Will You Recognize Revival When It Comes?

I’ve been thrilled by reports that revival has broken out once again at Asbury University. I was impacted by the 1970 revival there, so Asbury has a special place in my heart.

Most of my friends are excited by this news. Others are completely “out of the loop” and still haven’t heard what’s happening. And of course there are critics—those who judge the events at Asbury as illegitimate, not a true revival at all.

This has caused me to have a flashback about the Pharisees during the time of Jesus. No one studied the Scriptures more diligently, nor waited more expectantly for the coming Messiah.

But when the Messiah came, the Pharisees couldn’t recognize Him! Doesn’t that seem incredible? Despite yearning for the Messiah so passionately, they rejected Him when He didn’t come in the form they expected.

Throughout the Gospels, common folk embraced Jesus, while theologians and “experts” rejected Him. This fact should be terrifying to all of us who consider ourselves to be experts in the things of God today.

What a sobering lesson for us! Whatever expectations you have about the “coming revival,” be careful not to miss it because you thought it would look different.

I’ve decided that even if we’re destined to see a mighty outpouring of rain from heaven, we need to rejoice if we presently just see a tiny cloud, “the size of a man’s hand” (1 Kings 18).

Revisiting the Perfect Church

I’m so old that I’ve lived through lots of spiritual movements: the Jesus Movement, Charismatic Movement, Word of Faith Movement, Prophetic Movement, Apostolic Movement, Cell Church Movement, Church Growth Movement, Seeker Church Movement—and probably some other ones I’ve forgotten about. No wonder I’m so tired!

Each of these past movements had their critics. Yet honestly, I enjoyed them all.

Nevertheless, none of these movements succeeded in bringing about the Perfect Church. Someday I’ll share the story about how three friends and I actually planted the “Perfect Church” in 1976. We were convinced no one else was truly building according to the New Testament pattern.

If you’re still attempting to build the Perfect Church, my hat goes off to you. But for me, this turned out to be one of my life’s most disillusioning experiences!

There’s a major problem in considering the book of Acts to represent the Perfect Church: The church in Acts was never perfect! If you don’t believe me, read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Lots of problems!

Likewise, none of the past revivals were perfect. I’m a big fan of John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, Azusa Street, and other moves of God. But if we had a time machine and could visit those days, there’s a good chance we might be disappointed.

The Paradox of Revival

As I’ve tried to process all of this, I’ve concluded that our quest for revival creates quite a paradox. On the one hand, we should certainly crave the kind of power and impact displayed by the early church. In fact, I’m even OK with asking God for “greater works” than the church has ever seen before.

But on the other hand, I’ve committed myself to rejoicing in what God is already doing. It does no good to curse our “day of small beginnings” just because we’re believing for something more.

Gratitude is a powerful thing! When we’re grateful for what we already have, we position ourselves to receive even MORE. When we recognize the blessings God has already given us, we’re a lot more likely to unlock greater blessings in the days to come.