‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42[/su_note]Have you heard someone say, “I am a Christian, but for me faith is a private thing and I don’t need to go to church”? Or perhaps you have heard, “I used to go to church but all they wanted was my money, so I don’t go to church anymore”? I hate to ask this, but have you heard yourself saying something similar?When the Holy Spirit regenerates the human spirit He not only saves them from a life of separation from God and his family, but into a life of relationship with God and the church. We are not meant to be spiritual lone rangers; we are supposed to be members of a living organism called The Church.A characteristic of the church of Acts was their devotion to the fellowship. They were so committed to each other that they were prepared to sell some of their possessions and give the proceeds to the church leadership for distribution to members who had little. They also loved to be in each other’s company and regularly ate together in home-based groups.
In times of revival devotion to the fellowship increases dramatically. There is a fresh awareness of how important life together as believers really is. There is vibrancy in the meetings and an expressed joy in being together. When disciples of Jesus meet during these times the subject on everyone’s lips is not rugby, stock prices, government corruption and crime, but Jesus and his Kingdom.In my local church we have fifty per cent of our people in cell groups. This means that half of the people who regularly attend our Sunday services are also part of a small group that meets weekly. When I compare this statistic to other churches I sometimes feel a little smug – “Fifty per cent is pretty good!” I think to myself. But, of course, it isn’t really because half of the folk are not being properly pastored and they are not being adequately bonded into the church body. The first church met together every day, and in times of revival a similar phenomenon occurs. People are so enthusiastic about what God is doing among them that they don’t want to miss anything. In addition, they are so delighted at what God is doing in their fellow believers that they deeply desire to spend as much time possible with them.So then, some pointed questions: Are you a devoted member of a local church? Do you actively seek out as much fellowship as you can with your fellow believers? Be encouraged – revival is coming, and this will change!Share |[Note to reader: If you are seeing this in your email, please visit the blog to share this post, and do not share from your email]
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42[/su_note]I was brought up in a traditional Christian home. I attended Sunday school every week and once a month I accompanied my parents to take communion in the main sanctuary of the church building. The wooden pews were arranged facing the front of the building which was dominated by a large raised pulpit and an impressively solid rectangular communion table. Both of these were set apart from the people attending the service by a communion rail. The internal architecture sent out some strong messages. Message One: preaching is important; especially the robed man who ascended the pulpit stairs to reign above the congregation at least three meters above contradiction. Message Two: the ‘body and blood’ of the Lord Jesus is available on a sort of holy altar and may only be approached by the same robed gentleman. Message Three: “Stay at a distance, my child; your place is ‘that side’ of the communion rail.”It is very sad that the means of grace that Jesus left with us to remember Him by has become, in so many churches, not so much a means of grace as a means of religious observance. The communion table that is supposed to remind us of the Last Supper looks like an altar of sacrifice and the man officiating looks more like a high priest than a loving pastor.
LA Times, 1906Equally sad is how prayer has been denigrated from a means of communicating with God, to either a religious ritual or a supposed release of power. In many churches the minister says, “Let us pray” and then he, and he alone, proceeds to run through a formal litany of thanksgiving, intercession, and petition. When he is finished the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer with horrible speed and mindlessness. And how many times have we all heard the mantra ‘there is power in prayer’, as if praying releases some impersonal energy to our advantage. There is power in God, and when we speak to God, he hears us, and sometimes he responds with a release of Holy Spirit power – but there is no power in prayer itself!The Lord’s Table, Eucharist, or whatever your denomination calls it, is meant to be a means of communing with God. Prayer is meant to be a means of communing with God. Through both means we speak to our Heavenly Father, we tell him how we feel about him and about our circumstances. We confess things to him and we share with him our hearts – we commune with him.In times of revival prayer plays a major role. Before revival comes people start to pray, earnestly and regularly, asking God to come in power. During revival prayer often is the catalyst for bringing people to salvation. In the revivals in both China and India the services consisted mainly of corporate prayer and during those times people got healed and people got saved.Now, of course, I have to end by asking some questions. What is your prayer life like – are you devoted to communion with God? Does prayer characterise your church? What role does it play in the gathered congregational life of your church?I have to confess that in my church we are still failing in this regard but I am encouraged by the fact that more and more people are coming to the early morning prayer meetings. I am also encouraged, in a perverse sort of way, with how the Holy Spirit is chastising me in this area of my life.
|Is Jesus the central message from your pulpit?|
Revival, in essence, is when God brings His church back to what she was at first. The Church of Acts chapter two was the first and archetypal church. The characteristics and dynamics of this church are therefore those we would expect to see in any genuine revival in church history or today.
The first Christians were a devoted people, constantly and diligently focused on three key issues. The first mentioned in the Acts account is, ‘the apostles’ teaching’. At that time the fledgling church had only the Old Testament as their written revelation of and from God. The Gospels had not been written and Paul had not even appeared on the scene. But they had the personal testimonies of a group of men who had followed Jesus for over three years. These men had heard what He had taught and they had observed what He had done. One of them, John, identified Jesus as the living Word of God and later wrote that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14) What Luke refers to in Acts as the ‘apostles’ teaching’ was surely the faithful repetition of what Jesus had said and done. From the start the early Christians were devoted to Jesus and His words.
Historical revivals have some common themes and one of these is a return to Christ-centred expository preaching and teaching. A precursor to revival and a characteristic of revival itself is a devotion to Jesus and the Bible – the Living Word and the Written Word. Gone are the topical sermons that are in most cases little more than an entertaining exposure of whatever is in the preacher’s head and heart. Gone are the moralistic homilies and the crowd-pleasing promises of health, wealth and all that glitters. Instead, there is the faithful and persistent exposure of what Jesus said and did, who Jesus is, and what characterises Him and the life He portrays.
Take the Christocentric test – is Jesus the central message from your pulpit? Do the majority of messages faithfully explain what the Bible presents as the way of God in Christ Jesus? If not, then it’s time to pray for a return of this vital dynamic of revival – devotion to the Word of God.
|Evan Roberts, founder of the Welsh Revival|
|Moriah Chapel, Wales|
History is replete with wonderful Christian revivals, and their names live on through the centuries; The Great Awakening, Azusa Street, The Welsh Revival, The Hebrides Revival, Indian Revival, Chinese Revival, Korean Revival, Philippians Revival, South African Revival, and so on. And from each of those revivals we remember the names of the key leaders; Evan Roberts, Campbell Morgan, Wesley, Whitfield, Seymour, John G Lake and many more. Each account tells of how God swept into a community and turned it from sin and apathy to glory!
|Revival in Australia – early 20th century|
Revival is a ‘returning to life’ of a church or wider church community. It is not a reward for faithful ministry, but a remedy for apathy and dead religiosity. God comes to the aid of His struggling people when we have grown cold and ineffective, materialistic and religious. He comes with power and glory. Holy Spirit revival comes with repentance, confession, prayer, and new birth. It also comes with mighty works of healing and supernatural manifestations of the power of God.
In the next few posts I am going to touch on some of the characteristics of a true Holy Spirit revival. Won’t you search your heart right now and ask, ‘Do we need revival at this time?’ Then ask the harder question, ‘Do I want revival?’