The Church has as a part of its mission and call a prophetic mandate. What I mean by the word “prophetic” is that the Church reminds the individual and the culture of it’s responsibility towards God. The biblical word most associated with that prophetic calling is the word, “repent”. The Church, led by it’s pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets and apostles, declare repentance to a lost and deteriorating world. Repentance means that there has been a change of mind with a corresponding action (fruits) that demonstrates a true heart transformation. Reformation without heart transformation is at best challenging and perhaps ultimately impossible. Christian civilization may be embraced because it demonstrates to the human mind the only viable, long term worldview which will beget any sense of liberty and success, but it is maintained because the hearts of individuals and communities have legitimately been touched by the presence and power of God. This will only occur when genuine revival takes place by the plan of God.
I now believe that revival and reformation are two sides of the same coin. Both are necessary and can potentially happen without the other. God’s heart is that His Church be revived and brought back to the place He has always intended for it to exist and thrive. His heart is equally towards the nation which is called to honor Him in a corporate (civic) response to His sanctifying presence. There are historical illustrations where both of these two aspects have occurred independent from one another. The optimum scenario, however, is not that they happen separately, but synergistically. Revival without reformation is little more than a series of impactful services meant to bless the saints. Reformation without revival is little more than religious duty attempting to convince the world of Christianity’s relevance. However, revival and reformation moving together can be exponentially powerful as God Himself sovereignly moves through His Church and the community to establish righteousness and justice through an impassioned Church and transformed lives.
America was, in a very real sense, created and established by revival and reformation. Our history as a nation is checkered by important Awakenings and Revivals which changed the cultural landscape and established a Judeo-Christian ethic. No one said it better than Alexis de Tocqueville, in his book, “Democracy in America”, an account of his 1831 travels in America, when he wrote the now famous words:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
Any template for rebuilding a Christian civilization must include the pursuit and possibility of revival. The nation of Israel is our best template for just this point. The prophet Habakkuk underscores this very point:
“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, on Shigionoth. O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.”
Habakkuk 3:1-2 NKJV
Habakkuk is prophesying to the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to avoid what had taken place to it’s neighbor, the Northern Kingdom (Israel), some 150 years earlier. Israel had failed to seek God, revival, and the reformation which is it’s fruit and the nation had collapsed and was taken into captivity. Judah, on the other hand, had genuinely repented periodically through the years and was blessed with revivalist/reformer kings which added a century and a half to its longevity. However, every generation must maintain its own fervor and obedience before the Lord and now the Southern Kingdom was again on the precipice of potential captivity. Habakkuk cries out to God and to the nation with great emotion and impassioned voice (Shigionoth). I suspect Habakkuk looked crazy for the very word that is used (Shigionoth), if one studies the etymology, reflects such passion as evoking the actions of a drunken man. Judah, unfortunately, was unmoved. Habakkuk was treated as an irrelevant mad man. Little did the people of the Southern Kingdom realize but they were less than 20 years from collapse and captivity.
Any spiritually discerning person must ask similar questions of America. Do we think as a nation we are exempt from fervor and obedience before the Lord? Do we believe our time for existence is eternal or are we too on a clock? Could it be that we are only a decade or two from a collapse? Without revival and a spiritual awakening those possibilities are highly probable. That is why it is incumbent upon Christian believers to work, not only for reformation, but pray for revival. Yes, we will appear as irrelevant, crazy Christians too.
Recently, I was contacted by a denominational official concerning a famous, yet little known, 1857 revival that took place in Charleston, SC. It is called The Anson Street Revival. It is easily found through Internet search, but let me sum up the Revival by stating that it lasted for approximately 8 weeks affecting both Charleston and the surrounding region. Anecdotal stories recount that a New York businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier actually attended the Anson Street Revival and took a “spark” with him back to Fulton Street in New York where a lunch time prayer meeting amongst other businessmen birthed the 3rd Great Awakening in America. Sociologists estimate that over 1 million new converts were born-again along the eastern seaboard due to this awakening which was first birthed through a revival in a small Presbyterian mission in Charleston, SC. This denominational official who contacted me was bringing a dozen other officials from other fellowships and denominations to this site in order to once again “cry out” for revival and re-dig the ancient wells of God’s Spirit through intercession to see God do it again. He asked that I would join them and simply tell the story of the great revival. I did and together we prayed that the Lord would grant to this nation another outpouring which would turn hearts and heal our land. This personal anecdotal story underscores that there is a stir amongst God’s servants to see another nation shaking revival.
This simple account underscores the priority of genuine revival. Political engagement is important in as much as it is the process which ultimately codifies what values we deem important in our civic life; however, revival is the fuel which ignites us to see our communities and nation honor the Lord. Let’s rebuild this civilization by undergirding it with a cry once again for REVIVAL!