Monday, October 27, 2008

Revival Jesus

I've written before (see the link in the title bar) about my growing lack of enthusiasm for revival. The recent pseudo-revival at Lakeland only serves to reinforce the trend. There was a time when I thought revival was just what the doctor ordered for the ailing church, for I came to Christ in the midst of a wave.

State College, Pennsylvania was a truly happening place in the late 70's and early 80's. People were coming to Christ, it seemed, hand over fist. Miracles were occurring. God's presence was readily experienced, fellowship was sweet. I was too naive at the time to know that what was happening was revival on a small scale, I just thought that was how Christianity was practiced. It was the Bible in life after all. It was only the subsequent study of church history that made me realize what had occurred, and I ached to see it occur again.

I still have that longing, but I'm reticent to get on the revival bandwagon these days. Frankly, the record of revivals since WWI has been spotty at best... "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." They fall like a meteor, make a splash, but given just a short time, the waters still with scarcely a ripple left to evidence that anything happened at all. Why? Imho, revival, as this generation knows it, tends to be about the heeby-jeebies or the cleansy-weansies rather than the person of Christ, the experiencer rather than the expiater.

Folk either lay in convulsing heaps regretting with loud sorrow their sinfulness longing for absolution, or fly around erratically like untied balloons in the joy of their release. Either way the emphasis is on me rather than thee, and eventually, either activity runs out of steam and things settle into a depressing, entropic sameness but lessness. A few stalwart cowboys may try to rekindle the brands and restore the sizzle of flesh on fire, but their efforts tend to be more style than substance. Then the pining begins. All those folks want is to return to the experience, like addicts trying to catch that first rush again. I have to wonder why, didn't they meet Jesus? Wasn't that what it was all about?

You see, I can't avoid the sneaking suspicion that what some of the revival hungry are really saying is that the Jesus thing doesn't truly work except in those special times. At all others, it produces substandard spirituality, with something missing, yielding no real satisfaction. The only Jesus worth experiencing is Revival Jesus. I've got to tell you, for me, that just does not compute. It's not what being a disciple, a brother, the redeemed is all about. It's not what is presented in the Bible.

It does not, and it never will get better than a personal, interactive fellowship with Christ. That is not revival, that is Christianity. I'll happily embrace, and longingly pray for a season of visitation and harvest, outpouring and filling for the church, but we need to keep our bearings straight. To love Revival Jesus better than Jesus everyday is to flirt with idolatry.

"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ " Philippians 3:8

14 comments:

  1. i too have been through my mid-life in Jesus crisis.

    the first love wonderfulness from the 70's plus the fact that it was in my youth was a time to remember fondly. i know that i was looking for that again in all the wrong places and finally came returned out bruised and battered and in utter need to the real thing after many years. at that point i had the mid-life experience, all had changed, what i had experienced was not there anymore, it could not be duplicated. i am growing up and growing old, and learning.

    growing upon the experience that i had in my youth. i feel blessed for that time. instead of reliving it just as it was, God can add to it and make it a more rounded and full relationship. i do not have to give up those kind of feelings for Jesus, i can realize that those feelings are only a small part of the blessings of God. i do not think that there will be a time that i do not have needs that only God can fill. i just think that the needs are always changing as i grow and that God will always give me the love and care that i need to continue to grow in Him. i am so glad that God does not give up on me. i love how Jesus continues to work in me every day...the revival is taking place within me. praise God.

    ReplyDelete
  2. slw:

    "It does not, and it never will get better than a personal, interactive fellowship with Christ."

    I fully agree with you on this.

    However, I have seen some times when the holy Spirit falls on an area where lots of folks all of a sudden have a personal, interactive fellowship with Christ" and its stays with them for a lifetime.

    Out here in California, I saw 500,000 hippies and surfers come to Christ in the 70's and later it spread to colleges across the country.

    Both the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard Movements came out of that one wave. I know all sorts of preachers that found Christ then and are still going to great effect--You personally probably experienced the tail end of that move in college.

    That was just a small wave but the effects are still with us and it was a sovereign move.

    Azusa and Wales were bigger. The Pentecostal Movement started out here on Azusa street in LA. Look at all the denominations and missions that came out of that move. That was a large wave!

    Without the Great awakening in America there probably never would have been a USA.

    Toronto and Brownsville weren't really revivals but only smalls waves of outpouring--they did affect 1000's of church leaders.

    It is very true that we need to continually draw near to Jesus and praise him for what we got and where we are at.

    However, I will keep looking for, praying for, and writing about revival because 7 years ago God instilled within my heart a hope that hasn't died.

    He gave me an incredible vision of major revival that would sweep across this land from the East to the West and from the South to the North--a huge revival wave that would touch down in 1000's of communities and bring millions to Christ and shake millions of church folk out of their dead religion and once more come alive in Christ.

    A major wave revival that would sweep across all of North America and engulf the UK and wash up on the shores of Europe.

    Yes, some have become 'experience-junkies' --going from one conference to another--seeking the next big charge. There is far too much of that among Charismatics and Pentecostals.

    But that doesn't negate real revival when it comes--it is a sovereign move of God that no preacher or evangelist can bring or duplicate.

    Meanwhile, praise God that he has given you a vision for pastoring and bringing folks closer to Jesus in the midst of regular times between the waves.

    Blessing,
    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Michael.

    I agree with you about the verity and the benefit of the train of revival movements that runs back the track to the Reformation: the Pietists/First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the Holiness/Pentecostal Revival, the Charismatic Movement. These were more than flashes in the pan, and about more than thrilling personal experiences.

    I have problems seeing the Latter Rain, Toronto, Brownsville, and now Lakeland "movements" in the same light.

    Much of today's revivalistic fervor (perhaps even Charismatic fervor), seems to me, centered on the latter kind rather than the former. I'd gladly welcome the former, but I'm getting downright antagonistic toward the latter. Experience junkies is a great term for it, maybe another would be "spiritual tourists" because they run hither and yon to any site not wanting to miss any of the sights. "Come and get you some...".

    Often, ministers artificially (maybe a la Charles Finney) try to light the fuse to get revival going. There may be precursor human activity (e.g. prayer) prior to revival, but I'm still of the mind that these intense and widespread periods of harvest were sovereign moves of God. We wound up just trying to keep up with what God was doing.

    The long and short of it is that God initiated compressed periods of harvest and Holy Spirit filling are Biblical patterns and historically viable. Goofy rah rah sessions that focus on feeling are not. One's of God, the other of the flesh. It's not that folk don't feel something when God is on the move, but the issue is the reality of and a relationship with God, not those feelings. IOW, God may tap us on the shoulder, but we should not get enamored with the tap but with the God that the tap turned us to.

    I do find your vision for revival exciting to consider, but I do not consider myself a minister in the synclines. My job in revival or out is to help people know God and walk with him. Whether many or few, the song remains the same.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nanc,
    It is all about God after all-- his love, compassion, commitment, his closeness. When the dust settles, it's all about him.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Revival or not, I just truly enjoy the aftermath of people coming to Christ. Because I get to help in the process of their spiritual maturity. I love to disciple, guide and just help others into a deeper, more passionate walk with God. So, whether the people I disciple are from a revival or just a Sunday morning service, I take great joy in working for my savior!

    On the flip side, I have had my run-ins with the "experience junkies" or the "spiritual tourist". I do have to say it is most frustrating to have someone get all excited about Christ and when the excitement is gone and it is time to buckle down and start walking the talk, they are no where to be found. Some do not want to grow because it takes much more effort to grow as apposed to getting on a fluffy high at a conference every other weekend. For some it may be to scary because it means that they actually have to consider changing their lifestyles and to get personal with the one who made them. Again it is easier to just go get that spiritual high and feel changed, but never really change. But as long as their happy though, right...NO! If this walk with God was easy then it would not be worth following!

    ReplyDelete
  6. RIP
    I love your passion. It's not that hard to walk with Christ once we've found him and know him to be the Lord-- what's hard is to stop walking with the old man!

    ReplyDelete
  7. slw;

    Did you have a chance to listen to the account of the the Hebridean Revival 1949-1952 that I put up on my Charismatica.com blog?

    That would seem to me to be a sovereign work of God that no major preacher conjured up, The Holy Spirit just fell on the entire island and changed lives.

    Now that's real revival, not the tent and music show that many times is a substitute for the real deal.

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was speaking to a good friend from my early Christians days about this the other day so great post! We both commented that it seems that life has become so busy that the old days of simply working then coming to meet at someone's house to just pray are gone. He commented that most churches these days are not even having the old "revival" meetings as it seems people in America are so busy with trying to make money, pursue happiness, etc. that they don't want to take time to seek God.

    I struggle with this as well. I recently took a new job that has cut my reading almost to none, my prayer time is limited, and I am so busy with work, family, and church. Simply trying to pay the bills has become my life's quest when once it was Jesus and His glory alone. For example, when the Brownsville Revival was occuring, I went and never thought about money, fame, family, or getting ahead but I wanted to meet with God.

    How I long to love Jesus first and foremost (Luke 14:25-35) and that He would be my passion (Psalm 42:1-2). Pray that God would spark a passion for revival in His Church again. Not a revival of mere experiences but of loving Jesus Himself.

    ReplyDelete
  9. yes, there is feeling. and i think that God creates certain feelings in us when we praise Him.

    i remember all of us singing together praising God and all with smiles on our faces just shining in the Love of God.

    i know that this was a true and wonderful time in my life. now, i know that there is more to the walk for me. i can still have these feelings from time to time, however, not in a group of new believers singing praises to our Lord and King that we love.

    that particular group was made up mostly of students, and students do not remain students for long. it was for but a moment to be the way it was. it was a season.

    the thing is, God is still moving. it might be fall, where the ground is being prepared to rest, it might be winter with the ground resting for the spring planting, it might be spring and the seeds are being planted, it might be summer and the seeds are below the ground getting ready to sprout. we do not see everything that God is doing and preparing in the minds and hearts of people.

    God's movement is not based on our experience or what we can percieve.

    it is good to take and remember the good things that He allows us to experience and trust in Him that He is working in all things at all times. even the things that do not look so good to us, and the times that are hard struggles. even in those He gives us moments of mercy and grace and allows us a glimpse of Him.

    we can not know the workings of the Holy Spirit.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beautifully said slw, and I totally agree with my Bro R.I.P.

    It is so exhilarating to walk to an altar to get saved, but the true test is the marathon that comes afterward. The test is to be able to develop a relationship with Christ and try to strive to better yourself and look for new feelings and experiences with Christ, besides just settling for the same thing over and over.

    This is the example I try to set for those who look up to me. I've had great examples throughout my walk, and being a small contributor to a person young in their faith is truly amazing, and I consider it an honor and a blessing to have the opportunity to be used by God in this way.

    All the glory to him!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dr. D,
    Yes, listened to it more than once, thank you for posting it. Duncan Campbell's last fading line says it all, "that we might see it, that we might see it!" God initiated, God centered, God infused visitation and harvest, now there's something any of us could get behind!

    Incidentally, I have appreciated the revival snippets that you have been posting-- they remind me of my Revivals class in Bible college with Ian Hall, who himself was a great student of revival.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks Pops, for dropping in. There's little that beats seeing the lights go on in someone eyes. When darkness is vanquished by the light of Christ, whoa, there is nothing better.

    ReplyDelete
  13. nanc,
    Sounds like the years have tempered you. That I think is a good thing-- to appreciate feelings but to not need to pursue them to the exclusion of all else-- that is a measure of true maturity.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Seeking,
    There are drastic changes in our society unfolding that are in turn making us in "old-fashioned" revivalist movements (like the A/G) reconsider our notions about church life, church schedules, and various campaigns and ministries. Sunday Schools, Sunday and weeknight evening services, and even prayer meetings are disappearing like tumbleweeds in a windstorm. It's hard to get help to pull off those efforts at ministering; it's hard to get people out to be served by such ministry. Everybody is too busy with too little time and too little energy to give.

    We, in our self-absorbed age, think this is new and undercuts the likelihood of revival. It is not new, however, and is more akin to the reality that existed when the Great Awakening fell in 1739. So, on one hand the trend is disconcerting, but on the other, there is the anticipation that arises knowing God has done it before. When the enemy rushes in like a flood, God will lift up a standard against him.

    ReplyDelete

Any comment in ill taste or not germane to the post may be deleted without warning. I am under no obligation to give anyone an opportunity to call me names or impugn my motives or integrity. If you can't play nice, go somewhere else and play.