The revival we need

Two things collided in my brain this week. They have caused my heart to rejoice… and long for more… and called me to something I so desperately need.

The first, there is a prayer revival happening on the campus of Asbury University. They began chapel on Wednesday and prayer and worship has not ceased for at least 60 hours. This report was written only 12 hours into the event.

Craig Keener, a professor at Asbury, has been posting pictures of the chapel as students pray and worship.

My heart is stirred.

The second is an article from Tim Keller on revival in the American Church.

He truly believes the American Church can see another true revival, but there are some things needed.

While a revival of the Church would benefit society, that will never happen if the Church thinks of itself as just another social-service agency. Christians seek spiritual renewal of the Church not because they see religion as having social utility, nor because they want to shore up their own institutions. First and foremost, Christianity helps society because its metaphysical claims are true; they are not true because Christianity helps society. When Christians lose sight of this, the Church’s power and durability are lost.

Several keys:

First, as I see it, growth can happen if the Church learns how to speak compellingly to non-Christian people. 

We are in a mode of yelling at the world and calling out “its sin.” We are in cultural wars and market it as “spiritual warfare.” We are following the patterns of culture and politics and creating fear and enemies. This is not how revival works if it is from God.

Second, the Church in the U.S. can grow again if it learns how to unite justice and righteousness.

The lesson he draws here is from the Black Church. It is a call for individuals to be born again AND act in justice, calling out all forms of oppression. We, as white American Christians, pick one or the other.

Third, the Church in the U.S. can grow again if it embraces the global and multiethnic character of Christianity. By 2050 nearly one in five Americans will be foreign-born, and these immigrants will likely come from the more religious parts of the world.

While there are some white denominations that are growing and welcome ethnic congregations, they have a hard time allowing ethnic leaders come into key leadership roles with those denominations.

Fourth, the Church in the U.S. can grow again if it strikes a dynamic balance between innovation and conservation. A church must conserve historic Christian teaching. If a church simply adopts the beliefs of the culture, it will die, because it has nothing unique to offer. But the Church has always, especially in times when the faith seemed moribund, introduced unexpected innovations.

We have to learn there is a time to create new paths. There weren’t monasteries in the Church… until there were. There was no Reformation in the Church… until there was. There was no moving force of revival that helped shaped the American frontier… until there was.

We also need to TURN FROM some deep problems:

The escape from political captivity. American evangelicals have largely responded to the decline of the Church by turning to a political project of regaining power in order to expel secular people from places of cultural influence. But a demographically shrinking Church that identifies heavily with one narrow band of political actors will not be relevant in America. A dynamically growing body of believers making visible sacrifices for the good of their neighbors, on the other hand, may indeed shape the culture, mainly through attraction rather than compulsion.

A union of “extraordinary prayer.” 

Which is why the prayer revival at Asbury this week is stirring my soul.

There is so much more to the article and I invite you to read it.

Times of refreshing are needed in the American Church. We are deeply broken and for older generations it has been hard to recognize and call out. A younger generation is desiring new depths with God and prayer is a huge part of that turning process.

When I was in Bible college I remember coming back from spring break one year and walking through our chapel on the way to a morning class. (Our building were connected by skyways and in those days you had to walk through the balcony of the chapel to get to other buildings.) As I walked I noticed a group of guys from the dorms laying prostrate in the front of the chapel and cries and prayers rising up.

When I came back to chapel for morning chapel, they were still there, along with several more, crying out to God. Normally when chapel starts, people praying in front would get up and get to their seats. This time these guys didn’t move. They stayed on their faces crying out to God. It ignited the chapel service.

For several days there was a groundswell of prayer and the chapel filled up constantly with students calling out to God.

It broke my heart how it ended. There were guest speakers on campus that week and the school president was invested in these speakers getting a good impression of his leadership. He needed them to speak on their topics regardless of the prayers coming up from the floor in front of the pulpit. After he basically forced students to get up and sit down in their seats so the guest speaker could speak, it pushed down the urgency of prayer. Then, he declared at the end of the week that he would speak on the next Monday about the revival. He cancelled classes after chapel on Monday prematurely and then brought in another guest speaker chosen by him to preach on revival. He tried to manufacture a prayer service for two plus hours.

It was an eye opening experience for me.

What I longed for was those times of refreshing. Unmanufactured. Unstructured. It doesn’t happen all the time and that isn’t the only time “church happens.” But times of refreshing are needed. People calling out to God and deciding not to leave the chapel and when others come back, there they are… still calling out to God.

But most of all.. it isn’t “revival” we need. It is God.

The chapel at Asbury University, shared by Craig Keener

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