So, as far as I can tell just about every approach that can be imagined has been tried to revive the country in general and the Church in particular in America…with very little to show for it. Most church growth gurus will tell you that the vast majority of churches experiencing growth are simply getting their members from other churches. There is a lot of shuffling going on but not a lot of brand new born again believers. Consequently, there was the brilliant idea that church growth would explode if we’d “build it and they will come.” So church revitalization has given way to church planting. It sounds good, promising, and exciting until you find out that once again when the truth is finally revealed, all you’ve done is relocated members from one location to another. So much for the Great Commission. I’m sure to the unspiritualized world out there all they can see is church building programs engaged for the purpose of making those who already attend church more comfortable.
Looking at the direction our nation is headed leaves almost no doubt that the Church’s impact on society and culture is nearly non-existent. It’s no wonder, then, that the faithful are calling, praying, and hoping for revival. Second Chronicles 7:14 is making the rounds again but taking an honest look at reality reveals it’s not initiating any kind of mass renewal/revival. So here is one blogger’s attempt to shake the world and start a meaningful and massive revival; complete with new converts to go in all the new churches.
Let’s try the Jonah approach! For brevity’s sake I will skip how Jonah’s initial rebellion to his calling to confront the Ninevites led to a most uncomfortable time at sea. But there are parallels that shouldn’t be ignored. Like the modern Church’s absolute unwillingness to speak with authority on the subject of sin. Just because the media and Hollywood have successfully pigeonholed evangelical Christians as white sheet wearing bigoted fools who constantly harp on puritanical ideals of human sexuality doesn’t mean there is no place anymore for the Church to unapologetically address the issue of sin!
Or, how personal repentance must absolutely precede corporate revival. Part of Jonah’s prayer as he lingered in the midst of the bowels of the sea creature included “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you…” It is significant that a man called by God to speak for Him had forgotten Him. It seems pretty obvious to me that the Church in America is far more concerned about being accepted by culture than it is about being found faithful to God. Pick an issue (marriage, immigration, government, terrorism, etc.) and you’ll find Christian leaders wanting to be seen as compassionate. So rather than address how sin is at the heart of any of the issues and provide some much needed guidance and correction, they want to come off as sympathetically kind-hearted. Or, in more direct language…accommodating. That is to say ‘in sync’ with cultural mores. What a disaster it’s been. How forgetful our spiritual leaders are of the holy and righteous God.
It’s not working Church! We’ve tried everything from implementing John Maxwell’s leadership principles, to abandoning old churches for the new plants, to accommodating sin, and the nation is no closer to revival and the Church is still diminishing in number and influence. Why not try what has already been proven to succeed? Jonah’s message turned around one of the largest cities in the known world at the time. While I believe in education, Jonah’s seminary stint was a three day visit in the belly of a sea creature that Jesus later referenced as a metaphor of hell. What I’m saying is…authentic revival isn’t a program developed by Ph.D.’s in the hallowed halls of religious academia. It’s personal faithfulness. Plain and simple. Faithfulness to the calling of God. Faithfulness to the Word of God.
Jonah’s message? One sentence: “Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). I can already hear the howls and screams of Christian leaders opining about how such a message preached today would set back the Church’s mission by decades. It took a long time to get beyond the stereotype of tent revivals with sweaty evangelists screaming about hell-fire and brimstone. We’d be right back where we started if we reverted to preaching about judgement, right?
You mean right back to winning souls for Christ? You mean right back to the first Great Awakening in this country? You do remember that it began with a sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God” right? Or the Second Great Awakening led by the “camp meetings” and Methodist Circuit Riders where the fundamental message of repentance was the emphasis? Is that where our religious leaders are afraid we’d revert to if the message of impending Divine judgement were faithfully preached?
I mean, come on Church. It’s not like Jesus never broached the subject of judgement:
And then will I declare to them ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (Matthew 7:23)
Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32)
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you…” (Luke 12:20)
That’s just a tiny sampling of what Jesus had to say about judgement. Likewise there is much to be found concerning Jesus and compassion and forgiveness. But the latter is seldom tempered by the former in today’s Church. Our Church leaders have thrown out the Bible message of judgement believing everything will work out if we only preach compassion.
Well in case nobody has informed them let me say it: it’s not working. Our nation is proverbially going to hell in a hand-basket. When were you planning on telling everyone that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)?
Revival will not come until the message of judgement is faithfully preached. I realize it is not a very popular message. But don’t sell it short. Many people know they are living in sin and intuit that something bad lay ahead if they don’t stop. They’re just waiting on someone with the gumption to say it to them. Read the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. Just a brief message from a rather unwilling prophet about imminent judgment and behold: “the people of Nineveh believed God”! (Jonah 3:5). And when they demonstrated repentance “God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them…” (Jonah 3:10).
What a novel idea! Inform people that if they continue living the way they are living there will be a price to pay. Try it Church. I know it sounds primitive and utterly and overly simplistic but you know what? It has proven itself over and over again throughout history. Why it is even predicted for the end times. Read Revelation 18 and you’ll hear a familiar message.
Ray Rooney, Jr.