The sentence that leapt off the page for me in this week’s reading was this:
“The effects of revival are being mistaken for the causes of revival.”
I recall the Willow Creek Association (now the Global Leadership Network) in its initial days. The Willow Creek Church had grown in an almost unprecedented way. Everyone in the midwest wanted to know why. Every church wanted to harness that power, that process, that means. And Willow Creek set up a “school” of sorts to teach other churches how to do what they had done. And to be sure some churches were able to harness those productive processes and grow, but not like Willow Creek. Too often, in so may similar cases, effects are mistaken for cause.
Christian Book Stores’ shelves are lined with books on “7 Steps to Renewal”, “12 Habits of Effective Preachers”, “How to Position Your Church for Revival” or similar titles. The problem is, while there certainly are elements of our lives which need to be in line with the Spirit if we are to experience revival, any specific, particular methodology is rarely successful. The Spirit blows where it will.
Preachers need to be able to discern the need of their particular congregations. Individual members need to be able to properly discern their own spiritual standing and hunger. And that takes hard work.
As Tozer rightly points out:
“The critical need
in this hour of the church’s history is not what it is so often
said to be: soul-winning, foreign missions, miracles. These are
effects, not causes. The most pressing need just now is that we who
call ourselves Christians should frankly acknowledge to each other
and to God that we are astray; that we should confess that we are
worldly, that our moral standards are low and we are spiritually
cold. We need to cease our multitude of unscriptural activities,
stop running when and where we have not been sent and cease trying to
sanctify carnal projects by professing that we are promoting them ‘in
the name of the Lord’ and ‘for the glory of God’… And this
must be done in our own lives first and then in the churches
of which we are a part.” [p. 112]
As we move into the homestretch of this study let’s keep in mind that there is no quick fix to our predicament. Our patterns of behavior are deeply ingrained. Habits are easy to form and hard to overcome. But with patient endurance and prayerful discernment, the Lord, who is always faithful, will reveal, restore, and revive us.