Marks of Revival Movements for Leaders

In 2014 current SBC President Ronnie Floyd issued a call entitled  Pleading with Southern Baptists  calling for a focus on revival prayer. Last fall Dr. Floyd asked me to address almost 100 SBC leaders about the need for and nature of revival. I shared with them five marks of awakenings gleaned from past movements. These do not represent an exhaustive list, but in my mind are critical for our times. The first two marks would surprise no one familiar with God’s work in past revival movements. The next two may surprise some, and the final mark surprised me, as it represents an aspect of awakening I missed in my years of study but saw clearly in seasons of real revival in my own experience and in that of friends.

1. Deep, burdened, desperate prayer. Matthew Henry said, “When God begins a work, He sets His people to praying.” John Knox prayer, “Give me Scotland, or I die.” As a boy, Jonathan Edwards made a booth in the woods and prayed five times a day. No wonder he wrote a treatise on prayer in the middle of the First Great Awakening.

Baptist pastors Stephen Gano and Isaac Backus sent a circular letter in 1795 to pastors of all denominations in New England calling for a concert of prayer, using Edwards’ treatise on prayer in their exhortation. Within a few years the Second Great Awakening came. A group of college guys prayed under a haystack in 1806; as a result the first movement of global missions on American soil was born out of this “Haystack Revival.” Jeremiah Lanphier experienced a prayer revival out of a prayer meeting in 1857 in New York City. On and on the examples go.

Leonard Ravenhill said when it comes to praying for revival, God does not answer prayer, He answers desperate prayer. For what are you praying in holy desperation?

2. A radical passion to win the world to Jesus. Movements of revival send believers into the culture to win people at all costs. John Wesley, a proper, Oxford trained Anglican, wrote in his journal that he doubted whether a person could be saved outside a church building. But when revival came he found himself reaching a whole population by preaching in the fields. Edwards noted that when rescuing people from a burning house, they had no time to fight one another. In the same way, when we focus on advancing the gospel, we build each other up instead of tearing each other down. In the Jesus Movement, a trio of pastors in their pressed suits came upon some Jesus freakish hippies sharing Jesus on the street.

“What are you doing?” A pastor asked a young man. “Sir, we are doing what you just talk about,” the young believer replied. Ouch. When is the last time you were so broken for a lost person you became less concerned about methods or being proper and more broken to show and share Christ?

3. Youth play a vital role. Jonathan Edwards said the Great Awakening was mostly a youth movement. I’ve read countless primary accounts of revival movements from history; youth figure prominently in around 90% I have read. Spurgeon preached to thousands in London in his early 20s. Whitefield preached across the colonies at 25. Brainerd and McCheyne died before they turned 30 yet we remember well their valiant ministries.

If you are middle aged or older, be aware: you and I are not likely to be the people who start a revival, but we certainly have the influence to kill one. What are you doing to involve young people and to allow them to lead?

4. Social justice: in awakenings, people are reach, churches are planted, and orphanages are established. Whitefield spread the Great Awakening across the colonies. He also founded an orphanage called Bethesda in Georgia. Spurgeon, Spener, and others had orphanages as well. Numerous other social enterprises had their genesis in revival movements.

Millennials love causes. If we want to impact a younger generation note this: before they will join in our causes we have to care about theirs. What are you doing about the brokenness in our land and in your community?

5. Here is the one I missed: in revival, leaders get right. Isaiah was the most godly man in the land, yet he was ruined by his own sin. Edwards wept in his church as Whitefield preached. Brainerd lay in the snow, coughing up blood from tuberculosis, begging God to save the Indians.
Leaders can so easily isolate themselves from accountability and thus from confronting their own sin.

Who is in your life that can call you out? Note: you can be in the middle of the activity of God and miss Him. I know I am experiencing revival personally when I stop confessing the sins of others and look in my own heart. When is the last time you were broken personally and sought God to revive your heart? God is stirring the hearts of many. Let’s join together, seek the Lord, and be available for His Spirit to use us.

Note: I’ve written a bit on this topic.  See Firefall 2.0 and Revival Revived.

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Creation Vs Eternalism: (The Age of the Earth Part 1)

Historically, the debate has not been between creation and evolution, but creation and eternalism. During the apostolic and patristic eras, the pagans did not argue simply for an ancient earth, they contended that the universe was eternal. Even though Aristotle believed that the world was caused by God, he did not believe that God created the world, in time, in the usual understanding of the word “create.” God, as the perfect, unchangeable being, did not act in time. Since he is the eternal source of the world, Aristotle reasoned, the cosmos and its elements must also be eternal. Such a view is called eternalism. During the first centuries of the church, neo-Platonic philosophers would use Aristotle’s arguments to attack the Christian doctrine of creation. For example, in his book, On the Eternity of the World, Proclus gives 18 arguments against creation in favor of an everlasting universe. From biblical times up through the medieval era, the greatest challenge to the doctrine of creation was eternalism. 40 questions creation evolution

Eternalism, by its very nature, is fatalistic. The ancient pagans believed that the world operated within an eternal framework of oscillating and recurring cycles. The early cultures—Sumerian, Indian, and Chinese—universally held to the notion of never-ending, repeating, cyclic time. The Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks all held to 36,000 year cycles while the Hindus believed that the cycles were as long as 4.3 million years. The Mayans taught that the world had been created, destroyed, and re-created at least four times, with the last re-creation occurring on February 5, 3112 BC. The pagans understood time as a circle rather than an arrow.

Early Christian writers such as Tertullian and Augustine responded to the threat of eternalism by demonstrating that the Bible taught that God created in time, and that He created the world ex nihilo (i.e., out of nothing). John Philoponus, a 6th century Christian philosopher, exposed the internal inconsistencies of Aristotle’s arguments, and demonstrated that the notion of a world created in time is more logically tenable than belief in an eternal universe. By the end of the patristic period the doctrine of creation had won the day. However, the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries will be accompanied by the resurgence of eternalism. This needs to be kept in mind as we survey the attempts to ascertain the universe’s age. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution)

This blog is cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Suggested Reading Before You Begin Seminary

Seminary is (or should be) a time of intense study, filled with lots of interesting reading. Yet, in order for seminary students to make the most of their time, they ought to have a good grasp of the academic and, especially, spiritual skills and disciplines required to succeed in seminary. To that end, Southeastern’s Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies (Dr. Chuck Lawless) provided the following list. Are there any key books that you think we are missing?

Adler, Mortimer J., and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. rev. ed. New York, N.Y.: Touchstone, 1972. (426 pp.)

Bartholomew, Craig G., and Michael W. Goheen. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2014. (272 pp.)

Blue, Ron. Faith-Based Family Finances: Let Go of Worry and Grow in Confidence. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008. (592 pp.)

Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. repr. Minneapolis, Minn.: Desiring God, 2014. (254 pp.)

Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. repr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Publishing Group, 2006. (192 pp.)

Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Edited by L. Arnold Hustad. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2015. (496 pp.)

Fee, Gordon D. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 4th ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2014. (298 pp.)

Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999. (528 pp.)

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Group USA, 2008. (310 pp.)

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1952. (260 pp.)

Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2009. (288 pp.)

Packer, J. I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1973. (286 pp.)

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2010. (289 pp.)

Schaeffer, Francis A. How Should We Then Live? 50th Anniv. Ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2005. (292 pp.)

Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. 5th ed. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009. (293 pp.)

The Holy Bible.

Thielicke, Helmut. A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1962; repr. Eastford, Conn.: Martino Fine Books, 2014. (58 pp.)

Tripp, Paul David. Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012. (240 pp.)

Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. rev. ed. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2014. (352 pp.)

Williams, Joseph M., and Gregory G. Colomb. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 10th ed. New York, N.Y.: Longman, 2010. (288 pp.)

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