This post is part of a Synchroblog for the month of February on the subject of 'Renewal'. Check out the list of contributions from those who participated at the end of this post.
I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city…so two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied. - Amos 4:7-8
I once knew a godly man who had his alarm set to go off at a certain time every day. Whenever that alarm went off he would drop whatever he was doing and go and pray for revival. As far as I am aware this went on day after day and year after year until the time that he passed away in his old age. But while I greatly admired his discipline, perseverance and obedience to his convictions, I cannot say that I feel the same way about revival. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the lost coming to Christ in their droves and I am a believer in the gifts of the Spirit and desire to see churches flowing freely in them for the edification of the body. But still I have my reservations about revival meetings and here is why.
Revivals never last
Every revival that you have ever heard of lasted about as long as Milli Vanilli’s moment in the spot light. The Welsh revival, Azusa Street, Asbury College, the Jesus movement and the Lakeland Revival (should we even be counting that last one?) all ended as suddenly as they begun. I am always reminded of the words in 1 John 2:19, “If they had been of us, they would have continued with us”. People who try Jesus in the same manner they try going to the gym every year for three weeks before Summer arrives are like the seed that fell on the stony ground in that they receive the word with joy but as soon as the going gets tough they fall away. Not that everyone who was involved in those movements fell away, many of them are today still faithfully serving Christ. But revival meetings do not show us who Christ’s followers are. All the hype and emotion that they bring attracts a crowd like Jesus' feeding of the 5000 did and it is easy to get caught up in all the excitement of the moment. After miraculously feeding the multitudes Jesus could have continued with his ‘signs and wonders’ meetings as the crowds started to swell but instead He followed it up with a teaching (about eating his flesh) that caused nearly everyone to walk away from Him (John 6).
There is a possible exception to the rule here though in what has taken place in the Chinese House Church movement for the last 60 odd years. China has been described as experiencing revival by some and it continues to gain momentum. Perhaps it is because the Chinese House churches have not focused so much on revival meetings, charismatic preachers or the health and wealth gospel but rather they have emphasized Christ and discipleship instead. It is hard to disciple people when we are hosting meetings night after night for fear of the hype that has being built up losing its momentum if we were to break for a while.
Staying Christ centered
Revivals always have a name attached to them and it is not Jesus. It is generally a certain preacher or faith healer who heads it up and the movement lives and dies with them. We refer to the anointed one (literally the Christ) as the man on stage or the bands powerful music. Focus tends to get lost and our prayers are often centered on personal spiritual encounters or personal needs (which do have a place, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water) rather than on the Kingdom of God.
We also like to attach the name of a location to our revivals. Come to Brownsville, Toronto or Lakeland. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not show up and do incredible things through certain churches because I am pretty sure that He does. I do find it weird though that we feel we can catch the Holy Spirit like the we pass on a flu virus. All we need is to find a city of infected people and God will do the rest. Jesus taught the woman in Samaria who inquired as to where the correct place to worship God was that the true worshipers did not go here nor there but worshiped in 'spirit and truth' (John 4:20-24). Similarly in Luke 17:20-23 Jesus taught us that the kingdom is within us. If Jesus is doing something great in another city then it may be beneficial to visit there and report back to your local body. But what they might have is freely available to you as well no matter where you reside.
Some peculiar things
There are a few other things that I find strange as well. What are we seeking that we have not already being given? 2 Peter 1:3 says “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue”. And why do we associate Gods moving with big, loud and emotional events? Jesus taught that the kingdom comes like a mustard seed not like a rock show (Matthew 13:31-32). Lastly and perhaps most alarmingly, why do revivals always end with segregation? In the aftermath of every revival we find new Christian splinter groups formed leaving the body of Christ looking like a stitched together Frankenstein monster.
Revival or Renewal?
This post has been a bit negative up to this point but I would like to offer something positive in closing. Only dead things need to be revived, the Church may be struggling, she may be run-down and perhaps even broken but she is not dead. It is my conviction therefore that the Church is in need of renewal rather than another revival. Revivals will come and go and people will throw their crutches away and then they may or may not get a new pair a few days or weeks later again. But renewal will transform the Church long term, of this I am certain.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2
So this might be a first but let me suggest that we rather start praying for renewal in our meetings. If you have no idea what that looks like, read the rest of Romans 12, it may not be as glitzy and glamorous from the outside but getting that right would transform the Church completely!
Abbie Waters – It is Well with My Soul
Done With Religion – Renewal
Mark Votova – 30 Ways the Church Can Find Renewal
Jeremy Myers – I am Dying … (So I Can Live Again)
Phil Lancanster – The Parable of the Classic Car
Susan Schiller – Renewal by Design
Glenn Hager – Repurposed
Clara Ogwuazor-Mbamalu – Renewal of the Spirit
K. W. Leslie – Those who wait on the Lord
Lisa Brown – Momma’s Kick Off Your Shoes and Stay For A While!
Jenom Makama – …Like An Antivirus
Leah – Renewal!
Liz Dyer – Put Your Mask On First
Peggy – Abi and the February 2015 Synchroblog – Renewal