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