What is it? We know of the Great Awakenings that hit in the 18th and 19th centuries. What comes to mind? Sawdust? Fiery preachers? Hucksters?

What would Revival look like in our time? Would we know we were experiencing one or not?

I fear for American Christianity and not because of secular this or that or because of the so called ‘culture war.’ I fear for American Christianity because it is so infected with consuming and individualized faith. A good church is one with the best looking barn, the best looking people, and the most efficient programs.

What if there were no barns, only an altar and a font (or pool), and believers practicing common prayer–worshiping rather than receiving religious goods and services? Bare before God in repentance?
What if we prayed for revival on God’s terms–not ours? What would it look like?

8 thoughts on “Revival

  1. I’d hope a new Great Awakening would look similar to the Second or Third Great Awakening (post Civil War-ish) with their emphases on the social gospel, peacemaking and justice issues (as displayed in the feminist and civil rights movements that emerged in these earlier revivals) and working out our salvation with a heart for the poor and marginalized.

    A source.

    If it could be like that with some of the paternalism removed, that’d be a great thing.

  2. I think we know what it would look like if we read the book of Acts. The power of God would be manifest, the miraculous would be evident, and purity would be requisite.
    Everybody is on board for the power and miracles, but as long as we treat purity as an option rather than a requirement, I don’t think we’ll see either. And I’m not talking about a list of do and don’t here. I’m talking about motivation that will manifest in what we do or don’t do.
    God won’t share his glory with anyone. He doesn’t empower endeavors that bring glory to our works, but rather His ability to work through us.
    I guess what I’m trying to say in this age of mega church celebrity pastor build up is that when you read the book of Acts, you see that the apostles were not treated well. They went through horrific trials of every kind. Yet they kept going in spite of it all because their hearts were pure. They were after God’s blessing, not man’s.
    That’s the revival the church was founded on.

  3. As I see it, revival was about community formation. Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost brought an enormous response in converts. The experience that they responded to was the presence of Ruach in their midst. After denying that they weren’t drunk in their tongues, since it was really just too early, Peter just reminded them of who Jesus was. Their openness to it was communal, not personal. They didn’t compare notes. They stepped forward and joined the nascent church.

    I consider Dan’s comments to be off the mark. The social gospel, peacemaking and good works deny the centrality of the Spirit among them. Action that becomes political expression is just showing the spirit in activity, but the Spirit came first, overflowing in love and the power of grace as yet unapplied.

  4. “The social gospel, peacemaking and good works deny the centrality of the Spirit among them.”


    I’d suggest that these are all evidence of the Spirit, not a denial thereof. Which seems to be what you say in the second half of your comment, so I’m not sure what your point is.

    Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.


    Each Great Revival has had its outflowing of the “social gospel” and rightly so, for faith without works is dead.

  5. I meant to say that the primacy should be the moving of the spirit, not the political expression of it. The gifts of the spirit aren’t the spirit, they are evidence of it. There is danger in the spirit becoming experienced only in action. That’s not what happened. At Pentecost, the newly fried apostles blew out of the upper room in a cacaphony of tongues. The people heard the good news from Peter, but responded to it fully due to the animating aspect of the Holy Spirit, not the actions of the apostles.

    I guess I was most reacting to “working out our salvation”. That’s just backwards. Our salvation is in Jesus Christ, not the works we manifest from the Holy Spirit.

  6. Some (not I, or not entirely anyway) would say “revival” in the contemporary sense is occurring in the Emergent movement, akin to the McLaren spearhead. Even one of his book titles speaks to this: “A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN.” It speaks to the ever increasing pluralism of our globally connected world. Frankly, not unlike the first few centuries of the early Church, hence, especially at the beginning of “The Way,” you had the expression of “tongues” (correctly understood), where the gospel could be heard and preached to the eclectic masses–each understanding in his/her own “tongue.” Being able to communicate and relate requires a new, some would say old, paradigm. As the McLaren title points out, people interface with the world in innumerable ways. A contemporary revival sure as hell can’t look like the mega-churches with all the white, largely affluent, Republican blessed automatons, or like many churches that have the look and feel of an ethnic social club. Nor could it be “separated,” as with the Anabaptist types. In all candor, the church that looks most universal is the Roman Catholic. My own church has all types in it, and that’s in the midst of suburbia, which makes it all the more amazing. Of course, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, Rome has problems.

  7. I’m with John H, it’s both/and.

    As to working out our salvation, I was referencing Paul:

    “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”

    ~Phil. 2:12,13

    Neo asked, “What would it look like?” I was just answering in a way that we can see. We can’t see a clean soul and a healthy heart, but we can see God’s Kingdom acted out.

    I’m just saying the Great Revivals I’m aware of were all evidenced by a great concern for the poor, for simplicity, for justice. THAT’s what I would expect to see as there are new revivals.

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