While many talk of revival in the church, few in fact want it. We say we want a visitation of God, but when He shows up, we reject it. God didn’t show up and behave Himself. He didn’t act like we told Him to. That’s what we hate about revival—God takes over.
Those who have taken Experiencing God or have had a taste of “the deeper life,” “the Spirit-filled life,” or whatever term you want to call it, know something the average pew dweller doesn’t know. When God moves, He upsets the status quo. When He does, those who are following him have to go with Him or surrender to those who cry out for the good old days of business as usual.
If we aren’t moving with God, we are fighting against Him. If we aren’t open to His corrective surgery in our lives, we are accepting cancerous rebellion in our lives. There is no middle ground. Go with God or shake your fist in His face. The choice is always ours. Countless churches stand as testimony of what happens when you don’t go with God. They are empty, dead, lifeless, predictable and boring. Nothing happens. Why? They worship God as they have created Him in their image, not God as He is revealed in Scripture.
The standards set forth for worship, prayer, witnessing and living in the Word is the New Testament norm. the standards set forth by denominations, tradition or public opinions are always below the New Testament norm. That’s why when a new convert comes into most churches, he has to backslide to have fellowship with the membership. The average church member lives so far below the standard that when someone lives up to the standard, he’s considered weird.
God is more willing to lead us into a time of refreshing and revival than we are willing to seek it. He desires it; we often resist it. He commands it: “Repent or else…” We shake our fists in His face and say, “Or else what?” I’ve been in places where the attitude was: “We did just fine here before God showed up and messed up our little religion.”
Tozer said it well, “It is useless for large companies of believers to spend long hours begging God to send revival. Unless we intend to reform, we may as well not pray.” Revival is not an earthly concoction; it is a heavenly creation. When it comes, there is a renewed passion for holiness, righteousness, worship, prayer and witnessing. When it is absent, there is a pressure to perform, keep up numbers and look good at all costs. The tendency in the absence of revival is to clean up the surface but never scrub the heart.
Revival is lacking in our nation. Republicans won’t bring it. Democrats can’t stop it. It is from God. A return to values will not come from legislation. It will only come out of repentance. The bottom is falling out in our culture and in our churches. The reason is in such terrible shape is that our churches are so anemic. There is no repentance among the offended. There is no forgiveness offered.
We say we want revival in our land. We want to return to the “good old days.” In the good old days, Grandma and Grandpa believed in Holy Ghost revival. They prayed for rain, worked for a harvest and humbled themselves before God. In the good old days, even the Baptists and Methodists were known to shout “hallelujah.” In the good old days, church activities were more important than soccer, t-ball, ballet, dance classes and part-time jobs. In the good old days, we had a holy reverence for the Sabbath. We believed in church more than one hour a week. Don’t ask God to bless if you aren’t willing to correct the error of your own ways. Revival leaves no stone unturned, no sin uncovered, no compromise excused. God is merciless with our lives when He is in control.
When revival comes, it consists of a new spiritual life imparted to the dead and a new spiritual vitality imparted to the living. Nothing remains the same, or it’s something less than revival. Revival is not blowing the top off. It’s knocking the props out. The props of religion, respectability, pious pride, tradition and unbiblical opinions have to go. In their place, God brings Holy Spirit empowered ministry, humble service, willing workers, sacrificial saints and passionate praying. Revival is the necessary exchange of a “form of godliness” for the power of God.
You cannot plan a revival or even predict one. You can’t dictate the direction of the wind, but you can set your sails to catch it. Revival, true revival, is a divine interruption of the status quo and man’s fleshly efforts to please God. Nor can you stop a revival. The timing, the extent and the impact of revival are all in God’s hands. No revival lasts forever, but its effects will always last.
If you want to know what hinders revival in the church, it’s Sunday morning Christianity—showing up, tipping God, evaluating the service by your personal standards rather than God’s Word and giving nodding approval but never living it out in the world. Vance Havner said, “There never was a real revival that did not produce heart burn and hallelujahs.” We hate heartburn. We’d rather see people in our community burn in hell than go through the pain of God burning away our flesh.
According to Steven Olford, “Revival is not some emotion or worked up excitement; it is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.” It is an extraordinary movement producing extraordinary results. It is obedience to the Word, commitment to godliness and practical obedience.
I’ve personally been a part of one great movement of God in my life. I’ve seen God do such a mighty work that it could not be explained. I’ve watched Him sovereignly move. I long to see it again. Will we sit on the sidelines and be a “good” church or will we set our sails to catch the wind of the Spirit and go with God as He is, not as we want Him to be? It’s our choice…we just have to be ready to live with our decision.
“They tell me a revival is only temporary; so is a bath, but it does you good.” –Billy Sunday
© Michael Catt, 2006.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.