I’m not particularly fond of the word revival. Partly it is because it means different things to different people. To those of evangelical persuasion it is a reference to a rapid ingathering of souls. For others it speaks of a renewal of holiness and commitment to God among His people. And to many of Charismatic and Pentecostal backgrounds the emphasis is on supernatural manifestations of the Spirit. So which is it? My answer is yes. A real outpouring of God’s Spirit among His people normally has all three of these aspects; it renews and deepens the relationship between God and his people which leads to holy living. It is accompanied by supernatural manifestations; manifestations which can take those who are not accustomed to them by surprise, perhaps even offending them. And, it results in a great harvest of souls. But because the word revival is so abused, I’m going to talk about Jesus movements.
Picking and Choosing
So, is an apple the peal, the fruit or the seeds? The answer is yes. Our problem with Jesus movements is we only want the part that appeals to us and leave out the rest. This dividing the various aspects of Jesus movements, so we can focus on the parts we like, is destructive. That is to say it kills the Jesus movement, or it impedes it in the first place. Is it any wonder that Jesus movements are rare? I want to make a point here. Jesus movements aren’t about us. They involve us. They enrich us. They renew us. But God wants to redeem His world and involve us in the process.
A true Jesus movement has all three of the aspects I’ve mentioned above; God’s people are renewed, God draws people to himself through His people and there are powerful manifestations of spiritual power. These three are deeply interrelated. God can’t bring people to himself if his bride isn’t beautiful. That’s where renewal comes in. Further, like it or not, it is those strange and unusual manifestations of supernatural power that is part of the attraction. Go back and read Acts 2 again. Then read my last post about the 2nd Great Awakening. Yes, the weirdness turns some off (as it did in Act 2), but it attracts others, and it demonstrates God’s power. Frankly, some people come for the show and leave with the King. But true Jesus movements start out attractional and very quickly become missional. If they don’t, they die, which I’ll speak about in the next post.
Sparking a Jesus Movement
But how do Jesus movements start in the first place? They start when God’s people desperately and consistently ask for them. They ask for three things: 1.) to be revived within, 2.) to have an outpouring of the Spirit (which results in supernatural manifestations), and 3.) for an ingathering of souls. Does this sound familiar? As an example think about Acts 2 and its aftermath.
In my last post The 2nd Great Awakening I quoted part of a covenant that James McGready and his friends made with God thorough prayer. I’ll quote the whole thing here and note these three aspects working together.
When we consider the word and promises of a compassionate God to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith–to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow-men (3). None ever went to Christ when on earth, with the case of their friends, that were denied, and, although the days of his humiliation are ended, yet, for the encouragement of his people, he has left it on record, that where two or three agree upon earth to ask in prayer, believing, it shall be done. Again, whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. With these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unite our supplications to a prayer-hearing God for the outpouring of his Spirit (2), that his people may be quickened and comforted (1), and that our children, and sinners generally, may be converted (3). Therefore, we bind ourselves to observe the third Saturday of each month, for one year, as a day of fasting and prayer for the conversion of sinners in Logan county, and throughout the world. We also engage to spend one half hour every Saturday evening, beginning at the setting of the sun, and one half hour every Sabbath morning, from the rising of the sun, pleading with God to revive his work (1).
Jesus movements happen when God’s people fervently and consistently pray together for renewal, the salvation of their fellow men and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When God answers their prayer, what once was difficult becomes easy. And, God’s purposes for us and through us are fulfilled. I want that. Do you? If we really want it, we need to gather like minded people and begin to pray.
- Many Christians long for revival. Many even pray for them. If you have, did you ask for all of the aspects of revival? Were you persistent?
- Which of these three aspects, renewal of God’s people, an outpouring of God’s Spirit and a harvest of souls for God do you think is superfluous?
- One person asking for revival doesn’t seem to bring a Jesus movement; it takes a gathering of his people; why do you think that is so?
- Christianity was designed to be in constant revival mode. That’s what we are seeing in China and India today. Why do you think it is so easy to become contented with the status quo?