Three Reasons Revival Isn’t Happening
Let’s be honest. Spiritual awakenings are happening throughout the world – but not in the West.
I’d like to propose three reasons for this, in the form of questions. I offer these in a spirit of humility, not with snark or arrogant assumption. I really, really want to see churches revived and shining brightly, and I really want to see them impact the world in a tangible, statistically meaningful way. I’ve been praying for that to happen in my culture for more than twenty years, to no apparent avail. So I’m searching. I’m wondering.
Reason #1: Is the Mission Missing?
Missions is the purpose of the Church in this world; our prime directive. Missions is the way in which we are to “glorify God” practically – by sharing His light, love, and name among the nations, filling the world with joyful disciples. Without the Great Commission, our churches have no reason to exist – and thus, no reason to be revived.
There are plenty of parachurch and denominational groups out there blowing the trumpet for mission engagement – unreached people groups, Bible translation, church planting, children’s ministry, pastoral training, etc. Amen to all of that! But I’ll ask you honestly: does the average person in your church own the Great Commission? Personally? Is it their prime directive? Are church kids growing up with passionate hearts to fill the world with the gospel? I know a few are. But big picture, I don’t think strategic missions is on the radar for most Western Christian families. Which means we have no shared objective to animate any fervent revival interest. Church gets reduced to Sunday songs and sermons, with an optional list of amenities to enjoy throughout the week.
If that’s true, it’s no surprise that no one shows up at prayer meetings. Why should they? What difference will it make? There is no collective sense of need, because there is no collective attempt to do something bold in the kingdom of God. Where there is no vision, the people quite literally perish, along with their churches.
Reason #2: Is Strategy Neglected?
I know this is an ongoing challenge for all of us. I served in the pastorate for twelve years before moving toward parachurch revival and mission work. In every ministry post I’ve held to date, strategy has been an area of great discussion and spirited debate.
“How do we measure what we’re doing?” “How do we know if our ministry is working?” “What areas of the church should we be building up intentionally?” “How should we be planning ahead?” “What gospel work needs to be done in our area?” “What people groups worldwide can our church help engage with the gospel?”
But here again, I’d like to invite you out of the boardroom and into the living room of the average Christian believer. Are they tackling strategic, kingdom objectives? Are their churches providing those? If they keep doing what they’re doing, will the world ever be reached? Do they know if their Christian life is going somewhere other than to church two out of the next four Sunday mornings? I’m not suggesting that everyone become some sort of strategic mastermind, but I am wondering if the average Christian is taught how to seek the kingdom first, or how to really be a part of completing the Great Commission. Some get this training and encouragement, to be sure. But do most?
Here again, we make an assumption that people would “want revival” based on the idea that the presence and power of God would be, of course, the most “strategic” way forward. But to where exactly? And why? If I can’t answer those questions, I can’t imagine being very passionate about revival.
Reason #3: Are We Waiting for Power We Already Have?
I deeply appreciate the fact that revival involves the life of the Holy Spirit. But when I hear revival being explained, I notice modern preachers taking great pains to carefully express that revival is God’s doing, never ours. “Revival is a sovereign act of God,” sounds the common refrain.
I’m willing to accept that premise in part, but I like to qualify it this way: “…and He is calling you to take obedient action!” I honestly can’t look at the Bible and come away feeling like I’m supposed to prayerfully wait for God to make the next move, when He has specifically commissioned me to take faith-filled action as His ambassador!
If we were living in the short time between the Ascension of Christ and the Day of Pentecost, or perhaps during one of the darker Old Testament moments, then I suppose “waiting” could be our keyword. But after Acts 1:8? When we’ve already been commissioned and empowered to be worldwide witnesses?
There is nothing in the Scripture that says we need “more” or “better” or “purer” or “fresh” or “new” or “different” or “extraordinary” or anything else before we can mobilize. God already outlined the ends and He already provided the means! We just need to obey the Great Commission.
A Different Focus in Pursuing Revival
I grew up working with the 2 Chronicles 7:14 revival paradigm, applying it to my life and to my nation. I think that was good. The four elements outlined in that verse are critical ones for God’s people in any era. However, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t tilt our revival conversation a bit more toward the future, toward the completion of God’s global, eternal mission?
Maybe if we focused in on that – not just in our leadership circles but among everyday believers – we’d see a different kind of revival prayer, intensity, and motivation emerge. Maybe that would give us the basis for practical, actionable unity. And maybe along the way we’d find ourselves doing the one and only thing Jesus left us on earth to do.
Copyright © 2015 Dan Jarvis. All rights reserved.
Dan Jarvis serves as Message Director for Life Action Ministries in Buchanan, Michigan, and is the managing editor of Revive Magazine, a free publication for leaders dedicated to core revival principles (www.lifeaction.org). He and his wife Melissa are foster parents and have adopted six energetic kids into their forever family. Dan recently authored an investigative book on the explosive growth of the church in South Asia (Commissioned: How God is Changing Lives, Transforming Nations and Involving You / 2014) and loves to help connect churches to strategic gospel opportunities in the 10/40 window. You can follow Dan on Twitter @danjarvisus or contact him personally at [email protected].