Why the North American Church is Unlikely to Experience Revival

First, a caveat: I strongly believe that revival is the gift of God, and He grants it sovereignly according to His plan. My point with this post, though, is not that we somehow control God’s event calendar; instead, it’s that our church culture doesn’t exhibit some of the characteristics that have preceded God’s great movements. Here’s why I wonder if the North American church will experience revival:

  1. We’re not really desperate for God. We may use that kind of “desperation” terminology, but the words don’t always reflect our heart. It’s been some time since I’ve seen a congregation that pleads for God’s presence.
  2. We tend to speak about the sin of others rather than deal with our own sin. We preach strongly against sins that we sometimes tolerate under our own roof. Few people are so broken over personal sin that they can only cry out to God.
  3. We find happiness in our stuff. Sure, we know it’s all fleeting, but we treat it as if it weren’t. The more stuff we have, the “happier” we feel and the less we need God – and we often have much more stuff than people around the world do.
  4. We know little of the Word of God and often less about church history. We don’t know enough about the stories of God’s miraculous intervention and powerful displays to long to see the same. Our general lack of knowledge equates to a corresponding lack of burden.
  5. We have too few persevering, patient, persistent prayer warriors. Our praying is usually reactionary; that is, we pray only when we must. Not many of us lie on our faces pleading with God to fall on us with His power.
  6. We can grow churches without the power of God. That growth may not be the result of non-believers gloriously transformed by the grace of God, but it still results in increased numbers. And, churches that show any record of growth seldom begin praying for revival.
  7. We’re probably not ready to pay the cost of revival. When God falls on us in His power, the result must be a brokenness that leads to repentance from sin and weeping over lostness. It means calling the church to holiness and dealing appropriately with members who choose to live in rebellion. Revival often wounds first before it heals – and I’m simply not convinced the North American church is ready for that.

What are your thoughts? 

35 Comments

  • Power Struggles is something that I have seen in the small rural Appalachian churches because you have young seminarians coming out of seminary and they are demanding elder led, Calvinism, or whatever the new flavor of the month to churches who have not heard of these or have battled them in the past. Of-course, this works out real well when a young man goes into a room full of deacons and tell them they have zero authority and they’ve been running the church wrong (Hope you caught the sarcasm…LOL). Pastors need to realize that even if they believe differently on secondary or tertiary issues it is ok to take a church and lead them from where they are at. An old pastor once told me baptist churches are like barges, they can be strong and mighty but they do turn on a dime!

  • Kent Anderson says:

    I tend to push back a little against generalizations of the church. Mostly because I see what is happening on the local level with the churches I know. As for revival, it seems that it beings with me, with the church I serve and that begin with deep sense of repentance. I am mindful Daniel’s prayer in Dan. 9. I have served the church for 39 years, and I believe the best is yet to come.

  • Shae says:

    The American Church does not want revival. They want a “church” of no commitment, no requirements, and all fun. (And a well-delivered motivational speech on Sunday mornings to remind them how much God loves them.)

  • Dave McCarty says:

    I’d say just the opposite. Richard Lovelace in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Life, says that over the past 300 years in the British Isles and USA, whenever the Church was as sick and impotent as It is today, there has ALWAYS been a widespread awakening. 🙂

  • Alec Rowlands says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the assessment of the current condition of the North American Church. Fortunately God has usually not waited for the right conditions but responded to the hearts of a remnant crying out in desperation for Him to visit His people again.

  • Heath Lloyd says:

    I don’t think I disagree with anything you write here. This is what drives me to my knees. It is a large part of why I preach. Call me foolish, but I think there is perhaps a remnant of His people in North America that want to see revival. May our sovereign God be gracious and send revival.

    “Come, and let us return to the Lord” – Hosea 6:1

  • Mark says:

    As for #4, God’s miraculous interventions include Purim and Passover/Exodus which are rarely mentioned in Evangelicalism. Even though they happened long ago, they are times when God acted and everyone knew it.

  • We can never predict what God will do, but I tend to agree with your assessment, especially because of the decisions I see committted followers make these days.They are leaving the traditional brick-and-mirror churches and setting up smaller home churches.

  • Pastor Matthew says:

    This article actually describes the condition of the church at the beginning of many of the great revivals. To revive is to bring life back to something that is dead or dying or just generally very unhealthy. Revival given by God is to bring back His life to the church and to bring a renewed focus on salvation!

  • Scotty says:

    Thank you for this bold and truthful post. I wonder if a local church may experience revival even if revival doesn’t sweep a region or nation. Could these missing preludes to revival be present in a local church but not the wider church?

    • Dean Clark says:

      Looking at the Layman revival of 1857, this movement began with one man, Jeremiah Lanphier, feeling the burden to pray. He began a prayer meeting in New York to begin at noon for one hour. On the first day, he sat alone for 30+minutes but some came and word spread. The room in which Lanphier began his meeting soon became inadequate to hold all the people coming to pray for this one hour.

      Point being… as local churches, will we begin to pray and beg God for revival? Do we even see a need? Chuck’s points are spot on and Ron Whited (other comment) has a valid point too! God brings revival first when his people recognize the need and fall to their faces.

      Martin Lloyd-Jones, Revival and Malcolm McDow and Alvin Reid, Firefall 2.0 are excellent reads on revival. Lloyd-Jones more on the biblical aspects and McDow Reid on history.

  • Byron Paulus says:

    Thanks for initiating this all important conversation! After more than four decades serving in a revival ministry that has been in 7000 churches, before millions of believers in North America I confess these questions can have mysterious elements left up to the sovereign of God. Revival is a sudden, supernatural and sovereign work of God. But I often feel less certain about the dynamics and therefore being less dogmatic the longer I live. However, with some certainty I have come to believe revival begins by having a proper view of the Reviver Himself. Is.6:1, Is. 57:15, Is. 64:1. The NA church has a distorted view of God. Our response to a proper view of God results in, honesty, brokenness, repentance and obedience leading to Holy Spirit empowered Great Commission action or effectual evangelism. During times of evangelism, evangelist seeks sinners but during times of revival sinners seek the Lord. Prayer and obedience are essential ingredients I agree with Tozer, “Revival will come when even prayer is no longer a substitute for obedience.” So much more on my heart but recognizing our need and yes our desperate need is foundational to even want to engaging in a conversation such as this. Finally, we will never convince someone about revival through explanation but demonstration. I saw the fire four decades ago and the smoke will be on my clothes forever.

  • Ron Whited says:

    What will finally bring the Church to it’s knees and back to God, is the same thing that has always been God’s tool to spur revival: Persecution.

  • David Mullen says:

    i believe that true revival is born in heaven and comes from a sovereign and good God. And I am thankful that God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God is a God of initiative. Revival will flow from God’s mercy and not come in response to our efforts (works?). Throughout history, neither Israel nor the Church have ever caused revival to come or been prepared for it when it did.

  • Craig Giddens says:

    The church doesn’t need revival. That was an Old Testament concept for Israel. According to Paul we are complete in Christ. Sound, rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15), systematic preaching and teaching of the Bible is what’s needed so that saved church members can grow and lost church members can get saved. Quit waiting around for an experience when we already have His life!

    • Dean Clark says:

      I agree with your post Craig; however, revival is not only an OT concept. See the books I suggested in another comment. Revival comes by prayer and good preaching… I agree.

      DC

  • Carla Vornheder says:

    The church seems led by secular styles of worship. Pastors want more people, rather than deeper people. The children lead us.

  • Sarah Meador says:

    I find everything you wrote valid. I lived in NJ for 21 yrs, and TX for now for 10. In NJ, Christianity (according to study by Barna) was 8% of population. We drove 30 minutes to get to church. I found small groups of people who were very sincere and active in their faith. They had MANY “other things” they could be doing… in fact, they had to make determined efforts (like saying “NO” to conflicts) FOR church. Affluence and self sufficiency were a real obstacle for evangelism.

    Now, in Texas… the “Bible Belt”, by contrast you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a church. However, I can ask people “why” they are “Christians”? The most common answer I encounter is “that’s the way I was raised.” Christianity, like Judaism, is their cultural identity, often having little to do with faith, belief, love for Christ, behavior other than being a matter of rituals, and/or traditions like putting up a Christmas tree or what you do before the Cowboys game. Asking when they “accepted Christ”, gets info on baptism. …. “It’s not “magic water”. I will offer, inquiring when they accepted Jesus as their “Savior”. Blank look. (If you are a preacher… take NOTE! SOULS are at stake!) There are plenty of “white washed tombs”. No one is more lost than someone who doesn’t even know that they are missing.

    “Revival”… is an igniting of the Holy Spirit, breathing new life into what was once dead…. CS Lewis wrote that God “will not ravage, He can only woo.” For those promised riches as if God were a magic Genie, “rub the lamp and He delivers” … promises of Devine Love and Eternal Salvation maybe far too ethereal for those addicted to immediate gratification.

  • christoph says:

    I’m not sure if that is related to the topic of Revival. But in spite of all, Evangelism is NOT a priority. many Youth Mission Trip of other mission trips is everything but evangelism! I recruited a youth group for a mission trip. They go to Portugal to do evangelism, and not putting up a building.

  • Lon Chenowith says:

    All the observations are true, but when you believe that revival and awakening is a sovereign act of God, the Almighty can do it anyway! He can revive the churches of our land and awaken the people to honor and glory of His name and person. He can change the nation in a moment of time! Our God is able to do what man cannot do by formulas, meetings, advertisements and even consecrated prayer! Oh, Lord, in spite of us, in spite of your churches and their materialism, personality cults and disobedience, revive us again! Bend down the people of God and bring in the harvest until the nation once again says from Hollywood to Madison Avenue: “Jesus saves and Jesus saves alone!”

  • A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm?

    What is “Revival?”

    In order to have “Re-vival?”
    Doncha first hav-to-hav “Vival?”
    ——-

    I can’t seem to find “Revival” in my antiquated KJV.

    Where is “Revival” mentioned in the Bible?
    ——-

    If “Revival” is NOT in the Bible?
    How can WE, His Sheep, be like those in Berea?
    Who searched the scriptures daily whether these things be so?

    If dis ting, “Revival” Ain’t in da Bible?
    ——-

    How do WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, know?
    “Who” is doing “Revival” correctly? Biblically?

    How do WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, know?
    “When” this “Revival” is happening?
    ——-

    How about ALL the folks leaving “Today’s Religious System?”
    The 501 c 3, non-profit, tax deductible, Religious Corporations?
    That the IRS calls church?

    Could this be God’s Revival?

    Calling Out His Disciples?
    From a “Corrupt Religious System.”

    Just like He did when Jesus was in the flesh.

    Jesus did NOT reform “The Corrupt Religious System” of His day.

    Jesus left it.

    And took a bunch with Him.

    Jesus “Called Out” His Ekklesia, His Body, His Church, His Disciples…
    To walk with Him… And have a relationship with Him.

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  • Brian says:

    The article is ‘spot on.’ As I read down the list, they are all things that I have seen or felt as a pastor. The challenge for a pastor is that we can’t make people trust Christ as Savior. We can study, preach, disciple, model, and love, but only the Spirit can bring them to the point of decision.

    We have 7 core values associated with our denomination. Two of which I allude to all the time. 1. Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. 2. Without the empowering of the Holy Spirit we can accomplish nothing. If those two things are not embraced by the people, nothing of eternal value will occur.

    Every item in the list mentioned clearly illustrates that we have an enemy. We know he is unseen, but over time he subtly deceives, destroys, incites, and accuses followers of Christ. We doubt, fear, and trust ourselves more than God. Clearly, the only real thing that will change the church here in America is true personal revival.

    The success of the church in America comes down to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. No church program, activity, or plan in an of itself can truly bring about spiritual transformation. Lord Jesus, come.

  • James says:

    Had to see where your from. Sounds like you haven’t been traveling much, we are experiencing such a move of God in New England. Even on Yale university campus. Saddens me when people have a limited perspective. Just know God is breaking out in many places you may not know. Repentance, miracles, signs and wonders.

Leave a Reply to Heath Lloyd Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.