Recognition, Repentance, and Revival
I am an optimist when it comes to the matters of faith, church, and ministry. My elders used to say that I could find a pile of manure in the driveway and would be digging in it, exclaiming, “There has to be a pony in here somewhere!”
I suppose this is a good thing. However, there are times when we are confronted with the facts and, in spite of our optimism, must recognize reality and respond in a whole-hearted fashion to make important alterations.
Facts About Fractured Families
Not long ago, I picked up an economics magazine to read a cover story about the most recent U.S. Census and its implications. Many astounding facts captured my interest. Some of the highlights indicated a slowing of the overall population growth and a dramatic rise in the minority population, especially among the younger generation in major cities. Clearly our nation is changing rapidly and we must understand these realities for the sake of the Gospel, adjusting our attitudes and approaches in order to reach eternal souls with the good news of Jesus Christ.
There were two findings that were particularly riveting to my mind. The article revealed:
- For the first time, households headed by married couples were less than half the total.
- The number of married-with-child households has declined substantively and now represents just one-fifth of all households.
The conclusion of these statistics was that the traditional, nuclear family is no longer at the center of our society. Of course, we know that there are many single adults and single-parent homes that follow the Lord and are making a positive difference in our nation. However, we also know, as these facts indicate, that marriage and the family are under attack and losing their vital role as a foundation-stone of the culture.
More Reality Points
The scenario becomes more alarming when you consider other key indicators. For example:
- A recent study by the Pew Research Center told us that the percentage of Americans age 30 and younger who harbor some doubts about God’s existence has increased by 15% just in the last five years.
- According to the International Bible Society, 700 people stop reading their Bible in the United States every day.
- Every month, as many as 2,700 churches hold their last service, close their doors, and put up the “For Sale” sign.
- The recent Supreme Court ruling has officially made gay marriage mainstream in society and it has become increasingly visible in society and the media.
While I am not trying to be an alarmist, I do know that we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand of our comfortable evangelical cocoon. We must be fully aware of these trends and recognize our responsibility to function in the power of Christ as the salt and light of our culture. Specifically, I see three vital responses.
Just as the men of Issachar in the Old Testament who “had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32), we must be astute and aware of the realities of our day. Remembering that Jesus challenged His naïve disciples to “lift up their eyes” to see the fields that were already white for harvest (John 4:35), we must become fully awake to the needs and opportunities around us.
We must also be accurately self-aware as Christ-followers in the 21st century. In Jesus’ final messages to the churches found in Revelation chapters two and three, we find Him calling most of them to a reality check. They needed to recognize their spiritual condition. In one case, they had lost their first love, in another they had tolerated heresy, in another they were spiritually dead, and still another was “lukewarm” and did not even know it.
Ignorance and denial are two of the great enemies to spiritual health and impact. We must ask the Spirit to give us understanding of the realities that are not always apparent to us in our complacent routines. We must accept His assessment, embrace God’s word, see the societal realities, and be ready to join our Lord in His determination to explode His light and truth upon the darkness of our world.
In Jesus’ penetrating messages to the churches in Revelation He called most of them to a first response: repentance. This is a change of mind leading to a change of behavior. Many of us as modern-day believers need to repent of our lack of concern, our busyness, our prayerlessness, our weak witness, and our failure to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel cause.
Clearly, something needs to change in our society. The change begins with us. Our change begins with repentance. We often think of repentance as an outpouring of emotion at the altar of a church. Rather, it is a very volitional, grace-empowered choice to turn from one way of thinking, feeling, and acting – to another. We need this continual repentance as we understand our own need and the need of the broken world around us.
This repentance paves the way for Spirit-empowered recommitment. As we recognize our need for supernatural enabling in order to address the overwhelming needs of society, we must recommit to a lifestyle of dependent prayer. We must recommit to cherish and communicate the living word of God. We must recommit to bold witness. We must recommit to sacrificial and generous giving to the cause of Christ. We must recommit to becoming agents of renewal in our churches.
Darkness vs. Light?
I often say that we cannot point to the darkness in our society, expecting things to improve, until we accept our biblical responsibility as Christians in this society. We do not have a darkness problem. We have a light problem, because light always penetrates darkness. The key is a true revival among God’s people. Perhaps as we recognize, repent, and recommit, something fresh and powerful will begin anew in my heart and in yours.
Copyright © 2016 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.