The church, by and large, has found herself in the very uncomfortable position of being marginalized today- relegated to a marginal position within our society. Most see the church as neither dangerous nor desirable.
The church in this desperate condition has responded in one of two ways: either we have circled the wagons and entrenched ourselves in "tried and true traditions" or we have turned to mass marketing as the answer to all our woes. I am neither a prophet or a son of a prophet but I am an observer of things and I can tell you unequivocally that neither of these approaches are working. We cannot achieve the work of the spirit in the arms of the flesh, no matter how successful those programs have been in the past or how innovative they are now.
The great need of the church today is a true revival. Now, I ask your pardon for what I am about to write. One of the greatest hindrances to revival today is our propensity to call certain meetings a revival. The way that works in the traditional church is we plan meetings that we deem as special meetings - a term we give to them because we've brought in an outside speaker and outside talent and we meet for a few additional nights during the week - and we call these revivals. In actuality these meetings are neither very special nor do they result in an awakening within the sleeping church. A handful attend the meetings, perhaps shout their "amen's" but as soon as the meeting is over we go right back to living the same way we lived before we attended those meetings.
In the innovative church we have special festivals where we entertain the participants; they take what we give them gladly and go home congratulating themselves on what they were able to take, but there is very little lasting change since we have tried to make the gospel so inoffensive that we've removed all substance of the truth.
I think one of the best definitions of revival comes from the pen of Vance Havner, "A revival is the church falling in love with Jesus Christ all over again. We are in love with ourselves, in love with our particular crowd, in love with our fundamentalism, maybe, but not in love with Him."
There are certain marks that have accompanied all of true revivals in history. First there is a public recognition of sin. People admit their needs and turn away from their sin; they don't try to hide them and maintain them. Second, there is an increased desire for Bible study. Along with that desire is the desire to obey what we read. Third, there is an increase in effective prayer. Fourth, there is a noticeable change is society as fifth, people are converted and become faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus. Today we are seeing a lot of so called decisions for Christ but there seems to be a dearth of disciples. We have today churchmen for whom church membership is little more than a religious credit card. It costs them nothing in this life and will be worth nothing in the next. Too many in our churches today are trying to get to heaven as cheaply as possible and that is precisely why the modern church finds herself marginalized.
There is a remedy. We need to fall in love with Jesus Christ all over again. We need revival. But we will never get to our feet again as the church of Jesus Christ until we first get on our knees before him.
Vance Havner wrote, "In (the) great (Welsh) revival they had no advance publicity, no choirs, no song books, no order of service or offerings, no famous preacher (great preachers attended but they sat in the congregation). All they had in this revival was God.
Maybe we'll get around to that some day again. Maybe sometime heaven will come down without our 'packing the pew,' pin-the tail on the donkey, talking horses, karate experts, and theatrical personalities. 'Where my people gather in my name, there am I'-that is not just a promise but a fact!"
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org