What I ask in this blog post is a bothersome question, but perhaps you heard about things like:
- The Houston revival where in eight months seven-hundred people were baptized?
- Georgia revival continuing for four months . . . crowds grew from 70 to over 600?
- California where one thousand were converted in a few weeks?
Well . . . none of those actually happened, but they are similar to things that did happen. The fiery revival of the book of Acts continues. Amazing and incredible as it seems. No superlative adequately describes what God is doing.
There is nothing like moving into a flow of something decidedly super-natural. A God-thing happening at our address. Church happening and things going on that simply cannot be explained other than the sovereignty of God. Like the former pastor who walked in Calvary a few weeks ago: He is a scholar and student who in his alone time came to a personal revelation of the “Oneness of God,” and the need to be baptized in Jesus name.
On occasion I’ve been in those flows. At the same time, let’s be honest . . . there is an unhealthy cynicism we attach to such testimonials. Why?
- Perhaps we’ve not seen anything similar for ourselves.
- We’ve observed that on occasion the church having so many converts does not actually increase in size. A year later the congregation is the same size or smaller.
- Jealousy – the emotion that is crueler than the grave.
- Dislike or mistrust of the evangelist, pastor or other leadership involved.
- A simple lack of faith.
- The results being a promotion of some preacher (evangelist or pastor) who was involved, rather than a celebration of God’s saving grace.
- End Time revival is not part of our expectation.
Regardless of its basis, such cynicism is not healthy. God is at work in the land. A rising tide of spirituality is sweeping across North America.
Now that being said, do we miss the point if we put the emphasis on converts rather than disciples. A significant part of the great commission happens after the person’s conversion. Jsus said, “Go ye therefore teaching all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I’ve commanded.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Before any person is converted the believers were to “go” and teach. Part of the conversion experience is the obedience of baptism. After one is converted these young Christ-followers are to again have someone “teach them to observe . . .” There is more to this matter of revival than noise, commotion and clever self-promotion disguised in terminology that is supposed to sanctify our pride. We need more than revival and conversions.
Nothing is more troublesome to an attractive theory of interpretation than unwanted facts.
I concur that the distasteful behavior of self-promotion – both covert and overt is a hindrance. Many years ago we had an evangelist who had been mightily used in the gifts of the spirit. He’d became convinced of his own importance to the process. His favorite word became “I.” On one occasion a sinner lady who was visiting actually counted how many times he used the personal pronoun “I” during his preaching. “I” prayed for . . . , “I” preached at a certain place. It took some time to get her past the fellow’s idolatry of self.
I’m aiming for something that needs to be hard-wired into our thinking. Follow the track here: (1) There can be a revival right where you are. (2) The revival needs to be more than a racket and crafty promotion. It is not connected to your name, location or education. You can have a revival. (3) Revival renews the saints and results in not only conversions but people becoming committed disciples of Jesus Christ.
With the possibility before you, the question the Ethiopian asked Philip is fitting, “What doth hinder . . .?”
- What hinders you believing there can be revival right where you are? Perhaps you have tried and tried. In that case, might it be that our idea of what revival looks like is actually incorrect?
- What is your vital ability? What thing do you or the church you lead have the ability to do better than anyone else around? How much time, effort, opportunity and energy is given to that vital ability? By contrast, how much time, effort, opportunity and energy is spent on things that you (and the church as it now exists) do not have the ability to excel at? If most of your energy is being spent on things you are not good at – STOP! STOP! STOP!
- Are you actually moving people toward mature commitment or are they perpetually dependent on you? Real revival will mature people.
I’m interested in your thoughts on the church being an impact in its world. What are the things you see that we can do different? What do you observe hindering the church from having the great revival that is possible?
HELP – I’m actually finishing up my newest book: Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper. It will be available in a few weeks. Your thoughts on what I’m discussing here will be of great help in rounding out my content.