I’ve been a passionate student of revival and a pretty consistent pray-er for revival for a long time. For years, what I’ve meant by that is that the Holy Spirit would come and zap the church, there would be conviction, there would be salvation and salvation in numbers. Now, I think its still fairly safe to say that any sort of ‘revival’ will always have certian things in common. There seems to be a common thread. Firstly, there is usually a re-focus on God’s word, or a re-discovery of a neglected truth. Or, there is a new appreciation of the cross. Or thirdly, there is a different manifestation of the Spirit (eg Toronto etc). Most of these have lead to changed lives, changed churches, and salvation. We’re certainly at the stage now where we’re Christianity seems to waiting for the next big wave. The recent Florida thing seems to have been stemmed by some immorality somewhat, and certainly wasn’t the ‘next big thing’ everyone expected.
So whats going on with this? Thing is, typically when the church has been at low ebb, thats when people get desperate and call out. So, there is a degree of seeking God to be done. But thing is….in these days, the church is more open to the Spirit quite possibly than it has in most of its history, we understand and have access to God’s word more than we did before and yet we’re not always finding ‘the magic’ happening in our churches.
I’m convinced that the next ‘revival’ will be different to the previous ones. Yes, people will get saved, the Word will be real, the Spirit will be present. But I think the context and the catalyst will be different. You see, I think the church’s biggest need isn’t more Holy Spirit tongue-fests ( please note, I’m not anti-Toronto or anti-charistmatic, but there has been some insular stuff amidst all that). I don’t think the need is for more bible knowledge and the whole ‘bring the bible back into schools’ and all that sort of stuff. Nor do I even think that it is some moral crusade to re-capture Christian Britain, as if somehow to capture a wonderful golden age.
When I think of the early church, they had a whole raft of things going. Yes, they had Jesus, the living word as their focus. That’s key. Second, they had ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes! And, many many were saved. Yet, the key in the spread of the church wasn’t just these things….it was because these things thrust the disciples of Jesus OUT from the places they were keeping themselves to engage in the lives of people. They were thrust out from the walls of the synagogue (God even allowed persecution to come in order to make sure they were truly out there) into the places where, like Paul, he had to eat and live and become like a Gentile in order to save the Gentile. These original disciples are thought to have been thrust out to the edges of the then Roman Empire, carrying the gospel with them where they went. It was the going that brought the ‘recipe’ for transformation.
God acted as he has done in previous revivals to bring the people of God to an awareness of the word, an awareness of the things of the Spirit and to spark the ‘evangelical’ passion of his people. Yet, if we are all ‘Word’ and all ‘Spirit’ yet forget to go, it bears little fruit other than that we can enjoy for ourselves. Isn’t that what gluttony is?? Its clear to me that God seeks to mobilise a mission people who will take upon themselves a missionary stance with regards the micro and macro situations God puts them in. People who have a mindset that is about carrying the Word and Spirit, the Blood and Fire, to the people instead of expecting people to flock to church in revival. There will indeed be a coming in, there will be an equipping of the new disciples, and of course, there will be increased size in Christian communities etc but the focus will be on the going out.
There is a place for repentance, for spiritual warfare, for ministry in the power of the Spirit, for a great grasp of the Word of God and for a heart for the heart of God and the Kingdom. Its all needed, all necessary. But the next revival in the church will come when we ditch our old wineskins of ‘come to us’ religion and see every believer living provocatively, unapologetically and intentionally where God has placed them. I sense that God wants to break his church out of the walls, not just physical ones, but the cultural ones we set up. This is not an ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality…its a ‘go into all the world….’ starting right where God has placed you.
What does it mean to live provocatively, unapologetically and intentionally at work, school, even in church? What will it take for the Word and Spirit in us to take legs and get out to meet that which it is supposed to meet? How will people in our communities touch and feel the truth and power of the gospel unless they can tangibly meet it in people who will show them and who by their following Jesus will make people take note?
I still sing ‘Send revival, start with me’ regularly. But rather than me sitting waiting for God to do all the stuff, I choose to partner with him and choose to recognise that in actuality, he’s given us all we need to see the world saved. We have a gospel that we can share by the power of the Spirit. The next revival will be a revival of the ‘sentness’ of God’s people. This is truly a ‘neglected truth’ we need to discover if our world is going to be changed.