Revising Revival – Part 1 2 Chr. 7:14 in Context

2 Chr. 7:14 in Context

Revising Revival – Part 1. 2 Chr. 7:14 in Context

“Revival” is a charged term. It can mean different things to different people. When egos, identities, money, and insecurity get into the “revival business,” things go unhealthy quickly. In this series we will look at 2 Chr. 7:14 in CONTEXT and from a NT perspective. It has nothing to do with “revival.”

While strictly not a ‘biblical” term, perhaps the most generic definition of revival could be: God’s exceptional redemptive activity in time. Many have their identities, lives, and entire ministries invested in various ideas of what they think revival looks like. The problem is, our definition and expectations of revival are often strongly influenced by our non-New Testament theology, our religious, political, and social cultures and unresolved ego issues.

2 Chronicles 7:14 has been the basis of prayer for local church, community, national/geo-political revival in every Western faith community I’ve belonged to for forty years.[1] It has been prayed, wept over, fasted with, and used in prayer walks, 24-7 prayer vigils, racial reconciliation meetings, all forms of evangelism, political activism, corporate repentance for sin, spiritual mapping, spiritual warfare, prophetic warfare, and more. The results? Neither the churches I’ve belonged to, nor the communities I’ve lived in, experienced anything remotely resembling revival. Lots of striving. Lots of guilt. Lots of manipulation for emotional energy and money, but not much “revival.” Is “revival” really so complicated?

Forty years of no result is not a good track record. Someone once defined mental illness as persisting in the same activity and expecting a different result. Honesty requires re-examination of what we’ve been doing and why we do it. That is, reevaluating our methods, motives, belief systems, and expectations regarding revival.

Instead of trying to create some great, new, “revival movement,” why not try to do the great old thing consistently well?–love God, love our neighbors as ourselves, love the world, and love the brotherhood like Christ has loved us.” I have found giving myself to that is a full time job, and I don’t have to worry too much about “conditions for a great revival.” I think a few folks doing the latter well, regularly, and empowered by the Spirit, is revival. It will catch on. It’s just not practiced very well or very often. Is sacrificial, incarnational living really so mysterious? I don’t think so. Does it really require endless clock hours of groaning at an altar begging God to send revival? I don’t think so. I think something is out of whack in our expectations, theology, and practices.

Two possible objections immediately come to mind:

  • You might say this is my individual experience and it has no value. I would agree . . . if it were just my experience. It’s not.
  • God’s timing is not ours. Our job is to pray and wait in faith. It’s His domain to implement His plan in His perfect season.

Let’s talk about both of these.

I like to ask some simple questions in communities around the world when I am with them:

“How many of you have prayed this prayer (2 Chr. 7:14) at some time in your Christian experience?” Nearly every hand goes up.

“How many of you have seen your communities revived?” No hands go up—zero.[2] This is not just my individual experience, but a common, Western, body of Christ-wide experience.

I then ask a third question:

“How many of you have ever heard this verse preached and exegeted in its context?” So far, forty years and still counting, without exception, no hands go up.

This is a problem. We base our revival theology and practice on a verse that, generally speaking:

a) no one has ever heard taught or exegeted in context, and
b) no one has ever seen work in the West. I find this troubling.

The appeal to faith and issues of God’s timing sound reasonable, and are perhaps spiritually and theologically true. However, these are not  what the 2 Chr. 7:14  promises or demands. As it is typically taught, this is a quid pro quo[3] verse. The context is also immediately observable results, not indefinite waiting in vague spiritual hope (see pages 13-14). We can’t claim this passage  literally applies to “revival,” and then start making excuses when we don’t see the results the passage plainly promises. It’s simply not honest to do so. Spiritual and intellectual integrity requires more than that.

Some might say, for example,  that revival derived from 100 years of prayer by the Moravians and we need to leave the timing element up to God. That sounds great. But the point is, we don’t base doctrine on experience: good or bad, yours or mine, or the Moravians, and that is NOT what 2 Chr. 7:14 promises — in context. We can be thankful and rejoice in God’s manifested goodness with whomever, whenever, wherever, and however it happens, but we don’t base doctrine on anyone’s subjective experiences.

We need to be honest about these things and look at the passage–paying attention to context and culture–and in the light of new covenant understanding, regardless of how upsetting an exercise it might be to those with vested interests in maintaining a “revival culture.”

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This blog is  an excerpt of our book: Revising Revival: 2 Chr. 7:14, A New Covenant Perspective available at www.stevecrosby.com

 

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[1] Covering multiple communities in six different states in the US.

[2] I am aware of claims of citywide revivals through certain ministries associated with “Transformations.” This is not the place to critique these reports other than to say that objective investigation has shown that not all are what they have been presented to be.

[3] Latin: this for that. If we do this, God will do that, period.

2 comments on “Revising Revival – Part 1 2 Chr. 7:14 in Context

  1. There are an emense number of texts that people pull out of context to support their own philosophical strategies so this is no surprise to me.

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