Revival

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

 

Growing up in independent charismatic word/faith type circles there was one word I heard with regularity: revival. Revival has become something of a buzzword, a cliche, something someone says when anything supernatural seems to be on the horizon. As such it has become devoid of meaning. Let me explain.

There are churches that constantly teach on a coming final revival that is going to bring in the last end time harvest and usher in the return of Jesus. This belief drives missions, creates training centers, and inspires music and bands – Jesus Culture is one such band which sees itself as a vehicle by which a wave of young people will be converted and experience the supernatural and be the next generation of revivalists. The focus is on getting people to have supernatural encounters with God, signs and wonders, and then pass those on to others. One church I was a part of used to boast that there was a coming revival so great that the large building we were using would be the parking lot for an even greater building. Youth camps would revive us every summer and we believed we were part of the final move of God.

In American history religious fervor swept through America at different times in our history and revival hagiographers mark these out as clear patterns of revival to be followed and emulated. What often gets overlooked is that there came to be large areas in New York called the burned over district. These were areas that had experienced the fires of revival so often that people were inoculated to the gospel, leading revivalists to turn to measures designed to elicit enthusiasm from people. Emotional responses and feelings of the supernatural became the de facto pattern of revivalism and these patterns continue today in various expressions. Unfortunately out of this mess came the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as other heretical Christian groups.

Revival is not the answer that many Christians are searching for. Well, maybe it is but maybe how churches define revival needs to change. This may seem counterintuitive but bear with me. What is needed today is not revival in the sense of a large group of people getting together singing emotionally driven songs and experiencing supposed supernatural manifestations of laughter, animal noises, gold dust, and outrageous prophecies. The type of revival that is needed is the revival of perseverance, patience, and endurance in the Christian life. All too often we run to revival as a panacea for our problems hoping for a touch from God will make everything all right.

But what is needed isn’t a touch from God in that sense, what is needed is slow, steady, progressive maturity that comes only from the arduous process of honest self reflection and the practice of spiritual disciplines in the context of the shared life in the church.

But what is needed isn’t a touch from God in that sense, what is needed is slow, steady, progressive maturity that comes only from the arduous process of honest self reflection and the practice of spiritual disciplines in the context of the shared life in the church.

Churches tout numbers after successful revivalistic efforts as indicators of changed lives. Evangelists may claim decisions for Jesus that number in the millions, but the truthfulness of decisions for Jesus and changed lives will only and ultimately be seen at the end of all things. Only those who run the race, those who persevere, will receive their victor’s crown. I may be wrong here but in the New Testament salvation is emphasized as a future event not a present reality (even though it does speak of salvation that way as well). This is hard to hear and this means that it may be impossible to measure the success of a program or event.

What revivalists are chasing after, in my opinion, is not actual revival but the continual feeling of what they believe is an experience of the supernatural even if what they see as a a legitimate supernatural phenomenon has no explicit warrant in Scripture. I’m not saying there isn’t room for supernatural experiences, I’m no cessationist, however I do believe that if we pursue revival, in the limited shape it has come to take in charismatic circles,  then we do ourselves a great disservice because we have equated signs and wonders with the normal mature Christian life thus falling into the trap Paul warned the Corinthians not to fall into.

 

 

 

Photo from: http://www.god.tv/sites/all/themes/custom/phoenix/ministries/jesus-culture/gallery/image4[1].JPG

 

Advertisements