Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Right Kind of Revival

For the decade or so that I have been born again I have fellowshipped with a wide variety of those who call themselves Christians from various denominations. I have seen the whole spectrum of Christian activity from hyper-conservative/fundamentalist, to “uber-charismatic” and everything in between. During that time I had pretty wide exposure to the charismatic side of the church and observed what they call “revivals.” What I always found most interesting about these events is that one could plan people repenting and being born again, but therein lies the problem.

What is a revival? What is being revived? Is “revive” even a correct term to describe spiritually dead people coming to life for the first time? Can you revive what was never “vived” to begin with? Much of the “revival” movement finds its roots back in what contemporaries of the movement called “the awakening.” This took place largely in the mid to late 1700’s starting in England and gradually flooding over much of the western world.

There is little debate amongst Christian historians that at the forefront of this amazing time period was a preacher from the Church of England by the name of George Whitefield. Whitefield was in his early twenties when he began to preach and was, at the time, the youngest “given orders” (allowed to preach in the Church) at the time. Whitefield, in his time, was the household name of the western world. Young George’s preaching drew thousands and thousands of people which resulted, generally, in many people weeping and being concerned for their souls and the glory of God.

Following Whitefield’s visit to Scotland, where he preached to ten’s of thousands, there awoke a deep desire in the Scottish people for the things of God and answers for questions about their eternal state. This deep awakening for a knowledge of the things of God and the Scottish people’s concern for their souls climaxed at a meeting in the small town of Cambuslang on February 18th, 1742.

During the preaching of the very devout and reformed minister Rev. William McCulloch (though known to be quite dull in his preaching; the opposite of Whitefield), those gathered became so concerned for their souls and God’s honor that great waters sprang forth from the rocks of people’s hearts, so to speak, and flooded down their sorrow stricken faces. These events continued for some time under the ministry of a man who had never seen such things before and was certainly not known for emotionalism. Skeptical, well respected ministers from all around came to observe what was happening in the little village to verify that it was, in fact, a work of God and not just manipulated enthusiasm. A report from one of these ministers,I think, should serve as a template for what true “awakening’s” or “revivals” ought to look like:

“I found a good many persons under the deepest exercise of soul, crying out most bitterly of their lost and miserable state, by reason of sin; of their unbelief, in despising Christ and the offers of the Gospel; of the hardness of their heart; and of their gross carelessness and indifference about religion...I heard them express great sorrow for these things, and seemingly in the most serious and sincere manner, and this not so much...from fear of punishment as from a sense of the dishonour done to God...”

Another report from one of the most respected, yet also most critical ministers, John Willison of Dundee, reads similarly:

“...some who had been very wicked and scandalous, but now wonderfully chang’d...very rude and boisterous before, they had the meekness of the lamb...Though I conversed with a great many, both men and women, old and young, I could observe nothing visionary or enthusiastic about them...Upon the whole I look on the Work at Cambuslang as a singular and marvellous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

It is important to note, in these most griping reports, that this followed not a ministry of miraculous healing, signs or wonders, but the faithful preaching of the Word of God and in particular the Gospel of Reconciliation! And what were the results? Not faintings and fits, but tears of sorrow, repentence, changed lives and a legitimate desire for the honor of God! Men and women more concerned for the dishonor and spite they had shown towards so loving and merciful a God than the state of their theretofore damned souls...oh how my heart explodes with a desire to see this right kind of revival!