So I have been thinking much lately on the concept of revival. As a pastor I have been a part of revivals nearly all of my life. As I sit and contemplate the very thoughts of being a part of all these revivals, I ask myself what was truly accomplished? Let me explain.
Revival is often compared to a church being set on fire for the Lord. With that as a definition of revival, I have seen many people who become very excited about living for God. They get set on fire for the Lord. They stand in the church and testify of what God did for them. In the following and subsequent services they shout, “Amen, hallelujah” as the preacher preaches his message. Their excitement even excites some of the other church members who in turn shout and if it gets really good they may jump or wave a hankie. In a few days the speaker (I call him a speaker for lack of what to truly call him.) leaves and as he leaves the excitement of the revival begins to fade.
If at this point you are sensing my skepticism about revivals, as I defined, you would be correct. It is not that I do not believe the sincerity of the expressed excitement for the Lord. It is just I am not sure the method of what we use to produce this excitement is designed to offer lasting excitement. It may also not even offer lasting change.
If I light a fire, two things must happen to keep that fire burning. One (type-1), I must continue to add a fuel source to that fire. If it fails to receive that fuel it will quickly burn out. Many of our revivals are built upon a notion that a “speaker” can come in, preach a series of canned messages, get people excited for the Lord, leave a few days later and the once dead in-need-of-a-revival-church is going to keep the fire going. This type of revival is concerned more with excitement within the church itself. Any fire that is contained will eventually burn out. A serious question must be asked. Who is going to add fuel to the fire?
A second (type-2) thing that can happen to keep a fire burning is closely related to first, however, it looks much different. A fire will keep burning if it begins to spread. The spread of the fire is a natural way for the fire to keep itself burning. This type of fire would be said to be “a consuming fire.” It is a fire that continues to burn as it consumes all that is near it. This type of revival is much different from the previous example. There maybe some of the same qualities, but there is a much greater focus. This revival does not want to be contained, nor is it possible to contain it.
Over the past year I have seen both types. The revival that continues is a revival where the Church is awakened to the Gospel of Christ. It is a revival where the Church re-engages with the heart of Christ. It is a revival where the Church re-activates its mission. The struggle point has been–how does this happen? Our attempts to answer this has produced many type-1 styles of revivals.
We hope that someone can come into our church set up a few special services and re-engage and re-activate us. I am afraid all this has done is excite us about church services. It becomes a contained fire and quickly burns out. It is not a matter of intentional wrong doing, but rather there is ignorance concerning what is needed. We just do not see what is causing death in our churches.
So we must be able to answer a very important question.
How does true revival happen?
First, we must admit that the church has lost focus of its mission. The mission is not hidden. It is not complex. It clearly spelled out to the church by our Savior and Lord. He says, “Go.”
Secondly, we must recognize that the completion of the mission requires simple obedience to what He commissioned us to do. He said, “Go.” He did not say stay put and sing louder. He did not say preach harder on the churches sins. He simply said, “Go.” This does not merely imply leaving where we are. It expressly commands that we are to leave the gathering. Please do not jump to the conclusion that a gathering time is not important, you will shortly find how important it truly is.
The next step is directly tied to the mission to go. It is understanding of what we are to do in our “go.” We are to go-and share the love of Christ with those who are lost. (Lost–one of those words we use to simply say those who have not found their way to Christ.)
Once we have shared and they have accepted Jesus as Lord we are to go-and baptize them. This is of utmost important if want the fire to continue to spread. For years, I believe the church has messed up on the idea of baptism. Notice how we have been doing it–
We say, “Accept Christ.”
They say, “Ok, Jesus save me and be my Lord!”
We rejoice! They rejoice!
We tell them to start following Jesus and in a few months when you have proved your sincerity to Christ we will allow you to get baptized.
Did you just see that? Christ commands baptism as an act of obedience. We are telling them to wait on being obedient! No wonder so many “converts” fall away. We are told to baptize them. I honestly believe the sooner a new believer does so the more cemented their decision to follow Jesus will be. We are being obedient in what we do and we teach them obedience is the key to living as a Christ follower.
There may be a reason why we don’t emphasize immediate baptism. It may just be that we would have to do the next step of the “go” if we do baptize them.
Discipleship is the next part of the command to “go.” This is where the fire is fed. This where the church, both the new believer and the mature believer allow the fire to spread. In discipleship we not only teach the doctrines of the Word, we also teach the spreading of the fire. It is where we stop and say, “It is your turn to share you faith.”
The final thing the church must grasp if revival is to spread is the concept of what evangelism truly is. It is not a person traveling around preaching to Christians who have lost their passion for Christ. It the act of sharing the good news of Christ.
This happens when we go to the lost and share the love of Christ, as we shared in the previous points. This also happens when we gather corporately to celebrate what Christ has done. It is crucial for this to take place. If we can understand this concept I believe how the word of God is preached in our service will become a fuel to the fire.
Revival can happen and will remain if we can understand the need to both add fuel to the fire and the need to allow the fire spread beyond the walls of the church. I think it is time to revive our concept of revival.