Recently I had the privilege of sitting through some teaching by Dr. Michael Haykin on the topic of Baptist Revival and Renewal. As many people know, there have been several times during the history of the church, including the baptist tradition, when God has poured our His Spirit in a unique way to awaken His church from apathy and save thousands of people. I have causually and formally studied these movements in various ways and in various times, and although I am no expert, there are three discernable elements in every revival/spiritual awakening I have studied. If we long to see God do these kinds of works again, I would submit that a good place to start working would be on the recovery of these three concerns in the life of the church.
1. Clear Preaching from God's Word.
With the exception of the Second Great Awakening, the leading preachers of most of these movements have been incredible students of God's word whose ministry did not change when revival came. Rather, they were faithful servants who proclaimed the truth of God's word in a way that people could understand. They did not shy away from 'hard' truths or from cultural hot spots. They faithfully proclaimed the entire word of God from the word of God. Many of these preachers were incredible theologians as well.
True revival has at its basis the clear proclamation of God's Word. Why? Because it is through the foolishness of the Word preached that God is well-pleased to save people (1 Cor. 1:21). If North America wants to see the church revived, it needs to return the Scriptures to a place of prominance in the life and services of the church. We need fewer video clips, less dramas, and more expository sermons.
2. A Concern for Holiness
One does not have to spend much time in the Bible to realize that God is a holy God, and that He calls his people to be holy. Holiness has two aspects to it. First, it means to be set apart for God. God's people have been called out of the world (lost humanity enslaved to their sin) and into a relationship with God. Second, holiness describes moral purity. It is the absence of sin. Sin defines the world and it's relationship, or lack there of, with God. God expects His people to reflect His holiness. Now granted, as fallen humans, we will never perfectly reflect God's holiness in this life. But that does not mean we should stop trying! As I look at my own life, the lives of many Christians around me, and the landscape of the North American church, I fear we are trying to see how close we can to the world and still be okay with God. Yet the world is enslaved to sin, and to be at peace with the world is to be at emnity with God. The church needs to recapture its vision for God's holiness and its desire to be Christ's holy, spotless, and blameless bride. In every revival movement I have ever read about, there was a concern for the holiness of God that motivated people's repentance and empowered their transformation.
There has never been a major awakening that was not drenched before, during, and after with prayer. Prayer was a major part of the lives of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Richard Baxter, the Wesley Brothers, George Whitfield, D. L. Moody, Jonathan Edwards, Robert M'Cheyne, Andrew Fuller, Charles Spurgeon, and Andrew and John Murray's lives, and all these men saw God do incredible things through them. And these are just a few names. I could keep going. It was at a prayer meeting that the Spirit of God fell on the Apostles on the day of Pentacost. There is an inseparable link between God's people seeking Him through prayer and God doing great and amazing things for His glory.
Without being unduly critical, I see all three of these elements largely missing in many churches. I see some of them missing in my own life and church. I believe we will find our way forward by going backward...by returning to these simple practices prescribed in God's word. And may God delight to do again what He has so powerfully done in the past.
Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
~ Taken from William Mackay's hymn Revivus Us Again