Tag Archives: awakening

Would the Apostle Paul be a Duck Dynasty Fan?

After my post last week, I received an email from my dad who wrote, in part: “I think one of the biggest impediments is the Christian industry, which didn’t exist during any of the previous revivals. If word got out of something happening like what went on then, all of the publishing companies, media companies, etc would be crawling all over trying to market it.”

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How many churches and youth groups studied this book?

I’ve been turning that thought around in my mind all week and I believe there is a large amount of truth in that statement. Think back over the last several decades on Christian fads- Purpose Drive Life, Prayer of Jabez, Left Behind, Francis Chan, Beth Moore and Duck Dynasty- all of them were multi-million dollar moneymakers for the authors, publishing companies and spin-off products.

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Duck Dynasty is the most popular reality show on TV and has launched an enormous spin-off business.

The authors and celebrities of these fads spoke at all the coolest conferences, preached at all the largest churches and kept travel schedules and speaking tours that rivaled most rock bands.

I agree that if an awakening ever did occur at this time, the Christian media would be trying to market it, promote it, do simulcasts of it and make themselves a huge mound of money off of it.

What would the Apostle Paul think? Paul, the greatest writer, theologian, preacher and missionary in church history- what would he think? Paul, who wrote to the church in Corinth: “Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?” What would he think of our “Christian” marketing? Paul, who wrote to the Thessalonians: “For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed- God is witness- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from other, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.” I wonder what he would think?

Now, Paul was supported by the gifts of churches, he says so later in the 2 Corinthians passages quoted earlier. To Paul, there was a difference between accepting the support of churches and preaching the gospel for money and in a manor of greediness.

I don’t want to pass judgment on the fads I mentioned earlier, or any that I didn’t mention, I don’t know their hearts or their intentions, but if truth (especially to those outside the church) is in the appearance, I have questions and concerns. And I think you should as well.

For awakening to truly come, it will take a person who is able to look at those opportunities to market themselves, speak before thousands at conferences and all the money that comes with it and rather live in the spirit of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2: “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of Christ but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us…so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

(c) Ryan Vanderland 2013

Can We Awake Awakening?

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.

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

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

Charles Finney

Charles Finney

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.

Are We Ready for a Flood?

I live in a desert and living in a desert means that we do not get rain very often. And when we do get rain we aren’t prepared to handle it. Our streets flood, our power flickers and our drivers seem to loose their minds. The funny thing is- these things happen every time we get any substantial rain. We pray for rain, we want rain but when it comes we discover that we aren’t prepared for the effects of the rain.

I wonder if the same is true for us spiritually. In the last year or two, I have heard so many prayers asking God pour out his spirit on our church, our community and our country, but I wonder if we would be prepared if God answered our prayers. If God brought an awakening to our churches, to our communities and to our country, would we be unprepared for the effects?

Before we answer that question, we need to know what the effects of a spiritual awakening would be. I think we see a number of effects in Scripture.

  1. A rejection of idols (2 Kings 23:4). We may not worship images of wood or stone but we have idols that we worship: money, possessions, status- anything we set above God to give us what only God can give us.
  2. A reformation within the clergy (2 King 23:7-14, 20). Within the context of 2 Kings, Josiah has the priests of Baal and the other gods killed. I’m not suggesting that we need to kill clergy but there are some attitudes, traditions and expectations within the clergy that need to be killed.
  3. A rediscovery of heritage. (2 Kings 21-23/ Nehemiah 8:13-18). As Christians we have a vast and diverse heritage. There are the Desert Fathers, Mystics, Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity, Anabaptists and many, many others- we need to learn from them and embrace the things they have taught us about God.
  4. A renewed spirit of worship (Nehemiah 8:6). In the text, the people heard the words of God and it resulted in worship. Through the Word, the people came face to face with God and rediscovered the greatness of God and they worshiped. Notice that this worship was not an individual act but an act of the community. While awakening occurs first within the individual, unless it spreads to the community a revival cannot take place.
  5. Confession of sin (Nehemiah 9:1-3). When God pours out his spirit, people start pouring out their junk.
  6. Growth (Acts 2:41, 47). 3,000 new members in one day? How many churches would love that? How many churches could logistically or spiritually handle those kinds of number?

There are certainly more effects than just these six but they are a start, at least. Now that we have seen some of the effects of spiritual awakening, we can return to the question we asked earlier, are we prepared for the effects? Are we ready to reject our idols? Are the clergy ready for a reformation? Are we willing to rediscover our heritage and renew our worship? Could our churches accept and disciple thousands of people coming to Christ? Most importantly, are we ready to pour out the sin and the junk within our lives?

I’m not sure we are ready for that. How do we get ready? That is a topic for another post.

© Ryan Vanderland 2013