Recently I saw another post by someone on Facebook about something a lot of charismatics and Pentecostals pray for. I used to be like this, and I’m not judging those who pray for this. But I have some thoughts I’d like to submit for consideration.
I realize I’m going against the flow in some circles, while others in the missional movement who read this might cheer me on. But I ask that you just give some thought to what I’m about to say.
Different circles have different names for this as of yet unseen revival outpouring many people are longing for and prophesying is around the corner. Whether we call it a “Third Great Awakening” or “global revival”, but the premise is always the same. Once ABC happens, then XYZ will fall in place and we can really see God move in our generation.
I used to have this paradigm myself and think “yep, once this happens, then my ministry will suddenly be valid.”
As my friend Stephen Crosby calls it, the “If Only….” syndrome:
If only we were more holy, then God would . . .
If only we prayed and fasted more, then God would . . .
If only we had more commitment to the Word, then God would . . .
If only we were more repentant, then God would . . .
If only we would cry out in anguish, then God would . . .
If only we could recover our Jewish roots, then God would
If only we had more intimacy in worship, then God would . . .
If only we had citywide unity, then God would . . .
If only we had the demonstration of power and miracles, then God would . . .
If only we would humble ourselves enough, then God would . . .
I am not saying all this is true of everybody who is praying for and prophesying about a coming great awakening but it certainly was true of me and many millennials I’ve gotten to hear from about this matter. The side-effect of that way of thinking kept me doing less than I could have been for the Gospel in the meantime. I had a mentality, even on the mission field, that I was merely preparing myself for some nebulous and unquantifiable thing that was going to happen some day… but later, and so I devalued what I was doing in the meantime until then.
After awhile I started to see how this “one day yet to come” outpouring really probably won’t ever really come.
At least not in the way we’re believing and praying for.
Now don’t get me wrong, I totally believe that having a sweeping move of God that suddenly and instantaneously changes so many hearts overnight is a good thing. A great thing, even! I have no doubt God can and would love to do that kind of thing, and I am not criticizing moves of God or revivals in the past in which that is precisely what appears to have happened.
But I have a hunch God doesn’t want to do this “global revival outpouring” as much as we want Him to.
What if He’s ready and trying to get us to go make disciples, but since we’re not doing it so much, He goes ahead and sends a revival to help speed up the process for us? Not because it was how He wanted to do something, but a fruit of us not doing what we’ve been given the mandate, power and authority to do?
Again, hear me out.
What if God brings revival in spite of us, not necessarily because of all our praying and “crying out” for it?
What if we’re not making disciples and bringing the kingdom of God to our neighbours nearby and cultures far away, and the reason outpourings tend to happen is not because God is responding to prayer, but speeding up the process on something we’ve failed to do: make disciples of the nations?
For example, what if I discipled just one person this year, and then next year turned him or her loose and we both started discipling a brand new person each? We would double and there’d be four of us to disciple a new person the following year.
To take this further, in two years’ time we’d go from one person discipling one person, to 4 people discipling 4 other people. The next year, we’d have 8 people discipled, and each year doubles from the previous year. In little time at all, we would grow exponentially. And, if we followed this through, then in 33 years we’d have over 8 billion disciples.
Think about that for a moment.
In 33 years’ time if you discipled one person per year and trained them to disciple another person themselves, you’d disciple a total of 33 people yourself, but through multiplication and reproduction you’d see 8 billion souls discipled in just over a generation!
No I’m not talking about spiritual multi-level marketing, but I’m just trying to put things into perspective.
What if you weren’t alone, and another person alongside you started the same process? Or better yet, entire churches? Surely we wouldn’t take 33 years to see 8 billion souls saved, discipled and reproducing themselves.
Obviously there will be people who reject the Gospel message. There will be people who don’t want to do this. But literally, one person CAN change the world if they are taught and trained how to lead someone to Jesus and disciple them into doing the same with others. And on and on the cycle repeats itself.
Now don’t get me wrong, this sounds great, but it’s easier said than done. Discipleship is messy and VERY inconvenient to the flesh. But what if instead of tarrying and praying for revival all the time, we got to work sharing the love of Christ with our neighbours? What if the reason some of us pray for revival is because we want God to “sweep people into the Kingdom” Himself when He’s told us to go evangelize and make disciples?
If we looked at it like investing; instead of waiting to win the lottery at the expense of not working, thinking that any moment now it will happen, what if instead we got a job and invested some of that money year after year? Compared to the guy living in his mom’s basement waiting for his winning numbers to come in, the guy working some job and investing his money for 33 years would have more to show for it down the road. It comes from consistent hard work and faithfulness and not an overnight change in luck.
I feel the same with the way we pray for revival.
What if we started getting to know our neighbours and getting involved in their lives and stop only praying for revival to happen, and do both — asking God to make us effective disciples that His glory would cover the whole earth like a fire?
Discipleship takes longer, and the immediate results are not always noticeable at first, but it is better than ‘tarrying’ for revival for years and years waiting for the explosion to finally come and sweep a bunch of people into the Kingdom for us.
Why wait for revival when we can start one by getting the discipling ball rolling to help bring it on?