One of the great things about studying history is that God brings to our remembrance the mighty and wonderful things he has done in the past.
Did you know that a number of great revivals have swept across our nation over the years? Jonathan Edwards, pastor of a small frontier town in Massachusetts in the 1730s, witnessed a great work of God in which 300 believers were added to his church in six months. For 25 straight years at the beginning of the 1800s revivals flared all across the nation. During the Civil War over 250,000 soldiers, Union and Confederate, made professions of faith.
However, studying history also reveals our shortcomings. Did you know that there's not been a great season of continual revival in America for over 100 years?
How can we explain that? It's simple. Just as in the days before Israel's exile, God's people in America have turned their back on their Creator. Oh sure, there's more churches today than at any point in our history. Yes, there are churches bursting at the seams with people. But, on the whole, churches in America have lost their way. They've forgotten their first love. They've grown old. They've grown cold. They're now dead.
What we need is a great revival--not amongst the lost but among those who claim to have been found.
William Sprague, a witness to the revivals of the Second Great Awakening, said that "the efficiency of the church depends greatly on its purity." He wasn't talking about the smooth operation of the church. He was talking about the church's ability to fulfill its God-given role, that of calling a lost and dying world to the Savior. He recognized that the church was sick, that it was cancerous, and that it was dying from the inside out.
The cause? Sin.
A church that harbors and tolerates sin of any kind is a church that no longer savors of the sweet smell of forgiveness. Instead, it reeks of spiritual death. Rather than living as their Lord lived, rather than living as the world should live, they live as the world lives. There's no longer a significant difference between the people of the church and the people of the world. Is it any wonder that our children and grandchildren see no use for the church? They see a Christianity that doesn't really matter. They see a Christianity that doesn't make a difference. And, they see no use for it.
Baptist preacher Vance Havner once said, "A revival is the church remembering, the church repenting, the church repeating."
We as a church must remember all that God has done for us and all that He has commanded us. We must repent of our individual and collective sins. We must return to our first love, sharing our faith, raising our voices in praise, and once again living lives worthy of a people called to bear His wonderful name.
We must look into our hearts, we must search our souls, and we must prepare our church. After all, the stakes are high. At risk is not just the reputation and future of our church. The reputation of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, and His church are on the line.
Join me, even now, praying that God will work a miracle of awakening among us and bring great glory to Himself.
Peter Beck (Ph.D. Southern Seminary) is assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina and a former Senior Pastor. Dr. Beck also writes at his Website, Living to God.