The “revival” industry is a guilt and shame-based, obedience avoidance mechanism, that puts on to God responsibility for some great future day “if only” certain conditions are met by us. It fosters a do nothing (other than our meetings), hyper-spirituality that allows one to feel good about one’s self as being “spiritual” for begging, moaning, and pleading for “revival” in the future while doing nothing practical for humanity today. The problem is, the “if only” list is never ending, conditions are never met, or some blame shifting mechanism is developed to explain away why “revival” never happens, in spite of all our spiritual gymnastics. Hucksters leverage the guilt to keep the meetings full and the cash flowing.
There are those who are inclined “revivalistically” who would have us believe that if we were just more____________ (fill in the blank with a virtue of your choice) that we would finally satisfy God somehow and revival would spring forth. If three hundred years [see full treatment in our booklet from which this is excerpted] of the prayers of the righteous have been so ineffective as to show no progress, or even regression, why would we think more of the same kind of effort for the next three hundred years would produce different results? Will people three hundred years from now be bemoaning their state by reading about us bemoaning ours?
Could it be that we have some faulty, and in no small way, fancifully romantic ideas of what “revival” looks like? There has never been a perfect day in a perfect church, because human beings are always involved. Since Calvary, every day is a day of divine favor and opportunity, not prescribed perfections. His mercies are new every morning. Spiritual idealism will kill present joy.
There’s a great tension regarding the Lord’s Church. It’s both a disaster and a wonder at the same time. We all tend to view the Church and what “needs to happen” through the lens of our gift mix and calling. We all have an “if only” that reflects the particular prism through which we view what we believe to be lacking, or otherwise “holding back revival” in the Church:
- If only we were more holy, then God would . . .
- If only we would win more souls, then God would . . .
- If only we had more prayer and fasting, then God would . . .
- If only we had more commitment to the Word, then God would . . .
- If only our families were in order, then God would . . .
- If only we had more character integrity, then God would . . .
- If only we had more inner healing, then God would . . .
- If only we were more repentant, then God would . . .
- If only we would cry out in anguish, then God would . . .
- If only we could recover Jewish roots, then God would
- If only we had more intimacy in worship, then God would . . .
- If only we had citywide unity, then God would . . .
- If only we had the demonstration of miracles, then God would . . .
- If only we would abandon man-made traditions, then God would . . .
- If only we would humble ourselves enough, then God would . . .
- If only we could reach the next generation, then God would . . .
- If only we could throw off the spirit of poverty, then God would . . .
- If only we had more love, then God would . . .
The list never ends. Dear friends, these things could be said of any generation. Depending on how you and I are “wired” and called, we will differ in our opinions of what we think the vital missing ingredient might be to supposedly release the manifestation of His kingdom in fullness. How is it that a faith that supposedly starts out with the unmerited favor of God degenerates into our trying to overcome the alleged eternal dissatisfactions and reluctance of God by our improved behavior?
Skilled pulpiteers can intellectually and emotionally manipulate a crowd into a weep-fest by carping on individual or corporate deficiencies ad nauseum. The same pulpiteers can simultaneously build quite a following for themselves, as “champions of __________” (fill in the blank with the cause of your choice). God is not necessarily involved in any of it. It doesn’t take a genius to see what’s wrong. It’s another matter to reveal Christ as all sufficient for all perceived lack—individual and corporate—past, present, and future.
The great danger among revivalists and those (including myself) who are passionate for purity, accuracy, and radical reformation is that if we are not deeply established in the delights of the present reality of the New Covenant and the grace of God, we risk being perpetually frustrated and dissatisfied. Rather than being messengers of the Good News of Jesus Christ, we can become the spiritual equivalent of a supermarket tabloid: bad news sells—fifty-two weeks a year.
God is not limited by our “if onlys.” In fact, in Christ, He took the “if onlys” out of the divine equation. The Old Covenant is characterized by humanity’s ifs and God’s responses: if you . . . then I will. There are no “ifs” in the New Covenant. In the New Covenant, God has declared his “I wills” (8 uncontingent I wills of God in the NC promise of Jer.31/Heb.8) apart from our “if onlys.” God has sworn an oath with Himself (Hebrews 6:17-20), because he knows he cannot rely on our “if onlys” and promises. The “if onlys” have all been met by Jesus Christ, crucified, and resurrected. Our job is to appropriate by faith what is done, and live it out, not create a list of contingencies for God.
New Covenant Christianity is meant to be enjoyed, savored, and experienced as a present reality, in the face of all deficiencies. Even as different ones of us pursue much needed change and reform, we must never forget the favor and amen of God that rests upon us individually and His Church corporately, even as we/she experience the chastising disciplines of children, and the unnecessary self-inflicted woes of our individual and corporate carnalities.
Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.