Saturday, September 8, 2012

A truth about revivals

This week I am preaching a revival for one of the churches in my judicatory.  Last night as we were leaving a seasoned pastor visiting from another church leaned over to me and said, "You know, you can't have revival in a comfortable church."  He is absolutely right.

I doubt that I could go into many churches and have any of them tell me they are not interested in having a revival in their church, but it is not likely to happen in most of them because they are too comfortable where they are.  They may complain, but the reality is they like the status quo.  Everyone knows their role, they know what's expected of them, and they like it like that.  Revivals are messy things.  They turn things upside down, make people feel uncomfortable, and challenge people like they haven't experienced in a long time.  When revival broke out in Acts 2 the people accused the Christians of being drunk.  When it occurred later in Acts 2 the people sold their possessions and gave the money to those who had need.  In Acts 3 the religious leaders tried to stop the revival by ordering Peter and John to stop preaching about Jesus.  (I have often found that religious leaders are often the most upset when revival breaks out.  Seminary never taught them what to do in such cases!)  And so it went throughout the book of Acts.

Revivals make people uncomfortable.  They might lose their seat in the sanctuary if new people suddenly begin to come!  (I said that on the first night of our revival.  As the service was about to begin on the second night a man who wasn't there on the first night but whose wife was turned to me and said, "My wife told me that you said if we had revival someone might take our seat."  He pointed across the aisle and whispered, "We've sat there for years" and started to laugh because some guests had their usual seats.

We are beginning to see a measure of persecution against Christians and the church in this country like we've not had before.  Some communities are now using zoning laws to prevent churches from building new facilities.  Other communities are passing laws making it impossible for Christians to have Bible studies in people's homes, and at least one pastor was recently sentenced to jail for constantly violating that law in his community.  The DNC removed any mention of God from their national platform this year and only restored it when they received widespread criticism.  It took three voice votes to pass the measure to restore it, and although the moderator announced the measure passed, there is legitimate questions regarding if it actually received sufficient votes to pass.  Many in attendance booed when it announced that God was added back into their platform.  A court has recently permitted a case to move forward that challenges the clergy housing allowance as being unconstitutional.  I could go on and on with examples, but it is obvious that the church in America is under attack today as never before in our nation's history.

Could it be that God is trying to shake us out of our comfort zones?  The OT is full of examples of God using ungodly nations to shake Israel out of its comfort zone.  The church would be foolish to think it is safe from having the same thing happen to it.  God has called our churches for a purpose, and the fact is that most of our churches have forgotten what that is.  We are comfortable in our air-conditioned buildings with our little committees, our denominational literature, our endowments, and our properly educated leadership, and we have forgotten why we exist.  We say the right things: we want to grow, we want to reach new people, we want revival, but we do nothing to actually experience any of these things because to do something would take us out of our comfort zone.

If your church sincerely wants to experience a fresh move of God in their midst they are going to have to leave their comfort zone and become burdened for God's vision for their church.  They are going to have to go out of their "sanctuary" into a dark and dangerous world to share the message that our rapidly emerging pagan culture desperately needs.  It won't be easy and it won't be comfortable, but there is where they will find God already working.  It is there they will find revival.

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