Revival In Our Land–Are We Missing It? (Part I)

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

For years I have heard pastors, church leaders, and lay persons call for revival among the American church.  And the call isn’t unnecessary.  With the church becoming non-essential to the average American (see Thom Rainer’s The Essential Church), attendance in our evangelical churches continues to dip[i].  Many call for revival because there seems to be little distinction between believers and unbelievers as we survey the western evangelical landscape[ii].  Sin has become respectable (see Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins), if not rejected as a concept altogether.  With the state of Christianity here in America looking as it does the need for revival at the individual and local church level is hardly up for debate.  But this post is not an attempt to argue for the need for revival.  The “need” is assumed in this post.  

The question here is what does revival look like?   Would we recognize revival if it came?  Would it look like the great revivals of the past as hundreds of people would gather in cow fields and listen to preachers stand on stumps and expound the Scriptures?  Would it look like dozens of Billy Graham Crusades happening at different times and in various places around our country?  Or would it look differently?  Would it be a combination of past revivalism and something new?  

The camp meeting experience is probably not going to resurrect any time soon, although it was particularly successful in creating momentum in the 2nd Great Awakening.  The annual revivals that churches hold in more rural areas have probably seen their day as well.  Most of the revivals today, from my experience, are nothing more than the established church gathering multiple times during the week to pray and listen to a guest preacher.  Very little, if any, “reviving”, in the sense of the great revivals of the past, is going on, although I could be wrong.

But is this exactly what people are looking for when they speak of God reviving our land?  Are they thinking of the camp meetings where hundreds and thousands show up as they did in Cane Ridge, KY in 1801?  Are they looking for something like the great Billy Graham crusades of the past?  We tend to think that revival means that streams of people will come walking into our churches on the Sunday God decides to move in a mighty way among us.  God could choose to move in that way, however, I am hesitant to think this is what we need to be looking for.

What should we be looking for?  What are some indicators that God is moving (read revival) among those within the American evangelical church?  I believe these are relevant questions.  After all, we do not want to stand around with our head in the sand asking God to move while He moves on without us.

Let me give you some “what ifs”.  What if there were a renewed emphasis on Reformed Theology (not in terms of padeo-baptism but in terms of soteriological convictions).  Could it be that when God moves among a people then a belief in and commitment to His sovereignty in all things (including salvation) would once again be embraced?  What if people stopped assuming the gospel and actually wanted to make sure we understood what the gospel is?  For revival to take place, for people to come to faith in Jesus through the preaching of the gospel, we have to get the gospel right!  “The gospel is our hope and our life, the most excellent and sweet truth that we have.” (R.C. Sproul, Getting the Gospel Right).  As God moves, would we experience a movement among families as moms and dads are encouraged to fulfill their God-given mandate to be the primary disciplers of their kids?  Would a spirit of revival see us returning to a pure and undefiled religion (James 1:27) as we care for orphans and widows?  What about church planting?  Wouldn’t God moving among His people see them commit to planting more and more churches?  Would we return to the cities to engage the multitudes?  And if God was moving in the American churches would those same churches see the Great Commission from fresh eyes and embrace it as it should be embraced?

I know that is a lot of questions!  And I think the answer to all those questions is a resounding yes.  All those things would, or should, happen if God moves among a people.  I would suggest that we are seeing those things happen in our land today.  Let me take them one by one…in the next post! 

[i] Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer, Essential Church (Nashville:  B&H Publishing, 2008), 8.

[ii] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 2004), 190.


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