Do we really want to see genuine revival come to America and the world? Are we desperately hungry for a great spiritual awakening today?
J. Edwin Orr is likely the greatest scholar, teacher and proponent of spiritual awakening in the past century. I sat spellbound at the feet of this great man in Spilman Auditorium at Ridgecrest Conference Center in 1987. It turned out to be his last message. The next morning he died from heart disease.
From this final sermon I still remember his powerful words, “Revival is like judgment day.” When revival comes, conviction exposes all that we have been ashamed to admit. Our pride, our greed, our lust, our fears, our secret sin – everything that identifies the ‘real me’ stares us in the face as though the dreaded day of judgment has arrived.
Indeed it has. The masks are stripped off. The game of religious charades is over. Pretentious habits that were designed to build religious admiration from my peers are gone. Revival is like judgment day because in the experience of real revival, raw honesty wins and sincere confession flows like a mighty river.
Students of the world’s great revivals have reminded us that North America has not seen a great revival movement in more than 100 years.
Fires of localized revivals showed up in the early 1970s through the “Jesus Movement” when large numbers of “hippies” came to Christ. Theirs was a radical transformation out of the drug culture. They were welcomed by some churches and shunned or completely rejected by other Christian groups.
At the same time a spontaneous movement began in 1970 in the 10 a.m. chapel service at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky. Without planning or warning, all heaven broke loose. The typical chapel service was scheduled for 50 minutes.
This one lasted 185 hours non-stop. It continued intermittently for months. From a human perspective it was an unplanned, unled display of fervor on a smaller scale than the Great Awakenings of 1740 and 1800.
The protracted gathering was characterized by brokenness, repentance and confession. Its impact was so profound that many students were motivated to travel to other colleges and seminaries to tell the story of revival.
News spread in newspapers, on television and by word of mouth. Social media was not available at that time. Strangers flocked to Wilmore to worship with the students. Asbury officials dismissed classes. Within a few days revival broke out at the seminary across the street from the college.
For less than a year, it spread like small brush fires across the United States and into a few foreign countries. Because of the many who came to Christ or called into ministry, some say its impact is still felt today.
If you are not familiar with the Asbury story, read Robert Coleman’s description of the revival in his book, One Divine Moment.
The need for a great spiritual awakening in 2014 is more than obvious. An American culture once saturated with Christian influence is spiritually empty.
Biblical values are not respected by the large number of secularists who dominate the worlds of politics, business, entertainment and media. Churches and Christian leaders have drifted from biblical orthodoxy, embracing popular opinions at the expense of eternal truth.
Internationally, evil aggressively taunts us, daring us to engage in battle. Like Goliath in scripture, the threats are larger than life. Fear, war, disease and financial collapse are not artificial threats.
So, what is our motivation for wanting a revival? Maybe we want a culture that is less stressful, more comfortable and less challenging. Maybe we want to go back to the good ol’ days when everyone attended our churches for the same reason they joined the country club.
I don’t believe God has any interest in our comfort.
He has not given us a gospel of prosperity and popularity. Historically, great revivals have never broken out in the context of prosperity. They have flourished most through times of persecution.
The reign of lukewarmness in our churches is a deterrent to the Holy Spirit’s movement. When He shows up among God’s people in scripture, it is usually demonstrated by fire and radically changed lives.
Calls for revival typically take us to 2 Chronicles 7:14. That’s a great prescription for revival.
But here is one we may not have considered. “Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” Philippians 2:14-15.
Ours is certainly a crooked and perverse generation. Does this generation see models of God’s holy character when they look at us? Are we shining as lights of truth in this dark world? Or do lost people see Christians who gripe, complain and argue about everything just as they do?
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, launched his first presidential press conference in June with a call for the kind of prayer that leads to spiritual awakening. He said, “A great awakening is a season in time when unprecedented numbers of people come to Christ in a region or all over the country. It has been over 100 years since the last great move of God in our land. We need another Great Awakening. We must pray for it daily.”
Another step in Floyd’s passionate plea was launched in August with the call, “Join the Movement.” His website (ronniefloyd.com/join-the-movement) includes this invitation, “Would you please JOIN THE MOVEMENT to pray with thousands of others for spiritual awakening in America? This is serious and we need your participation.”
There is another movement of prayer you should know about. Chris Schofield, director of the office of prayer for the Baptist State Convention of N.C. is leading a 30-day emphasis on prayer for the month of October. Learn more and sign up for your “Greater things prayer prompts” on the convention’s annual meeting website (ncannualmeeting.org/pray).
Also, plan to attend one of the prayer conferences this office sponsors.
When revival comes, it will be about God’s glory, not our comfort. A spiritual awakening will produce humble believers who are grateful for the powerful grace of God in the forgiveness of sin.
Respond to Floyd’s call to pray. Participate in Schofield’s 30 days of prayer. Turn your deacon meetings and committee meetings into prayer meetings. Transform your church’s Wednesday prayer meetings into a powerful ‘house of prayer’ gathering. Pray for spiritual awakening in your personal devotional or quite time. We must do something!