then caveated that the true gospel must be preached.
“But we have to get it completely right and our foundation has to be completely solid,” he said. “There can’t be any holes. This is the gospel.”
Discerning Christians rejoice over his professed repentance, but as with any profession of faith, they know that only time and testing will tell if this repentance is the real deal, bearing lasting fruit. White will have much to retract and reconcile if he continues on this path. Just two months ago, he rejected the loving rebuke of a Christian who called him to repentance and shared the biblically-sound American Gospel film with him, with White later calling it “demonically inspired.” This was discouraging, to say the least, but since then Christians have been united in prayer for him and we hope this proves a true turnaround for his life and ministry.
*Though a clip of Todd White rejecting loving rebuke earlier this year is still available on YouTube, the original full sermon has been removed from his YouTube account, “Todd White – Lifestyle Christianity.” Let’s pray this is evidence of a changed heart – I hope he clarifies why the full message went missing.