As we enter into the new year as a church, we are going to spend a focused season in our pulpit (until Lent) looking at what the Bible says about the subject of revival. For many, the word revival brings images either of a certain brand/style of TV preachers — or else it brings to mind extra “camp-style” meetings that were held during a season of a church they grew up in. However, the Bible sets forth a very clear picture of what it means for God to revive his people — what it means for the church, for individuals, and for the world.
Part of the reason we are preaching this series is that we believe that the greatest need for our church in this moment is that God visit his church in a unique way with his presence and his power. We are more convinced that we do not need better programs, structures, or plans in order to see the mission of our church go forth — we need the power of God. Yet, many in our day are unfamiliar with the reality of how God has worked throughout the past — in seasons you could call “revival”. In 1959, preacher Martyn Lloyd Jones declared that “[t]he greatest problem confronting us in the Church today is that the vast majority of professing Christians are not convinced of the ‘reality and the desirableness of revivals’.” (Martyn Lloyd Jones, Revival, 93) We believe that the same is true today, in 2019 — that many people are unaware of the possibility of a profound work of God, or of the desirability of such a work.
Toward that end, as we preach through the next several months, we are aiming to provide a weekly resource guide to help round out what we are proclaiming from the pulpit. These resource guides will include books, articles, videos, and quotes. In addition to these resources, each week we will offer a “historical highlight” looking at a particular account (often quotes, or narratives) from a revival in the past. We are including these in order to highlight accounts of how God has moved in the past in order to stir our holy imaginations as to what God has done, that we might ask him to once again renew his works in our day and time (Hab 3.2).
Starting this Sunday (1/6) in Midtown (and 1/13 in Johnson County), we will have a small booklet by Sam Storms available at the welcome desk. This 40 page booklet is a remarkable introduction to the nature of revival, and describes many of its characteristics, obstacles, and ways to pursue it within the church. This will be a free resource available to all — so pick up your copy! You can also find a summary of the booklet HERE.
One of the greatest preachers of the 20th century, Martyn Lloyd Jones, preached twenty-four sermons on revival in 1959. The sermons are compiled into a book entitled Revival, and we will have limited copies available at the welcome desk in Midtown for $20 (the title is currently out of print — we purchased the last remaining hard copies we could find — so these resources will be first come, first serve — however, you can purchase the title on KINDLE for $15).
In 2011 Tim Keller wrote a blog called Revival: Ways and Means on “factors that, when present, often become associated with revival by God’s blessing.” Keller shows rightly that there is no “formula” to produce revival, but that history shows that there are often similar things present in times when God pours out his Spirit in unique and powerful ways.
HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHT: The Great Awakening
The Great Awakening (or First Great Awakening) was a period of revival that took place both on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the early half of the 18th century. Through movements such as the Moravians (Germany) and the preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Massachusetts), George Whitefield (throughout the Americas), and the Wesleys (England), God visited many — both to reawaken slumbering Christians and bring many to faith who were not.
The most well known source from this period is Edward’s Faithful Narrative, a letter written outlining what God had done in the season of revival in Edwards’ parish of Northampton, Massachusetts in the years 1733-35 (Sam Storms has also written a helpful introduction to Edwards’ faithful narrative). In it, Edwards outlines how God began to move in Northampton in remarkable ways, creating a unique season in the life of the whole town as the power and presence of God was made known. He writes:
“...the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor so full of joy; and yet so full of distress, as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on the account of salvation’s being brought unto them; parents rejoicing over children as newborn, and husbands over wives, and wives over their husbands. The goins of God were seen in his sanctuary, God’s day was a delight, and his tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God’s service, everyone earnestly intent on public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth; the assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the Word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors. Our public praises were then greatly enlivened.”
“In all companies, on other days [than Sunday], on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ, the gloriousness of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s Word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections, etc.”
We exist to cultivate communities of transformed disciples who live for the glory of God and the good of the city.
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Kansas City, MO
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