In my previous post (“Revival and Hype”), I said that since one of the marks of real revival is worship gatherings that are “thick with a sense of the presence of God that is not orchestrated by the presiders” that I am loathe to ever try to “engineer” results or orchestrate experiences. But does that mean there’s nothing we can do? Do we just sit around and wait for something to happen? Is there anything we can do to see these kinds of dynamics affect the communities and people we care about?
That’s the question Keller asked at the end of his last blog post, and he followed it up today with an answer to the question of “ways and means” and whether we can properly apply it to revival. He treads a third way between what he sees as the excesses of Finney-esque revival engineering and an “all we can do is pray” attitude.
The article itself is worth reading, but here are the five factors Keller points to that seem to be “ways and means” toward revival:
- Extraordinary prayer
- Recovery of the grace-gospel
- Renewed individuals (causing hunger, awakening in others)
- The use of the gospel on the heart in counseling (including small groups)
- Ordinary instituted “means of grace” (preaching, pastoring, worship, prayer, etc.)
One of the questions I have as I look at this list regards the “Recovery of the grace-gospel.” Perhaps that recovery looked like Jonathan Edwards preaching “Justification By Faith Alone” in 1734, but what would a recovery of the grace-gospel look like in our day? Different aspects of the gospel will resonate with different cultures at different times, and I think it’s too easy to conflate justification-by-faith-as-Edwards-preached-it with the gospel itself.
That said, of course I do believe the gospel is a universal declaration that we can’t “change,” per se, depending on the mood of the culture. But, to use a musical metaphor, the gospel is a deep fundamental that triggers a thousand overtones. Which overtones need to resonate most clearly today?
I also resonate strongly with the “ordinary means of grace” factor at the end, but would frame it in terms of discipleship to Jesus. If I examine my assumptions about discipleship and why I am investing so heavily in making disciples, I would have to say that I really believe that extraordinary things can begin to happen when people simply abandon themselves to the work of the Spirit and really follow Jesus (being with him to learn from him how to be like him). I might also argue that the result of making these kinds of disciples (who can make further disciples) will actually unleash a more powerful revival movement than the ones we’ve seen in the past, because they won’t be centered around an extraordinary individual.
Some of that is guesses/hunches (Myers-Briggs ‘N’ in operation), and some of that I know has happened in various places.
Anyway, those are just a couple thought about an article I found interesting. What are your thoughts?
Great post Ben. The thing I always struggle with regarding “revival” is whether we’re thinking about it correctly. It seems like we stand around and wait for this event/experience we label revival to occur and I wonder if it should be much more natural or normal. With the context of Jesus’ statement that “the fields are already white for the harvest” and I think discussing revival seems to put us in the mindset that the fields aren’t quite ready for harvest yet. We need to wait, pray, etc just a bit longer… then we can reap the harvest. But, if we’re truly being disciples of Jesus Christ, should this just be a natural component (or fruit) of that discipleship? And if we’re also make other disciples of Christ, won’t that be an aspect of their lives as well? If we’re doing that well, maybe this is the “new” context of revival.
Granted that seems more theoretical than practical since it doesn’t seem like this occurs within/throughout the church regularly. Historically speaking, we tend to see specific periods of time that have revival.
Ben Sternke says
Thanks for the comment, Adam. There does seem to be a tension here, where we are tasked with continuing to "do the stuff" of making disciples, growing in our own relationship with the Lord, cultivating ministry to others, etc, but then also knowing that sometimes there are communal and societal dynamics that bring about a larger "mass" movement of people further into the kingdom.
It's been liberating for me to be able to stop trying to engineer the "big event" and simply focus on knowing Jesus and making disciples. That said, I do long for a time when God's Spirit moves in more power on a wider scale than I see right now. But I'm done trying to make it happen in my own strength (or pretending it's happening when we have a good worship service).
I think about the Moravians praying for revival and how what they sought was an outpouring of God's Spirit in ways they had never seen. It seemed like, in certain ways, they weren't quite sure what they were asking for, only that God's Kingdom would advance with strength and power they hadn't seen but only read about in the Acts of the Apostles. They had this overwhelming sense that God wasn't done doing surprising, extraordinary things in a mass level. So they committed themselves to prayer and committed to praying for that specific thing until, literally 100 years later, The First Great Awakening happened.
I think what the Moravians could bring to this discussion is the commitment to prayer even when we don't see "results" and the fundamental belief that God is still moving in ways we've only read about, but never seen. What I like about it is that it's about CHARACTER to commit and not finding the right worship song or spiritual combination to unlock the padlock of revival, but they also went about their regular, day-to-day formation as disciples because it was a freaking 100 years before it happened!. If revival came, God would bring it. I think it shows, like Keller pointed out, that revival comes from a longing for God to move in extraordinary ways, but it stemming from his people building a culture of commitment to the "fundamentals" of day-to-day formation. So we long for the mass, unbelievable breakthrough of God's Kingdom, but we don't count/depend on it in the communities we are serving or in our own hearts.
Ben Sternke says
There's a cool "already/not yet" tension embedded in the Moravian way, it seems. Patiently cultivating the "already" of normal discipleship and longing and praying fervently for the "not yet" of mass revival.