Most pastors would affirm the great need for revival in their churches. Few, if any, pastors or lay leaders would describe their congregations as experiencing all that God intends.
The question becomes, How do we bring about revival?
Have you noticed how many false methods abound for attempting to revitalize the church? As a by-product of a society that pluralistically welcomes anything as better than nothing, it seems there are as many answers to the question as there are advocates of the need. We have tried so many things that fall short, that we are tempted to despair of ever developing a deep spiritual tone in our churches.
So, how do we bring about revival? Is there some secret technique which, if imported into our congregations, will guarantee spiritual renewal?
I am consistently astounded at the prescriptions some of the most vocal critics of low spirituality offer for accomplishing the goal.
Many bemoan the poor condition of the church by blaming the reality of the society in which we must live and minister. Thousands of faithful members go to church praying that tomorrow will be 1959. In frustration, they attempt to return to the "good old days." Failing to realize that the "good old days weren't" and disregarding the vastly different challenges of today's society, they are certain that if we could just select the right hymn (read nineteenth-century) from the correct hymnal, all would be made right.
Others advocate status-quo-shattering changes in worship style as "the only thing needed." They point to impressive crowds that gather by the Florida seaside, or fellowship at secluded mountain retreats as evidence that such a revival must be genuine because of the numbers of people who participated. Their market-driven mind-set justifies anything based on its popularity.
Still others trumpet tabloid sensationalism or time-fixing prognostications coupled with portents of approaching doom as the guaranteed methodology for frightening secular people into the churches and church goers into revival. These charlatans, who exploit every new event from bar codes on green beans to the invasion of the Internet, are merely another flavor of those who feverishly extol icons that bleed or saints who appear on a tortilla chip.
Such cultic proponents of hidden secrets revealed to just a faithful few, xerox rag sheets, duplicate video exposes, mail tons of cassettes, and dig the same heretical ditches of gnosticism you are saved by what you know. Their targets range from church pastors described as hypnotists, to fanciful requirements for returning to Old Testament feast days, to get-rich-quick ventures, to top church administrators depicted as plotting to overthrow the gospel by planting new churches.
Those who dare differ or question such foolishness are ridiculed as woefully ignorant at best or coconspirators at worst. Church leadership is accused of monetary motivation in preventing distribution among the laity of these latest revelations by the very ones who skim millions from gullible victims to further their own independent schemes and who battle any hot topic with a new "tell-all" book.
Too many members, sadly even some retired pastors, embrace sensational topics and become purveyors of polemics as they beat down the very structure that has supported them.According to their view, any change is bad. Every problem of a secular, highly-technological, post-Christian, post-organizational world must be met with methods that are at least a half-century old or dismissed as the foolishness of this modern age.
So what is the answer? How do we bring about revival? Is there some secret technique which will guarantee the results we desire?
I am convicted that there is just such a methodology. Although it is not secret, it is ignored to such an extent that it breaks into our consciousness as a new idea whenever it is described.
It's simplicity is a hallmark of its genuine effectiveness. Revival will come more readily by seeking to share the gospel than will ever result from sensational expose', worship style, theological debate, decrying the sins of the members, or even tinkering with organizational structure.
Listen to God's own plan for revitalizing His church. "If you will go to work as Christ designs that His disciples shall, and win souls for Him, you will feel the need of a deeper experience and a greater knowledge in divine things, and will hunger and thirst after righteousness. You will plead with God and your faith will be strengthened and your soul will drink deeper drafts at the well of salvation. Encountering opposition and trials will drive you to the Bible and prayer.
"You will grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and will develop a rich experience." 1
Did you notice the simple truth? Do you want real revival? Go to work to win someone else.
You will be revived!
1. Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1892), 79.