Within the last few weeks, I’ve heard reports of renewal bubbling up in a couple of churches in the southeastern U.S. (I hesitate to use the term “revival”, because right now, the people who are experiencing this particular nearness of God here are primarily Christians. In my head, “revival” is something that explodes out of the four walls of the church and impacts society.) I saw some video of a service at one of these churches, and before I even knew the source or location, I exclaimed, “That’s what I want.” It’s probably more accurate to say, “That’s what I need.”
We’ve been in a couple of churches where renewal swept through the place like a tidal wave; heaven touched earth in an unforgettable way. People spontaneously began confessing their hidden sins, deliverance and healing (both internal and physical) happened, people came to faith in Christ, and many others discovered for the first time that their faith was far more than assent to the words on a page. Their faith went 3-D.
There are some who call these hot spots of renewal nothing more than emotionalism and hokum. And yup, in some cases, the nay-sayers may be right. But in other cases, particularly in places in the non-Western world, God is moving in a very present, signs-and-wonders kind of way. And His presence messes people up, undoes them, strips them of their usual masks and performance tendencies.
The challenge is what happens after the renewal receeds. The human tendency is to want to build a tabernacle to make a home for the Presence, to try to hang on to the experience, to memorialize and institutionalize it, to be able to give others a mailing address to come and experience their own renewal. Church history, both distant past and very recent, tells this story to us again and again.
I can’t begin to explain why God comes in this particular way to a body of believers. But I do know that the burning sweetness of his Presence, and the aching sadness as He moves away holds the temptations of (a)”return-to-status quo” (albeit with maybe some new music), (b) cleaning up the mess that comes when not everyone gets it right and (c) and institutionalism. He isn’t asking us to stay on the mountain, but to pursue Him with the single-mindedness and passion we see described in the Song of Solomon.
No matter how you feel about these renewal movements, I am urging you as a member of the body of Christ to pray for these churches today. Pray that they will be able to remain faithful.
Have you ever been in a church that’s experienced renewal? What has your experience been?