Back in the olden days (the mid-1990′s) I preached a few times at a small church (averaging 12 each Sunday) in eastern Arkansas. They had a rotation system that determined who would take the visiting speaker home for lunch, and one day my lot fell to two elderly ladies who made awesome roast beef!
As I sat in their living room visiting after lunch, they brought out some photo albums from the church’s history. I was amazed to see crowds of people stuffed so tight into the little white clapboard building that they were spilling out into the yard around the church with small groups gathered around each window leaning in to hear a loud evangelist thunder forth the gospel. The next few photos were of the mass baptisms they conducted in the White River – dozens had come to claim Jesus Christ.
Some argue that “revival” isn’t about people being saved but about the church coming back to life. I agree, but the byproduct of the church coming to life is nearly always that lost people knowing and claiming Christ as Savior to the glory of God. I had grown up in a similar tradition with loud evangelists, standing-room only crowds, and mass baptisms in Clear Fork Creek in southern Kentucky.
I’ll never forget those two ladies’ question to me. “Pastor, why don’t we see revivals like these anymore?”
My heart has hurt over their question since the day they posed it for at least two reasons. First, I, too, hunger for a fresh, massive, community-shaking movement of the Holy Spirit of God. But second, my heart hurts over their question because they weren’t really asking why doesn’t God move like this anymore? Whether they realized it or not, they were actually wondering why doesn’t a movement of God look like that anymore? The difference is subtle, but worth exploring.
Here’s my bottom line… If revival happens, defined as God’s Spirit sweeping through a community to draw people back to Himself to passionately live for Him, it probably won’t look like it did before. That’s just the way of God. He does old things in new ways. This is why I don’t ever expect to hear from a donkey, to see the Mississippi River part, or to see a duplication of the events of the Day of Pentecost. But I do expect God to move in response to the pleading of His people for revival.
What do you expect?