Photo by Northview
Some years ago, I was reflecting on how God sent revivals throughout history. At first, I was baffled at the fact that we haven’t been experiencing the type of revival that we read about in history. There were some of the more recent revivals in the 1990’s and early 2000’s but many of them were shorted lived. This is when I began to ask God, “Why aren’t there more revival movements happening in our generation?” It would be awesome to experience a revival like we read about in the Great Awakenings or the great Welsh Revival.
When I honestly took a look at some of the revivals that occurred in history, I realized that we do not know what we are asking for. Revival is often times equated to radical change and we as people do not like change. In fact, we hate it with a passion.
I still remember talking with some of the key leaders in our church and challenging them with the question – “How desperate are we for a revival in our church?” I went further and asked them, “Do we really know what needs to happen if God were to send a revival?” I simply said, “It would mess up our lives.” It would mess up our comfort level. It would mess up our schedules. It would mess up our future plans.
Therefore, we have to seriously give it some thought – do we really want a revival? Are we ready to pay the cost for revival?
I started thinking about this more recently, not only because of what I am witnessing here but because we have been studying the Book of Acts on Sundays. Am I hungering for a revival in our recently planted church? Do I want to see God send a revival to the great country of Indonesia?
I realized (once again) the greater question is: Am I willing to pay the price for revival? Until I can honestly answer this question first, everything else is inconsequential.
Today I was reading an article called, “Why We Don’t Have Revival” by Joe McKeever and it got me thinking again. He was sharing some of the same thoughts that I have been wrestling with and he makes some poignant points.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
“Ask any church leader why America – or the churches in general or a denomination in particular or all Christians – does not (do not) have revival and the answers will usually come out to something like: ‘We’re not praying,’ or ‘We’re not praying hard enough,’ or ‘This takes prayer and fasting.’
Today, I spent an hour on the internet reading some of the hundreds of websites on the subject of revival. Those that attempt to cover the subject of why we are not experiencing revival usually attribute it to sin, complacency, or prayerlessness. Maybe they’re right, but it seems to me those answers are missing the point.
The reason we’re not having revival may indeed be that we’re not praying for one. After all, Scripture assures us that ‘you have not because you ask not.’ (James 4:2) But that just leads to the question of why we’re not praying for revival. The answer, I strongly suggest, is simple: we don’t want a revival. We like things the way they are. I said it and will stand by it: we do not want revival. The churches don’t, the church members don’t, and very few of the pastors want a genuine Heaven-sent revival.
After all, revival means change, and we don’t want change. We’re too comfortable the way things are at the present. I used to have an elderly man in my last church who showed up for services from time to time mainly because of his wife. Once when I was visiting in their home, I learned that five years earlier, he had had a heart bypass operation. His wife said, ‘And pastor, the doctor ordered him to walk several blocks a day, but he won’t do it.’
I tried to shame him a little. After all, the walking was for his own good and might prolong his life. He said, ‘Preacher, the reason I don’t walk is simple. Walking interferes with my routine.’ His wife scoffed, ‘What routine! Pastor, he goes to the casino!’ He lived two more years, still spending his days with the slot machines.
That, in a word, is why the great masses of Christians do not pray for nor desire revival: it would interfere with their routine. By ‘revival,’ we mean an across-the-board movement of the Holy Spirit as He touches hearts, changes minds, melts pride, and transforms sinners. In a revival, the hearts of God’s people are broken in repentance and humility, the Lord’s people come together in love and service, and the Lord’s work of ministry and giving and witnessing and missions moves forward at warp speed.
Now, logically, most Christians would like these things to occur. In our heart of hearts, we know this is what is going to be required for God to transform the modern church and make it once again a missionary organization. We know the people of our community are not going to be reached in numbers big enough to have any kind of impact until the Lord’s people have a new touch of God in their lives. And we confess we want that, that we desire revival. But we don’t. Not really.
Everything inside us resists change. Our ego resists Anyone else sitting on the throne over our lives. Our spirit rebels at Another calling the shots. Our bodies are afflicted with inertia, which we learned in the chemistry lab means a resting body prefers to remain at rest. Now, I’ve seen revival and perhaps you have, too. When the Lord’s Spirit moves in and begins to touch lives, you can throw away the schedule and the printed order of worship. Everything else goes out the window when the Holy Spirit sets up shop.
People get confronted with their sinful ways. Hearts are broken over their wickedness. Husbands confess to their wives and mothers apologize to their children and children start obeying their parents. Friends reconcile with friends, and then turn to their enemies in humility. Bosses ask employees to forgive them. Employees confess to wrong-doing and face up to their poor work ethic. Pastors get saved; pastors’ wives get saved; deacons and their wives get saved.
Tears are shed by the buckets. Prayer meetings become loud and long and unstructured. Meetings get interrupted by church members walking in with a neighbor or co-worker they have just led to Christ.
The pastor is no longer the only one hearing from God. Church members testify of what God told them this morning in prayer time. Those who never headed anything in their lives now find themselves leading Bible studies and witnessing projects. The timid suddenly become outspoken.
The lid is off their faith. They now believe God can do anything and that they can do all things through Him. Nothing is off-limits any more, nothing out of bound, nothing unthinkable. They are free in their giving, loving, serving, and most of all, in their thinking.
Revivals drive some people away from the church. On the other hand, revivals attract a lot of new people in, frequently the kind who’ve not been brought up in a religious tradition and do not know how to behave in a sanctuary. Revivals disrupt the flow of things, end the tyranny of the calendar and the clock and the Pharisees, and rearrange a church’s priorities. Revivals produce an entirely new set of leaders for a church.
In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that revival kills off the old church and leaves an entirely different one in its place. All of this is painful, uncomfortable, disruptive, and even expensive. And, being human, we don’t like pain, discomfort, disruptions, and expense.
We like our comfort. We prefer our complacency. It feels good to see the same faces at church every Sunday, all of them occupying the same pews they have held down for ages. There’s a warmth about sitting in the Bible study class with the same 8 people we’ve known for years; newcomers and visitors are an intrusion. The pastor may not be saying anything we haven’t heard him say time and again, but even the drone of his voice carries a certain kind of comfort, too.
None of this is new. God’s people have dealt with this love for laxity and resistance to the Holy Spirit from the beginning. Ah, yes. Something inside our rebellious hearts love it when the preachers and television evangelists say what we want to hear, when they calm our anxieties about the future by their platitudes, when they tell pleasant stories and find just the right interpretation of Scripture to agree with what we had always hoped. We give them our full support when they minimize our sin, omit the need for repentance, and remind us again just how wonderful we are.”
Wow! These are some things that we have to ponder upon. So the question once again is not, “do we want a revival?” but rather “are we willing to pay the price for change?” And this is something that not too many people are willing to do. No wonder the Church is where it is in its current condition. Lord, save us!