Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Reflections on Revival

'There are many things concerning this work [of revival] that are well known. These are sufficient to determine it to be the work of God… The Spirit who is at work takes people’s minds off the vanities of the world. He engages them in a deep concern about eternal happiness. He puts their thoughts on earnestly seeking their salvation. He convinces them of the dreadfulness of sin and of their own guile and miserable natural state. The Spirit awakens men’s consciences and makes them aware of God’s awful anger. He causes in them a great desire and earnest care and endeavor to obtain God’s favor. He causes them to be more diligent in the use of His appointed means of grace. Especially, this is seen in a greater desire to hear and read the word of God. And it is well known that the Spirit who is at work operates as the Spirit of truth. He makes people more aware of what is really true in those things that concern their eternal salvation. He impresses on them that they must die and that life is very short and uncertain. He shows them there is a great sin-hating God to whom they are accountable and who will fix them in an eternal state in another world. He shows them they stand in great need of a Savior. He makes persons more aware of the value of Jesus who was crucified and their need of Him. And this awareness moves them earnestly to seek an interest in Him.'

Jonathan Edwards
Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, 1741. Modern language courtesy of Archie Parrish, The Spirit of Revival, Crossway Books, 2000, p. 109-110.

This morning I met with fellow local pastors for early morning 'Pastors prayers' and I shared my experience of Wales and we prayed together. This lead on to each of us reflecting on the times we have witnessed moves of God- two of us had visited Toronto in the early 90's and other stories followed. Another of us told the story of George Jeffery (founder of Elim) which was new to me.

I am cautious about using the word 'Revival' and Keller here and here talks helpfully about what constitutes such a definition. However, in these times of great spiritual poverty, secularism, addiction and material need any move of God should be welcomed, protected, prayed for and encouraged. Our times are desperate ones. You can read the latest stats on C of E attendance here.

My thoughts on moves of God in no particular order are:

1. They start with prayer: Reading Red Moon Rising tells you that all the major awakenings have a backdrop of prayer. Its nature and who is involved in it is always different but be sure that it is prayer that moves God's hand. The kneeling, weeping, praying women of Cwmbran are fresh in my mind.

2. They are about the lost: A genuine revival ushers in the lost and to be sustained it must also have a plan for discipleship. Whitfield the evangelist was much blessed to have Wesley the organiser to put some structure and longevity into the great awakening. The healing miracle that took place in Cwmbran is happily being used by God as a springboard to the proclamation of the gospel to the lost which should encourage us all (and is the model in Acts). Too often the church hijacks such events for its own ends and stifles the Spirit. Genuine revival is always marked by salvations. Richard Taylor would do well to learn from Wesley and be convicted by Evan's failure to disciple the converts of 1904-6. He'd do well to read some Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Platt's 'Follow me', Chan's 'Multiply' and Breen's 'Building a discipleship culture' alongside books on signs and wonders so as to ensure Cwmbran's discipleship impact.

3. They are accompanied by a battle: All moves of God cause the church to ask the question 'Is this God?' The Bible is full of warning that we are not to be deceived but it is also full of hope of a harvest to be in-gathered. The enemy hates sinners turning to Jesus and being rescued from hell and will do everything to quash it.

4. The established church often looks on in disdain: The Pharisee's missed Jesus at work before their eyes for want of ritual, order and 'the tradition of the elders'. Revival's disturb the liturgy and bring the unchurched into our worship spaces who then disrupt things because they don't know how things are done. The C of E pushed Whitfield and Wesley into the fields but with hindsight praise God that they did.

5. They push internal theological debates to the sidelines: The church in this land has been ignoring mission for three generations and has been consumed with issues of theological liberalism, gender and sexuality. Do watch this debate between Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson of NFI. A real revival would I believe shift the conversation towards discipleship, the poor and to mission.

via Take your Vitamin Z

6. They usher in something new with something unchanging: The gospel remains the same but the means and who God uses will be different. Ironically, it is often the custodians of an old move of God who hold back or object to the new one. Simon Ponsonby's 'More' is another good commentary on the why's and how's around moves of the Spirit. If this is a move of God in Wales it may well not be like what has gone before and we should be prepared for it not to be. That is why its custodians needs prayer, the wisdom of loving peers and patience to wait on the Lord and be obedient to his leadings. 


Phil Allcock said...

David, it was great to meet you last week at St.Marks.

There is one other thing I'd add to this list that I've noticed in reading about the Welsh Revivals, Cambuslang and the Great Awakening:

The time of Revival is preceded by a passionate devotion to holiness in the church. Perhaps this is because few things demonstrate a heart-devotion to God than a willingness to lay aside long-cherished sin and to sacrifice oneself for the glory of honouring and obeying God.

I hear what you say about the distracting, demoralising debates about sexuality etc. But I do wonder too whether they aren't growing out of a generation of Christians that wants to find a way of avoiding the demands of holiness. We want to be saved from the guilt of our sins and their eternal consequences, but we're not so keen to be saved from the daily presence of them...!

Interestingly too the Revivals seem to peter out amidst a lack of concern for holiness.

Hope to see you again soon and thanks for the heads up about Cwmbran - what an encouragement!

David Cooke said...

Thanks for the thought Phil and really good to meet the other day.

I certainly agree that holiness is central to revival. The question of the theological debates is of course linked and when the gospel is comprehended anew in times of revival all sorts of people are ushered into the church through conversion who need discipling.

Hope you find more to enjoy amid previous posts.



Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful