Why We Don't Have Revival
- Monday, October 05, 2009
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.
Invariably, spectators and outsiders--those untouched by the Holy Spirit and uncertain the Holy Spirit has had any part in these shenanigans whatsoever--condemn the excess, resent the disorder, suspect the new people who have begun coming to church ("Not our kind of people!" and "Let's see if they stick!"), and look for occasions to attack the ringleaders.
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.
"An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority,
And my people love it so."
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.
Jesus put His finger on the problem when He said, "No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new, for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (Luke 5:39)
Therein lies the problem. We're satisfied with the old when God wants to do a new thing in our midst. I can hear some church leader say about his congregation, "We may not be doing much, but we're good enough."
And that's the problem.
So, what is the answer if God wants to send revival and we don't want one? Where do we begin to address this stalemate?
I have three suggestions for the people of God, the ones commissioned to represent the Lord on this planet, to bring worship to Him, and to carry His gospel to the ends of the earth. They and only they have a concern with the matter of revival. Revival is only for believers. After all, you cannot revive what never was alive in the first place.
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