With the New Year already on us we are once more facing many predictions from prophetic ministries about the upcoming year. This will I am sure, include the obligatory,”California will sink in the sea.” This has been a stable prophetic declaration for the last forty years since I first arrived in North America.
As I was recently surfing the net I found the following comment about this years predictions:
“They sound remarkably similar to most I have been hearing for the past 15 years”. ‘This is the year of revival! This is the year of His power. This is the year of increase! This is the year of harvest!’ …
There is a major problem with all of the prophecies about revival to come. It is a religious problem, which Jesus encountered. Religion will get all excited about the Messiah to come but try to kill Him when He is standing in their midst. Why? The Messiah in the future does not demand faith and obedience now! The revival to come does not demand obedience now. “We can feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderful word and clap at what God will do while conveniently forgetting that wherever people are simply obeying Jesus they are seeing the kingdom multiply now.” —Steve Hill, co-founder of worldwide ministry Harvest Now [harvest-now.org, 4 Jan 09]
Reading this reminded me of one of the greatest challenges to the Body of Christ in the Western world is being is facing these days. Many believers have lived for several generations with the continuous hope that Revival will come and bring with it a great ingathering of souls. Reading the Prophetic Journals and many of the on line ministry letters will show us that this promotion of Revival has been the cause of great disappointment in the Body of Christ, and has caused extreme cynicism in the hearts of many believers with regard to Prophetic Ministry.
Last year there were meetings in Florida that attracted world-wide attention because of the involvement of a television network that broadcast them live around the world. These meetings, were led by an evangelist who seemed to be seeing some credible miracles and had people willing to testify that they were bought to knowledge of Christ.
There were many in Prophetic Ministry who were associated with this movement and who began to predict that this was ”that which should come” the final end-time revival looked for and prayed for over many years. As the momentum gathered we saw nightly, thousands of Christians in the meetings, and millions of other Christians watching by means of television, preparing to witness Revival first hand. There was for many of us a vicarious enjoyment of a spiritual experience, for which we had hunger and appetite. This appetite was actually created by those who continually prophesied and promoted a significant event that would turn the tide and bring a multitude into the kingdom of God instantly.
There was, and is still, great sadness in the Charismatic/Pentecostal streams of Christianity, concerning the moral failure of the Evangelist leading these meetings, and the closing of the meetings themselves. Claims of continuing outpouring and the “passing on of the mantle” will continue to come in and others will attempt to recreate the event.
During the zenith of this outpouring a prophecy was read, given by an executive of the TV Company, that Jesus would return to the stadium, as a climax to that revival. This of course, was outrageous, but in their passion for Revival many brothers and sisters “bought the whole package” Sadly, none of the outstanding leaders of our streams spoke out publicly about such expectations. Why am I talking about these uncomfortable things ? Perhaps what I say next will be more uncomfortable!
In the world of science and physics there is something that is called “The Big Bang Theory:” Basically, this suggests that creation of the Universe came about by means of a massive cosmic explosion and that this was where our present world came from. Bible believing Christians do not embrace this theory of creation.
However, we actually have embraced another “big bang theory” and that concerns the evangelisation of the world and how it will happen. We sum this up from our perspective by teaching and preaching a world-wide instant outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will rock Islam and other pretentious religions, and sweep millions into the Kingdom in short order. How we pray indeed, that such an event would occur!
This theory which we have shared with our evangelical brothers for probably 150 years, has led us to many hours of futile and unsuccessful prayer and work in the name of Revival. Sincerity and passion have never been lacking by those who seek this as an answer to an increasingly unevangelized world.
In the beginning I quoted Steve Hill and his thoughts on prophetic views of this year 2009 and their suggested outcome of Harvest and Ingathering in the church.
Part of his comment can be easily overlooked, if we are not careful
“We can feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderful word and clap at what God will do while conveniently forgetting that wherever people are simply obeying Jesus they are seeing the kingdom multiply now.”
We have in our hearts believed that we will live to see a day when we will attend massive meetings, led by our favourite evangelist or Revival proponent. We will be sitting in the stands or watching at home on our wide screen TV, whilst millions respond to a gospel appeal.
I am the product of mass evangelism and am strongly in favour of presenting the Gospel to as many people at one time as possible. I was saved through the first Billy Graham crusade in the UK , and for more than 50 years have followed Christ passionately. In my lifetime I have helped and actively supported many such efforts.
Jesus however, never told us to expect Revival to be the key , but he told us in the Great Commission In Matthew 28 “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” This indicates that there was an initiative to be taken by believers in reaching the lost which was of paramount importance in world evangelism.
This expectation has been almost totally lost in a great swing away from involvement in personal and local church evangelism, in favour of a passive prayer movement which invites us to simply go to church each week, attend protracted prayer meetings, and leave it to the Holy Spirit.
The failure of this strategy is then explained by saying that various things have impeded this process of national and international church growth. Everything from failure to repent of events long past, to unwillingness to stand with Israel, to personal failure in providing sufficient prayer coverage, to the secular political change that has bought us Gay Marriage and Abortion on demand.
None of these are good things, but blaming them is a substitute for the truth, which is, that the church has ceased to believe that they have a personal responsibility for sharing the good news of Jesus with people on a personal basis.
In Acts 1:8 the Scripture says “You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes on you…and you will be my witnesses!”
The principal purpose of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was not to allow us the novelty of the Gifts of the Spirit. I will be the first to defend the Gifts as I am myself a Prophet. However, the words of Jesus suggest the priority purpose was to empower individual Christians in the task of reaching their neighbours and beyond into the nations with a credible and powerful life changing gospel.
We have now left the task to specialists who can draw crowds through their personal charisma, and who can, on our behalf, present a weak and ineffective gospel , sounding suspiciously like a positive thinking lecture. Many of us have been paralyzed by a Revival teaching that takes from us any responsibility apart from increased intense prayer. Acts tells us that “When they had prayed the place was shaken, and they went out and boldly proclaimed the word of God”. Their prayer was a prelude to evangelistic action not a passive way of avoiding any confrontation with their own society.
Does God respond to prayer? Yes! Does God send us Sovereign ingathering’s? Yes! He says that “there will be times of refreshing that come from the presence of the Lord”. However, some of the present unrest in the Body of Christ arises from disappointment and failure of Revival teaching, and meetings to produce any significant fruit in respect to evangelistic increase in the Local Church. People have repented as required, involved themselves in sacrificial prayer and fasting, become politically active, all without any apparent evidence of mass salvations.
Many people, especially young adults, are leaving churches, and at the same time professing loudly that they are still believers. They are on a quest to make their faith relevant to the lost members of their own generations. They are finding that evangelism on their “own turf” does actually work! Many times as they look at a church obsessed with ”revival” without real evangelism, they are forced to pursue the lost in a different context. As Steve Hill suggests we seem to be “conveniently forgetting that wherever people are simply obeying Jesus they are seeing the kingdom multiply now.”
Polarizing those with prayer zeal and those with evangelistic zeal does not help, since both are needed if the Gospel is to be truly preached. Regaining the balance is a key to the effective ongoing growth of the Body of Christ around the world. I am sure that many are sincerely pursuing a path of Revival, as a means to worldwide evangelism, but without true evangelistic outreach we will continue to use “spiritual excuses” for a lack of true growth in our local churches.
The bottom line is to use the words of Paul “He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation” and our responsibility is a practical one of sharing the good news with the help of the Holy Spirit and seeing lives changed. We are called to share as well as to prayer.