We don’t want revival. The churches don’t want it; the members don’t want it. Very few pastors even want a genuine, heaven-sent revival. We like things the way they are. After all, revival means change, and we don’t want change. We’re too comfortable with the way things are at present.
By revival, I mean an across-the-board movement of the Holy Spirit as He touches hearts, changes minds, melts pride, and transforms sinners. Now logically most Christians would like these things to occur. In our heart of hearts, we know this is what’s going to be required for God to transform the modern church and make it a missionary organization once again. We know the people of our community are not going to be reached in numbers big enough to have any kind of impact until the Lord’s people have a new touch of God in their lives. We say we want revival.
But we don’t. Not really.
Everything inside us resists change. Our ego resists anyone else sitting on the throne of our lives. Our spirit rebels at another person calling the shots. Our bodies are afflicted with inertia, preferring to remain at rest.
Oh, I’ve seen revival, and perhaps you have too. When the Lord’s Spirit moves in and begins to touch lives, you can throw away the schedule and the printed order of worship. Everything else goes out the window when the Holy Spirit sets up shop. People are confronted with their sinful ways. Hearts are broken over their wickedness. Husbands confess to their wives, mothers apologize to their children, and children start obeying their parents. Friends reconcile with friends and then turn to their enemies in humility. Bosses ask employees to forgive them. Employees confess wrongdoing and face up to their poor work ethic. Pastors get saved; pastors’ wives get saved; deacons and their wives get saved.
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 coworker 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 heeded 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 anymore, nothing out of bounds, 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 that God has had any part in these shenanigans—condemn the excess, resent the disorder, suspect the new people who have begun coming to church, 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, often those who have 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.
Now all of this is painful, uncomfortable, disruptive, and even expensive. And being human, we don’t like the pain, discomfort, disruption, 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’ve held down for ages. There’s a warmth about sitting in Bible study class with the same eight 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. We’re satisfied with the old when God wants to do a new thing in our midst.
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, this breakdown, this crisis of revival?
TIME TO BE WATCHING
Many Christians today have no clue what a critical hour we are living in. The hour is urgent, the Lord is willing, the devil is hard at work, and too many church members are sitting in the grandstands enjoying the view instead of being suited up and on the field. “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1). Someone needs to tell God’s children today that the house is on fire. It’s time for us to get off the couch and get busy. When we lay hold of God, we can face any crisis. We can overcome any fear and win the day.
It’s time, don’t you think?
I have an atomic clock in my office. It sits on a table where I can see it when I’m seated at my desk. It’s one of the most accurate clocks you can have. I always assume the time on that clock is right because it resets itself. I like clocks. I’m a time-conscious guy. I like to be early for meetings and events. In my mind, “on time” is late. I want to allot for traffic delays or unexpected interruptions. But I wonder, do we know what time it is? Are we able to discern the times and see how dangerously close we are to judgment?
We rush to grab a cup of coffee on our way to work. We rush to the drive-through. We rush to church because we’re running late. We hurry and scurry. But when it comes to revival, we seem to have little time to think about it or act on it. Churches no longer allot time on their calendars for revivals. We’re too busy rushing to our Pilates class and our comfortable homes to take time for revival.
Since 2003 we’ve held an annual conference on revival at our church the third week of September. Every year I’ve invited pastors in our area to come. We promise to feed them three free meals a day. But never have we had more than three or four pastors attend. They’re too busy with stuff that doesn’t matter, I’d suspect. Some of them give me excuses that sound like a high school student explaining why he didn’t do his homework. Pastors can pretend to be busy in ministry when they’re really just spinning their wheels and getting dirty doing things that don’t matter in eternity.
TRUE REVIVAL BEGINS WITH CONVICTION AND REPENTANCE BY BELIEVERS IN THE CHURCH.
We have members of our church who have never attended one of these conferences. Even though we’ve seen hundreds of significant decisions, they still have no curiosity or interest in attending. They’re busy. They know what time their kids’ games start, but they don’t know what time it is on God’s calendar.
I’m concerned that even with all the strife, terrorism, economic problems, and social issues of our day, most folks don’t know what time it is. They’re clueless. Jesus said His coming would be as it was in the days of Noah. What were they doing in the days of Noah? Eating, drinking, marrying, going to events. They didn’t hear, see, or understand that the hour was upon them for judgment.
I was speaking at a state evangelism conference, where I heard Richard Blackaby say, “God will send a catalyst for revival. But if you don’t respond to the catalyst, He will send a prophet. Failure to respond to the invitation of God will result in the announcement of the judgment of God.” We need to know what time it is.
I’ve asked God to make me a catalyst for revival. The children of Issachar were said to have an understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do (1 Chron. 12:32). In a world where we are bombarded by news 24/7, you would think we would have enough information to change the way we are living. But today I see little awareness of the need and less ability than ever to discern the times. Why? We listen to pundits when we should be listening to the prophets. We bend our ear toward the government when we need to bend our knee to God. God’s people need to understand the times, and we need to act, react, pray, and stand accordingly.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH US?
Real revival doesn’t begin with praise and worship, nor does it begin with evangelism. These should be the outgrowth of a movement of God among His people. True revival begins with conviction and repentance by believers in the church.
The psalmist said, “It is time for the LORD to act, for they have broken Your law” (Ps. 119:126). If the people of that long-ago day had broken God’s law, how much more have we? In an age of postmodern secularist thinking, are we holding up the standards of God? I’m not talking about legalism, rules, and regulations. I’m talking about moral absolutes and holiness. Would the world examine the average church and find her living what we say we believe? Would they see us seeking God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Would they find us making the kinds of adjustments that occur when crisis time arrives, when you do whatever you have to do to get things back where they’re supposed to be?
We had a 500-year flood in Albany in 1994. For months our church was a center for feeding volunteers from around the country. We served tens of thousands of meals in our small fellowship hall. We housed workers from more than thirty states for months. We rebuilt homes all across our community. It was time to do something, and we couldn’t pretend as if nothing had happened. Yet every week God’s people gather and act as if nothing is wrong in this land of ours. We are living in a time of anarchy. Gangs are a major problem in our towns and cities. We have serious gang issues in the town where I live. Three girls with suspected ties to gangs recently tried to firebomb our preschool area. They were caught on tape seeking to destroy the part of our building where we minister to babies. Evil is rampant. It knows no boundaries or shame.
America has become heathenistic and animalistic in its behavior. We show off half-naked bodies, not just on magazine covers but at the shopping mall. Suggestiveness has given way to blatant flaunting. Things that used to be limited to porn sites are now in prime time.
Our culture shows a disrespect for authority and absolutes. If you have any doubt about that, read the paper or turn on the news. Reporters treat presidents and authority figures with little or no decorum. There is little respect for the law of the land because there is little respect for the law of God. Instead of the spirit of revival, we have the spirit of pandemonium.
But the greatest problem is that the church seems to be apathetic. At a time when the world needs the church at her best, we are not doing what God has left us on the planet to do. We are in a spiritual crisis! We are entertaining ourselves toward judgment. We are sin-sick, but we are not sick of sin. Someone needs to sound the alarm, to say that the church in America today is a long way from revival. It’s time we woke up to the fact that judgment begins at the church house, not the White House. And if it doesn’t begin soon at the church house, we’re going to be in the outhouse.
When a disaster hits, it’s too late to prepare for it. When the storm is just off shore, it’s too late to evacuate. When we see signs of a coming judgment, we must not wait long to act. For what grace does not accomplish, judgment will. God will send us through a season where He sacrifices our comfort to conform our character. He’s not interested in our performance; He wants our heart. Our surrendered heart. The times demand nothing less.
Now is the time to act! The situation is desperate. The only way we can overcome the anarchy, apathy, and fleshly attitudes of our culture and our churches is to begin seeking the Lord. So what time do you have? Is your watch synchronized with God’s timepiece? He says it’s time to seek the Lord. If that’s not the time you have, you need to make an adjustment.
Catt, Michael. 2010. The Power of Surrender. Nashville, TN: B&H Books.