Monday, February 20, 2023

Winds of Revival? Now What?

I am confident that the winds of revival are blowing.

For me it started nearly two years ago. I believed it was coming and set myself to applying my energy to building capacity for revival in a local church we’ve held dear since the earliest days of the young congregation (Pursuit). My work, mostly as a consultant, was a year of building organizational infrastructure… systems that helped support and sustain the work. That expression of revival still burns, seemingly gaining a second wind in recent days. 

These winds of revival are blowing in and from Kentucky… from the campus of Asbury University.

We experienced some of those winds last Sunday morning as we worshiped at Venture Church. Dr. Brandon Beals, Venture’s lead pastor, ventured back to his alma mater to see for himself. He brought a report to an anticipating congregation and we could not help but welcome God’s revival winds to blow in our midst. We’ll gather again Wednesday evening, with expectation, welcoming those winds to blow in, among, and through us.

There are reports from others too… revival winds blowing in congregations in which saints hunger for spiritual awakening in their hearts, churches, cities, and regions.

Along with the reports, there are criticisms and concerns.

I certainly understand the caution and concern. There is a long, repeated history of revivals burning out the vessels of revival. Revival’s human vessels too often crash and burn. Churches that host revivals too often falter and then either stand empty or disappear within a generation. I’m certain it is not inevitable, nor is it God’s will… but the common vessels that contain the wind and fire, the uncommon presence of God, so easily lose our way. It is not, of course, a new phenomenon; such is recorded of the patriarchs in our most ancient Biblical texts.

But there is also a repeated theme in Scripture that urges us to not let the fear of failure keep us from God’s best.  

So, what do we do with these revival winds?

I see that some (many? Including loud voices) accuse us of whipping up, or mimicking, revival. That if we desire revival, or pray for revival, or plan for revival, or provide an atmosphere for revival, we are somehow removing revival’s authenticity.

Again, I understand the caution and concern. We, who are skilled in such, could simply stir up an emotional crowd and call it revival. I am sure some have.

But, again, fear of getting it wrong must not keep us from God’s best either.

As I have been thinking and praying about this, especially praying for those in positions of leadership, I keep coming back to Matthew 14. I believe the passage encourages us, at times like these, to get out of the boat.

After Jesus and His Disciples fed the 5,000, Jesus sent his friends ahead as He lingered back to pray. His friends set out on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. This was familiar territory for many aboard. They were likely led by Peter, one Jesus was preparing for leadership, an expert due to his profession as a fisherman on precisely those waters.

In spite of their expertise, they found themselves, literally, in rough waters "a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it." (Matthew 14:24)

Are there parallels here as the winds of revival blow? Pastors and other leaders are where we are because of obedience to Jesus, just as those Disciples were following the Lord’s direction as they went ahead on the boat. Pastors and other leaders are here, working within our expertise, bringing our best as we are obedient to Jesus… again, just as they were on the Sea of Galilee.

Allow me to pause here for a moment and consider bringing our best, obediently to Jesus.

At Asbury, their best is an historic chapel with simple wooden seating, an edifice in the style of what one might expect from a 130-year-old school in Dixie, with roots in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. Compared to the church auditoriums to which I am accustomed, it is pretty low-tech at Asbury. The sound and lights are simple. The music is student-led on mostly acoustic instruments. The simple charm of it seems to be part of the appeal. It is authentic. It is their best.

As we catch the winds from the Asbury Revival, should we turn down our audio systems? Should we opt for fluorescent house lights instead of our stage lighting and hazers? Should our projectors and LED walls go dark? Would that be authentic? Would that be our best?

Let’s not mimic the best of others; let’s bring our best. Whatever we have expertly built to provide a platform for the presence of God, even that to which we aspire as we bring extra to our best, that is authentic. If pipe organs or acapella singing is the expertise that has you where you are, do it to your best, authentically. If it is lights, media, and walls of sound, do it to your best, authentically.

Let’s bring our best, and even aspire to a little more. Let’s bring our hunger. Let’s bring our expectation. And let’s see what God will do as His revival winds blow.

Okay… now back to the text.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. (Matthew 14:25-29)

Within the winds of our day, could Jesus be calling us to come, to step out of our boats, to walk in faith toward Jesus? 

Could we, with all our expertise and obedience, finding ourselves in these unusual winds… might we take those extra, trusting steps of faith toward Jesus?

Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29,30)

It seems pretty clear that when Peter had his eyes on Jesus, when He obeyed the Lord’s command and walked toward Him, Peter walked in a miracle. When Peter looked around and was afraid (“doubted” as Jesus put it) he sank. But, of course, Jesus was still there to save in the midst of doubt. 

There was revival in the boat once Peter and Jesus took their places among the Disciples. The text reads: 

when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32,33)

Faith arose. They saw, again, who Jesus is, and they worshiped.

My encouragement in these winds of revival is this: get out of the boat. Bring our best, operate in our expertise, and when we see Jesus, ask Him to call us closer, even when that means trusting Him beyond the rails of our safe boats. Let’s keep our eyes on Him and see what He will do… and let’s expect awakening and revival in the hearts and lives of all who might see.

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