Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another Great Awakening?

Is it time for another “Great Awakening in America? We have seen the transitions in the church from the Charismatic Movement of the 1970’s to the mega churches of the 21st Century, yet whenever we begin to discuss the state of the church with fellow believers, they all seem to say the same thing… they are hungry for a real move of God. Some don’t even know what that means. If you have never experience a genuine heaven sent move of God, one that resulted in repentance and prolonged change in both the church and the individual, you do not know what you are missing.
Years ago, as a young man, Rev. Martin Luther King wrote a paper in college entitled "An Appraisal of the Great Awakening" in which he looked back over those who influenced the coming of the first Great Awakening to the New England states in the 1740’s. He wrote… “The gradual decline of emotional fervor was also a factor which led to the Great Awakening. Religion had become unemotional, with a type of preaching unconducive to revivals and conversion.” While people had come to America to experience a freedom of religion, they soon began to organize their religious world and as they made more and more rules and guidelines for their faith, they settled into a passive routine of worship that lost it’s passion and power. It took the shaking and controversial ministries of men such as Theodore Frelinghuysen, the first revivalist, and George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards to turn the spiritual tide in America. Rev. King felt that the factors that led to the need for revival were (1) the failure of organized religion to reach the masses (2) the gradual decline of emotional fervor and (3) a breakdown in moral standards. The church today is certainly making a valiant effort to reach the masses today with the advent of the electronic media available to churches and ministries. Yet there is still a segment of society that seems stuck in the ‘religiosity’ of the past, going through the meaningless motions that their parents and grandparents did. Some faiths have controlled their congregants using fear, that if you should dare to go to another church, you will not go to heaven. Such false doctrine is certainly not Biblical, yet is very controlling.
Then there are those who have been taught that faith and religion is strictly an intellectual approach and that emotionalism has no place in genuine faith. That approach is also not Biblically based. Jesus himself expressed great emotion. The disciples were emotional evangelists who proclaimed their faith with such boldness that they often were arrested and martyred for their faith. Emotions play a key role in the staying power of our faith and determination to follow through on our beliefs.
The breakdown of moral standards is the most outstanding factor that proceeded the First Great Awakening. When people tend to live their faith in such a way that they begin to just go through the motions, they also tend to slowly let slip all the Biblical guidelines for morality and holiness. This kind of religion is a powerless one, in which they try to lean on their own abilities, rules, regulations and church standards, rather than on a personal love relationship with God Himself, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Love is a strong motivator. In the New England of the 1700’s there was a growing trend towards drunkenness, sexual looseness, and a mockery of those who believed in God. Today, our culture is not much different. The ‘politically correct’ culture has pushed Christianity into the unpopular category, and those who complain are considered intolerant. In reality, it is the immoral culture that has become intolerant. Christians are expected to tolerate the minority homosexual culture, but the minority culture is never pressured to accept the majority—Christians. While it is labeled a hate crime to speak against the gay community, it’s just fine for the gay community to bash the Christian community. The immorality of our 21’st Century culture has grown out of balance with the majority of the population. . Mike Craven, in an article on states...This generation sees what many are only recently coming to realize; the Church is in a pathetic state of decadence and decay. It is, to a large degree, fragmented, watered-down, and retreating from cultural relevancy. Biblical and theological ignorance, cultural apathy, and social indifference are a plague upon the American Church and what passes for Christianity in many circles is often a mere shadow of historic orthodox Christianity or worse, something altogether different.
What will it take?
Some thought that the revivals of the ‘90’s would bring the long awaited revival to America sweeping the nation with a new ‘Great Awakening” But many of those revivals have come and gone, and nothing has changed. The very phrase, ‘great awakening’ seems to suggest a state of slumber and apathy as being prevalent in the society that needs to ‘wake up”. Today, it will take more than preaching from vibrant mega-churches to stir the hearts of a nation. The thing that seems to control our emotional switches today is money. We are willing to get passionate about our finances. We want a government that will keep the finances flowing. Politics seems to major on the economy. Where once Christians voted on the moral standing of a candidate, today they tend to vote more on the financial promises. But when those promises fade into meaningless rhetoric, perhaps America will finally be ready to turn once again to God. When man fails, God prevails.
It will take the humiliation of a nation that has become so self-reliant rather than God-reliant, to experience a position of readiness for revival. Revival is more than just lots of people going to church. It is more than just fiery revivalists, passionately proclaiming a message. It is more than organizing and intellectually understanding the church. A true Great Awakening will be more than America has ever experienced in the past. It will be a “God-thing.” When God sets up a revival, nothing man can do will stop it. In the early church days, the disciples knew what it was like. God moved in sovereign ways to cause the church to grow. The result was mild mannered disciples became voices that would not be quieted. They suffered persecution, pain and martyrdom. Yet they were willing to pay the price to obey their Lord. They had no mega-churches, no web-sites, no media campaigns, no festivals, no programs, to kid’s ministries, no denominations. They just had men and women, who had met with God, who had experienced his transforming presence, who felt His powerful hand upon their lives. They knew their God. They knew His Word. They knew his voice. They knew their purpose. Daily they walked as if He were to return that very day. The power of the Holy Spirit became their best friend, as they let Him flow through their lives, healing the sick, raising the dead, speaking to the lost in power and conviction. They met house to house, preached wherever they had an audience, prayed wherever there was a need and turned the world upside-down for God.
What will it take today?
God still needs these kinds of men and women. He never sent angels to do the job. He commissioned mankind. God seeks men and women who will follow in the footsteps of the Master, willing to ‘take up the cross’ identifying with the shame and curse, yet determined to do what must be done to bring the gospel (good news) message to a world that does not even know it needs it. Begin today where you are. Look around you and see a need. Let God move through you to minister to that need. God did not call pastors to go into all the world… he called people. He chooses to use ordinary folks to do the extraordinary works of God. You are never to old or too young to serve Him. There is nothing that can stop the man who yields himself totally to God. Such a man or woman will have to live lives of holiness before God. They will need to know His voice, and know how to obey. If God should choose to bring a Great Awakening to this country once again, each of us must find ourselves in a place of humility, repentance and sensitivity. There will be a passion for souls that will drive you. Money will not move you or deter you. You will be grieved by the immorality around you. That grief will move you to action .
The one factor that believers often forget when new teachings come across the pulpit or airwaves is that while man continues to struggle to find new ways to make himself acceptable to God, God never changes. He is the One Rock in our cultural storm. We dare not drift from the Rock. While many voices may call us, many reassure us that there is hope in other things, we must cling to that which has a secure foundation, tried and true. While some will try to reinterpret the Word of God to suit their new theologies, we must stay close to his Presence, His Word, and His eternal truths. That next great awakening will come, but not until mankind realizes that in this clay dwells nothing good. All our reliance and hope comes from an Almighty God in whom we can trust and place our faith. When our eyes are on God alone, we will see Him as He is and what a wondrous revelation that will be!
J. Johnson

No comments: