There is a question my father and I have frequently been asked this past year. It is: “Do you sense America is close to revival?” That is a great question. Since BMI is asked this so often, let me summarize what I have been answering.
First, there is no question that America is in dire need of revival. Morally, spiritually, economically, and socially the nation desperately needs to move from the world’s standards and values to God’s. A large percentage of Americans are presently living below the poverty level. The media regularly delights in mocking Christianity and its values. There are increasing restrictions against the church and its efforts to spread the Gospel. Family life, broken homes, and moral laxity are at appallingly low levels. Nevertheless, the need for revival does not entail that renewal is coming. In the days of Jeremiah, God’s people desperately needed return to God. Yet even as the Babylonian armies were encircling Jerusalem to mete out God’s judgment, God’s people continued to debate whether or not they had done anything wrong. At times I hear people talk as if America is so bad spiritually that revival is inevitable since conditions can hardly be imagined to get any worse. Yet there are times when God’s people are so entrenched in their sin and spiritual blindness that there is no other remedy but divine judgment.
Second, there are people scattered across the United States who are earnestly crying out for revival. I know of prayer groups that meet every week to plead with God to revive their land. Surely this is a positive sign. I also know of churches that are experiencing a fresh touch of the Spirit in their services and ministries. One of the privileges I experience is having the opportunity to meet church leaders who are ecstatic about what God is doing in their midst. Unfortunately, these people are the exception. Hold a conference in your church or city on “God’s desire to bless you” and you will fill up the venue. Hold a conference on “revival” and people mutter apologies about having a previous commitment to attend the violin recital of their second cousin, twice-removed. Meetings on revival continue to be one of the least popular meetings being conducted today. And let’s just say that no one is ever turned away due to lack of space at a prayer meeting. The problem is that although there are people meeting to pray; they are the exception. Most Christians are not. Most pastors and church leaders are not.
I recently participated in a simultaneous revival effort in the Chattanooga/Cleveland, TN region. It was wonderful to be in those churches and to meet people desiring for God to renew their church. One evening I met a young man who had driven an hour and a half from North Carolina just to attend that evening’s meeting. After the service he drove an hour and a half back home. The original plan for the simultaneous meetings had been to involve twenty churches over a two-week period. Yet sadly, only eight churches ultimately chose to be involved. And, after Sunday morning, many of the participating church’s members didn’t return to another meeting. America might be in need of revival, but attending church more than once a week appears to be too extreme for many of America’s Christians.
Third, few people in America today give evidence of desperation. Too many of today’s mega-churches think they are self-sufficient. Even smaller or mid-sized churches often refuse to cooperate with others in an effort to see revival come to their area. Until God’s people are desperate for Him, revival will not come. One would think that in light of all that has occurred in North America, from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to the economic maelstrom of recent years, that God’s people would be urgently crying out to God for deliverance. But they have not. You would think that with the media publicly mocking the Christian faith and with New York Time’s bestselling books regularly promoting the “new atheism,” that God’s people would be humbled and repentant, but they are not. Clearly, God’s people are not yet desperate enough.
Finally, what will it take for America to truly experiences revival? I personally believe that God will deal with America in the same manner He dealt with His people in the prophet Isaiah’s time. God warned: “What more could I have done for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briars and thorns. I shall command the clouds that they rain no rain on it” (Isaiah 5:4-6).
It was C.S. Lewis who said: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The human race has a troubling propensity to ignore God until their lives become intolerable. Divine blessings rarely bring revival. That is why God will at times remove the “hedge” of His protection from His people so that their lives become uncomfortable and they cry out to Him. It is not that He necessarily causes all of our hardships, He simply withdraws His hand of protection. Experiencing life without God’s active involvement can at times be hell on earth.
The question is, what is America’s pain threshold? It has sustained numerous natural disasters as well as an unprecedented terrorist attack. What will it take for Americans to realize how much they need God? It is when God’s people realize the dire condition of their nation and the grievous nature of their sin that revival may be near. I pray that happens soon!