I was recently at a church in Canada. One that was new to me. I enjoyed my time with them and we connected, as pastors and leaders often do, exchanging email addresses and cell phone numbers. A follow-up to it was that I was asked to befriend the leader on Facebook and then ended up having a closer look at the man and his church on their Facebook page. Great way to see what is happening or not happening and to help form an opinion or two as we begin building relationally.
I am amazed how many churches are advertising “revivals.” I shouldn’t be shocked or surprised as often they talk about revival over coffee, pray for revival, and hold regular revival services. I have always found that to be interesting. In earlier centuries the Church would schedule revivals. They would advertise that they were coming up and ask people to mark their calendars. Then there would be a series of special services usually with a guest speaker. People would attend and some would even get born again. This practice continues in some Christian circles through to today.
There were a number of major revivals in the Old Testament. God would send His messenger to call His nation back to their God. So, Israel would assemble, the prophet would preach, and people would repent and turn back to worshipping their God once again. This was God calling His nation back to Him. He selected the time and place and announced it through His spokesperson, the prophet. It was not planned and scheduled by man. It was something God initiated. The last revival was when John the Baptist called God’s people back to Him in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
Interesting to note that there are no references to “revivals” in the New Testament other than John’s. And, that was initiated by God and was still under the Old Covenant because Jesus had yet to die on the Cross and thus the New Covenant had yet start.
Under the New Covenant, God no longer had a nation to call back to Him through repentance. Now He has a people who were, in time, scattered throughout many nations. These people were very much alive and in a personal relationship with Him. When they repented and turned to God He poured His love and His life into them. They were alive; vibrant and enthusiastic about God and the things of God. So alive that they spread the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the then known world and more than half the Roman Empire claimed Christ as their Lord by the year 300. No revival – just believers fulfilling the command of Christ to “go into al the world and make disciples.”
However, some still hold revivals today expecting non-believers to come and receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour. And yet, this is not what revivals are really all about. You do not revive something that has never been spiritually alive. Revivals should, if you are going to have them at all, should be focused on turning the church members back to God. The focus should be believers returning to the ‘life’ they once received and experienced. This ‘life’ now needing to be revived. They were not meant to see the lost saved.
Saving the lost is accomplished through Christians building relationships with the unsaved and showing them the love of God. Eventually, having won their trust and respect then sharing the Gospel verbally as spiritual questions are asked and people begin to have an interest in finding out more regarding the God we believe in, worship, and serve.
However, we still hold tent revivals, church revivals, youth revivals, spring revivals, fall revivals… focusing on seeing the lost come to the Cross and receive Christ. They are man-made programs designed to grab the attention of the unsaved. And who are kidding – do we really believe a sign saving “Revival Service Tonight” is going to attract an unsaved person. And, advertising “coffee and Cookies” isn’t exactly a drawing card either.
We are apparently missing the fact that in the early Church there were no revivals. Just on-fire, enthusiastic, and obedient believers who spread the fire through their lifestyle and their words. No revival needed to do this.
Instead of praying for revival why don’t we pray what Jesus told us to pray… that there would be more workers reporting for duty in the fields already ripe for harvest.