So many of us pray for, talk about and hope for revival … but what does the concept mean to you, or for you or your community?
We hear stories from history of the great Welsh revival with Evan Roberts, or the Great Awakening with Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards. Modern-day missionaries tell of amazing moves of God in otherwise miserable places such as, for example, Mozambique.
Obviously a key ingredient is to have a felt need to be revived. If we’re comfortable where we are, who or what needs reviving?
The first time this idea whacked me was while listening to the stories of a friend working with Open Doors with Brother Andrew. In visiting difficult areas of the world, he had been struck by the fact of capital-L Christian Life thriving in areas where Christians live (and often die) under severe persecution.
Kevin Turner has me agonizing again over my—our—comfortable little worlds with a powerful article in this month's Charisma Magazine (see below for link*). An evangelist ministering primarily in regions of the globe where the gospel is restricted, Turner reminds us with first-person authority and passion of the too-prevalent sad fact of lack of Life in the Christian comfort zone.
While he addresses the American Church in particular, his points and questions obviously apply for most western churches.
"How is it that God can visit a mud hut in the middle of Africa yet bypass the comfortable sanctuaries we created for Him in our country? ... Why are other nations experiencing revival and we aren't? Could it be that calamity clarifies while comfort confuses? Calamity is an excellent teacher. It shows us in an instant what is truly important. Our materialism leaves us content without God.”
Turner sees real life and growth in the churches of devastated areas of the world, and like my friend and many others, identifies desperation as the key to revival.
Certainly it is of critical importance, but who among us would invite calamity even with the promise of a magnificent move of God? We can feel desperate for many reasons, and any one of them can be enough to have us begging God for relief. For the affluent westerner it may well be an anguished cry of: “Is that all there is?”
Still, turning to God in desperation, alone, isn’t enough for genuine growth (a by-product of revival, after all) to happen. After Jesus tells us that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, he says, in what we’ve come to call The Great Commission:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 18-20)
They not only help identify felt needs and so ‘catch the fish’, but help clean them up, train them, and release them—revived—into their own spheres of influence to do the same. Neither comfortable Christians nor simple converts can create or even enable revival, but desperate disciples can and do. So to my mind, the 'equation' might become:
Desperation + Discipleship = Revival
* Why Isn't the American Church Experiencing Revival? by Kevin Turner, in Charisma