A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Rev Brian Medway is the senior pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship in Canberra and co-organiser of national and regional renewal conferences.

 

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 God is looking to touch Australia

through saints, not just superstars

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 Just about every Christian who has looked hard at the Bible, and looked fleetingly at the community in which we live, has ended up looking for revival.

Our social disequilibrium makes revival mandatory as a Christian solution.  The hope of political, economic and social solutions grow harder to believe with each month.  The post war belief in prosperity has produced grandchildren who are ardent agnostics.  Even the icons of education have become tarnished and don’t command the adoration they once enjoyed.  Outbreaks of violence and unrestrained substance abuse cause ideological tremors to be felt among the most committed humanists.

A new breeze is blowing

At the same time there is undoubtedly a new breeze blowing in the church.  The feeling is that we are about to see the kingdom of God coming with new power and impact.

Jesus warns of presumption when it comes to claiming to know the origin or the ultimate destiny of such a wind, but that doesn’t stop us from hoisting our spiritual sails.  The particular breeze referred to does not have so much to do with whether one’s theology is evangelical, charismatic or pentecostal.  It is similarly undiscriminating when it comes to one’s particular preference in spiritual ethos.

This breeze carries the savour of a new level of humility and with it the opportunity for a new experience of unity.  This unity has been birthed much more in prayer than it has in dialogue and its fruit can be clearly seen when compared to what we have known in previous years.  It is allowing us to embrace what we may not prefer and accept what is different without thinking that it is less worthy.  It is a unique new fragrance.

There is yet another fragrance upon this breeze.  That fragrance has to do with a narrowing agenda.  Many hoped that adherence to a particular theological stance would do the job.  Others have clung to a particular tradition, thinking that it would eventually be recognized by unchurched Australians.  Both cases produced growing disappointment.  Hardly anyone is doing great things in reaching unreached Aussies.

Worse still, the Great Commission rarely visits the agenda of the average leaders meeting simply because we are too embarrassed to  put it there.

More and more believers long to simply leave the petty squabbles and get out there where the real people are.  And there is a new hope that it is starting to happen.

The first “no‑name” revival

Jesus is described once as expressing a level of joy greater than any other occasion during his ministry.  In Luke 10:21 it says that Jesus burst into a prayer of praise to the Father because of the joy of the Spirit within him.

He was rejoicing because the seventy two disciples who had been sent out to do the work of the kingdom had done a good job.  They could be labelled the “no name” disciples.  Jesus rejoiced that even though the “experts” had missed it, the ordinary people were doing it.  He concludes that this was the Father’s good pleasure; his intention.

In the western world we have not felt all that comfortable with “no name” phenomena.  We have a penchant for creating heroes.  We create hero status for them and then look to them to do it for us.  We want to know their names.

It is different in the kingdom of God.  In that kingdom there are literally millions of heroes and only God will ever know their names.  Not that it is wrong to honour great men and women of God.  It’s just that we tend to live through them instead of allowing their faith to encourage us to visit the one and only Fountainhead more urgently.

Regional Networking is happening

Today’s church in Australia needs a “no name” revival.  We have tended to grab at the latest and greatest in imported methods and practices.  But it is time for us to seek the Lord without leaving our shores.  It is time to gather together and find the strategy of God for our own cities and regions.

Australia is a collection of regions.  That’s how we live.  It will be no surprise to suggest that the strategy for reaching the nation will be neither national nor denominational.  The key lies in the congregations that meet within twenty minutes of where you are and what they can do together.  The networking that has blossomed in the past few years at this level is the result of this new breeze of the Spirit.

The great thing about regional networking is that it brings together the best of what we have and equally values “names” and “no‑names”.  When prayer is the initial foundation stone, who is the expert?   When a heart for unity is the ground floor of the new building, who knows it all?

We have some fine examples of how to build large congregations, but little experience when it comes to building the church.  If we are looking to reach the whole of our region with the gospel, we need everyone to be involved.  We need a “no‑name” revival.

Which name is responsible for the revival in Africa, Korea or South America?  There may be a few names we know, but they are not the key to the revival.  The men and women who have seen these revivals increase with the years are too many to number.  The reason why the enemy can’t stop it is because there isn’t just one name to knock out of the game.

Gainable and Sustainable

The bottom line is that God wants to pour out his Spirit, and plans to use us.  And this nation needs it.  Reading about it doesn’t seem to make it happen.  Going to lectures on revival and even getting all the tapes will probably not open the floodgates either.

The Calvinist personality in me delights to see that revival almost always comes as a surprise.  It comes through people that no one suspected and it comes at times when people thought it might never happen.  It’s nice to know that none of us have found the button, nor invented the formula.

The Armenian part of me looks at the churches in revival and the churches not in revival.  Seeing the complacency and decay in the latter makes me want to put a bomb under most of the prayer meetings, and turn up the faith and excitement knob way past the red line just to see God’s people getting to a decent and respectable stage of desperation.

I have developed my own little (only slightly cynical) set of criteria for judging how we are doing with respect to revival.  It runs something like this:

a.  church services:

in revival people show up early and leave late

not‑in‑revival people show up late and leave at a set time

b.  where people sit:

in revival people fill up from the front

not‑in‑revival people fill up from the back

c.  prayer meetings:

in revival the prayer meetings are full and overflowing

not‑in‑revival the same faithful 6 show up whatever your theology

d.  church agendas:

in revival they are forced to deal with the ‘problems’ created by God

not‑in‑revival they choose to deal with problems created by people

e.  focus of attention:

in revival churches unite to fight the devil

not‑in‑revival churches divide and fight each other

f.  flow of influence:

in revival the church influences what happens in the  community

not‑in‑revival the community influences what happens in the church

g.  personal priority:

in revival a sense of awe leads people to a willing repentance

not‑in‑revival, pride leads to rationalisation and defensiveness

h.  emphasis:

in revival the emphasis is on what God is doing

not‑in‑revival the emphasis is on what people are doing

i.  ministry priority:

in revival the priority is toward reaching people for Christ

not‑in‑revival, the priority is toward reaching the church for itself

j.  ministry methods:

in revival the message overshadows the method

not‑in‑revival, the methods modify the message

k.  trends:

in revival the first things are re‑established as the greatest

not‑in‑revival, the latest thing is the greatest

l.  music:

in revival the songs are simple and belong to the people

not‑in‑revival, the songs are complex and belong to the specialists

By these descriptions we can take both encouragement and warning.  The God who’s heart is expressed in and through revival has given us enough examples this century to know what will and won’t do the job.  We have been encouraged as God has shown us both the majesty and mystery of a sovereign outpouring.  We must not allow these down payments to remain as novelties.

We must submit to the majesty and embrace the mystery, lest we become nothing more than a congregation of dreamers.

Elements to gain and sustain revival

There is  a doorway of hope.  More and more are convinced that this hope lies in prayer, unity and a lifestyle approach to evangelism.  We can do it if we pray, if we stick together, and if we start with where we live and work.

In essence, the latest teaching, method or strategy will probably neither gain nor sustain revival.  What will get us to the place of God’s outpouring will be those things that express God’s heart.  Here are three examples.  How they fit together and what particular form they take is of less importance.

The first is worship/intercession,

the second is unity/oneness,

and the third is proclamation/lifestyle.

What is needed is a revival model that will be available to everyone.  I believe it lies in a commitment to worship and fervent intercession, to local unity, and to lifestyle influence.  Everyone can worship and pray.  Everyone can work toward the unity Jesus prayed for.  Everyone does have contact with people outside of Christ where they live, work and play.  We just need to bring those three things together.

Each of them can only be adequately described as a journey, and we will only find out how far we can go, and what form it will take, by travelling there.  The only way to get there is by doing it, and then doing more of it.

Worship and Intercession.   I don’t know anyone who has metered the dimensions of worship and intercession and we are just beginning to understand their strategic value.  All we know is that there is more.  We have tended to lock up our relationship with God in all kinds of cultural and traditional moulds.  The Biblical essence has much more to do with an urgency that comes from true humility.  This side of heaven we may only ever be on “L” plates.

Unity and Oneness.   The same is true of the unity Jesus prayed for.  What we have is an abomination encouraged by the powers of darkness, rather than a manifestation of what belonged to Jesus and his Father.  To some, the image of unity is distorted with all kinds of fears of compromise and confusion.  What they foreshadow is human, institutional and makes assumptions about tradition and doctrinal systems that are unbiblical.  What Jesus prayed for has to do with the heart.  It will only be gained by doing it, rather than speculating about it.  I for one want to find out how far this thing goes, and what its like when we get there.  Nothing less than a deposit of heaven, I hope.

Proclamation and Lifestyle.   The same is true in terms of proclaiming the gospel.  If you multiplied the grace that was extended to you by every person in the world, you’d be getting some idea.  We haven’t mounted an effort worthy of God’s heart.  The best we seem to produce in this nation are a few churches that speak of annual conversion growth in the region of a few hundred at most.  Can you think for just a moment where that leaves us in comparison to the task?

In each of these areas of Christian privilege we can only find out what it’s like by going there.  We can’t go there without a radical reformation of our relationship with the Father.  We can’t get there on our own, nor can we do it as a single denomination.  We won’t do it without a major shift in our ecclesiastical preoccupations and not until we become seriously committed to reaching every person in our generation.

It is a journey we must take together.  It is a phenomenon that we will only be able to define as we become different; and then only as our journey displays more of Jesus.

What this means is that our emphasis must become regional, it must be lifestyle and it must become our abiding passion.  It must be the overflow of our worship and the subject of our constant cry before the throne.

God is doing this.  It is a sovereign work that is happening all over the world.  We won’t have the chance to control it, or fashion it to suit our previous traditions.  It is truly a new thing.  It is a case of change becoming a permanent resident.

What is most surprising is that it is not the same in every place.  It is not a pentecostal revival nor a charismatic renewal.  It is the building of the ministry of the kingdom of God and the rising up of the church of Jesus Christ in a particular locality.  This is the work of God that will get us to the revival, and it is the same work that will enable the revival to be sustained.  It is new wine skins for new wine.

As always we must decide to be a part of what God is doing, or miss the bus.

Praise the Lord!

This article is compiled and edited from material first published in New Day and On Being magazines in 1996.

© Renewal Journal 8: Awakening, 1997, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

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