Saturday, January 26, 2013
Few would argue that the church could not stand a good dose of revival. When I started in ministry back in the early 70's, the word was more commonly used than it is today. My first rural appointments had what some of the old timers still called "protracted meetings," meaning that the revival meeting lasted a bit longer than just a couple of days. Sunday through Friday was the norm back then and no one really worried about folks showing up for services. The primary focus of those meetings was to bring non-believers into a believing relationship with Jesus Christ. Renewing and reviving the faith of some of the faithful who might be cooling off might be part of what was anticipated, but it never was to take the place of bringing people into a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Today's church is more sophisticated. Its overwhelming sense of busy-ness sometimes raises concern that it may be thinking too highly of itself and not enough of the Christ. If being busy is the goal then the church is a success; however, if making Jesus the central issue is the goal, then there might be some re-thinking to do. Today's church is uncomfortable with the word revival, preferring words like renewal or transformation. Unfortunately, it also seems uncomfortable with calling the non-believing community into a believing relationship with Jesus Christ. To be too intentional about doing so might be construed as being offensive and insensitive.
What brings all these thoughts to the surface is a reading about revival and prayer from one of those 19th century dead guys, E. M. Bounds. He seemed to think the church of his day was in great need of revival and that its preachers could make good use of their time by spending all night in prayer seeking such for the church. Sounds a little crazy to some, especially those who put their eggs in the basket of canned programs for church renewal. But, the truth is what we are doing does not really seem to be working. It makes you wonder if preachers and lay folks praying for the revival of the church could take us down a different road.