In last week’s post, I asked a question and made an observation about our preparedness to a spiritual awakening. I proposed that while I hear many people praying and asking God to bring an awakening, we are, in fact, unprepared to handle the effects if an awakening really were to happen. At the end of the post, I asked another question: how do we get ready for an awakening? If we are not prepared now, how do we become prepared? And it is to that question that we now turn.
How do we get ready, how do we prepare for an awakening? Two of history’s greatest revivalist theologians came to two different conclusions. Jonathan Edwards, a preacher during the First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s, concluded that there was not “any series of events [that] could guarantee an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” As a preacher, he knew that preaching the message of the gospel and prayer were vitally important but awakening, he said, was a “surprising work of God” and God alone.
On the other hand, Charles Finney, a preacher during the Second GreatAwakening in the 1790s to 1840s, believed that there were things Christians
could do to bring about awakening. It was Finney who turned awakening and revival from a renewing and a refreshing of those already Christians to a purposeful and orchestrated event to attract new converts. When a church plans a “revival meeting” for the purpose of evangelizing, they are recalling the message of Charles Finney.
So who is right?
Perhaps both are correct at different times. Which means we need to decide what time are we in. If you have been following my blog, then you know that I believe that the church stands at a dramatic crossroads and that I believe the church is in need of a reformation. At the same time, many of our churches have lost the vision of the mission of the church and the fact that the gospel needs to be preached to those who have not heard it. We also see through history that God rarely acts in the same way twice.
So maybe we need both and more. Maybe we need to be surprised by God. Maybe we need to reach those who need the gospel in a new way. Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge say it this way in their book A God-Sized Vision: “Revival is neither a well-organized evangelistic campaign nor a finely crafted apologetic treatise, though the church may profitably employ such methods. Revival transcends all ordinary ways we comprehend and communicate the grace of Jesus Christ. For reasons known only to him, God occasionally condescends to answer his people’s faithful prayers with a special sense of his power and presence…When all hope seemed lost, God [has] moved.”
Perhaps, we just need to be more hopeless.
© Ryan Vanderland 2013
Quotes from: A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir by Collin Hanse and John Woodbridge. Zondervan, 2010.