One of the common homiletic banalities bantered about in this age of imploding North American Evangelicalism involves the wistful sighs for revival. Like the Jew of the High Middle Ages, a millennium after the Temple was destroyed, who proclaims “Next year in Jerusalem”; it is obligatory platitude in Christian discourse, which lacks conviction of expectation. These sentiments, begotten of either youthful exuberance, of melancholy recognition that the savour has fled the salt and of despairing foreboding of the future, yearn for a Christian version of the “vanished gardens of Cordoba”.
These homilies grate my soul.
They grate not merely because they pine for an airbrushed nostalgic past; which though by far superior to the uncultured and unintelligible vulgarity, the narcissistic callousness and destitute soullessness of the current age; were not devoid of their own set of travesties and just as now, fell far short of the glory of God. Nor only do these sentiments irk because they are the of utterances of the disciples of ‘feel-goodism’; flitting from spiritual hotspot to spiritual hotspot like tornado chasers, in order to bask in the glow and heat of fire generated by another; and who often mistake the ersatz replica of fire for the genuine. Such desire the sensation of; but not the essence of true revival.
It is that those who mouth these platitudes for revival are akin to the professors which James describes, who say “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled”, but cannot be bothered to contribute to the amelioration of the brother or sister who is naked and destitute of daily food. According to the promises of God scribbled in His Word, the power to effect such revival is largely contained within the reach of the regenerated. If it has failed to materialize, it is largely attributable to the failings of faith, knowledge, passion, wisdom, ethics and ethos and will in those whose heritage it is, to abound in such things.
Ahh! One can anticipate the hackles of your soul declaiming that this fellow is preaching a heretical human-centered methodism which denigrates the Sovereign Will of God and denies the necessary initiation and sustenance by the Spirit of God. Not a whit! Movements in history must have their genesis in the heart of God. And no matter how knowledgeable, clear and exemplary, a Christian witness is; if the recipient isn’t being enlightened and the objections generating from his natural heart are not overcome through the hidden machinations of God; that witness will be of no effect.
However, who is to say that a call to become the salt again through which revival is possible, does not generate from the hidden Sovereign Will of God. We must separate the Sovereign Will of God from responsibility of the Christian to the prescribed Will of God. We may be duly informed by Calvinist doctrine; but we cannot operate at the level of the Sovereign Will without our noodles being baked by the complexity and conundrums it poses. If having to face God at the level of His Sovereignty, man should become completely destroyed.
If there is methodology to revival being promoted, it is one that Scriptures itself outlines. It exists apart from the quick-fix, relatively easy, assembly-line, modern managerial and ultimately ineffectual techniques of modern Evangelical evangelism.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
“given to us [are] exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 4-8)
For, by the promises of God, God has contracted with His children that in measure that we pursue and attain certain attributes, we shall be fruitful; and which “streams of living water will flow from within”. However, escaping the corruption of our environment, acting and being enervated by faith in Christ, seeking to be virtuous and holy, becoming knowledgeable in the fullest measure of that meaning, maintaining self-control over our passions, having patience, attaining inner righteousness, being kind and imbued with love; these are a far more difficult list of methodological procedures to ‘perform’ than altar call rituals, fourty-day programs and the like.
Such requires initially, a most resolute will. However, without God, we know not how to attain, have not the power to attain nor are able to sustain this most resolute will. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And in that one’s fruitfulness is largely determined by the measure of attainment in the least of these qualities; all must be inculcated. A tree grown in idyllic climatic conditions but hampered by lack of nutrition in the soil will suffer accordingly. A computer system’s performance is bottlenecked by its most laggardly component. A bond is only as good as its weakest link.
However, such qualities are these, are necessary in order to become a revival center; to no longer bask in the glow and heat of the fires of others; but to be the source of such fire. And in as much as a composite of Christians cultivate the same; from there would revival of the kind cooed in mantra and song, be achieved.
As a bit player in a church choir, I was required to sing from Brooke Fraser’s ‘Hosanna’. However, the verse proclaiming “I see a near revival; Stirring as we pray and seek” was irking to sing. For such sentiments, I cannot see. For as long as the Evangelical Church is hampered by accumulated corruptions of doctrine or even of ignorance of doctrine; fails to apply such doctrine in the daily interplay of their lives; dabbles in the frilly and frivolous “mint, dill and cumin” aspects of the faith instead of tackling the hardier heart of the Gospel and Full Counsel of God; lacks knowledge and wisdom; remains irrelevant in giving understanding to the concerns of the wider world; is satisfied to retreat to its own separatist subculture; loosens its moral integrity; responds in uncivil, disrespectful, moralistic tones to those without and even those within in with whom it disagrees; responds timidly in confronting false teachers and miscreants among its ranks; lacks faith in the (sometimes counterintuitive) particulars of the Scriptures in matters beyond theology and morality; etc.; and remains satisfied in this current condition; there ought not to be any revival coming from that quarter.
Thus, unless one is willing to do all that which necessary to enable revival to occur, then shut up about it!