After what felt like a ton of reading for a class I took on the history of both the Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, I walked away with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for both of these traditions. I think Bebbington’s quadrilateral is still a helpful way to start discussing Evangelicalism and I will forever be grateful for Dr. Allan Anderson’s work on Pentecostalism, especially his observation that the charismatic tradition has an emphasis on experiencing the presence and power of the Spirit and a commitment to missions.
In addition to these characteristics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals have a desire for and openness to revival/renewal. There might be a variety of definitions for how moves of the Spirit are understood, but there is a common appreciation for the pneumatological experience. As we trace the history of these movements, moving through the first and second Great Awakenings and traveling into the Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revival, careful observers will note that significant leaders have both been involved in and led through these events. Whether we’re talking about George Whitefiled, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley or the late Steven Hill or John Wimber, Evangelical/Pentecostal leaders have been involved in (and often defended!) what can only be defined as revival.
However… I wonder if this is true of today’s Evangelicals and Pentecostals. I know there are people in these two traditions that would say they are absolutely committed to seeking for revival, but is this true for the majority of those who self-idenfity within this world? Would most Evangelicals agree that one of the most important things that we need is a great outpouring of the Spirit? Are most Pentecostals praying and fasting for a the Spirit’s spontaneous breaking into the now?
Of course, it’s probably important to note that my observations and questions arise primarily within a western context. Having spent time in Asia and Africa, I’m quite aware of the fact that the answer to these questions would be a resounding “yes!” But here in North America, and what I’ve experienced and observed in Europe, the answer is more likely a “sometimes” and “maybe.”
Why is this? Why are western Christians becoming either more apathetic, more complacent, more cynical. and more naive about the power, presence, and effectiveness of revival?
While overlooking the complexities involved toward defining revival or renewal, I’d love to read your thoughts on why the longing for revival appears to be replaced by many other concerns. I’m hoping your thoughts would help me for a sermon series I am thinking about putting together for next year that might end up as a small group study of some sorts.
What say you?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
I think the reason that people are afraid of revivals, and the like, is because some are afraid of the unknown. We often enjoy the institution-ality of church, if I’m allowed to make up a word. We enjoy that it’s structured. We know how it looks and how it works, and anything that happens outside of that frame of reference is atypical of a modern Sunday morning experience. Especially in America. We’ve basically created a church service that is so structured that leaves little to no room for anything outside of the ordinary. (There’s gotta be a sermon in there about not leaving enough space for God) I love traditional services, don’t get me wrong, but there’s got to be something to be said about these home churches and underground churches abroad that are completely Spirit driven and experiencing amazing encounters with God.
So these revivals deal a lot with the unknown. I would say that most Christians in North America long for revival, but they would all fight and debate over what revival is. Some might say that revival is another Great Awakening where others might say that revival is eliminating racial boundaries. So as with anything, my answer is a nuanced yes, most Christians would consider themselves revivalists.
Thanks, Michael! I appreciate your thoughts…
I also love the idea of making room for God!
I so long for the out pouring of the spirit.
Even though he is anathema to those in reformed camps, I would suggest Finney’s revival lectures.
Personally I believe that the reason that we have no longing for revival in the western church goes back to Wimber’s assertion that the western church is worldly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRyyB6LHxdE
Hey Luke. I think one of the biggest hindrances to revival in evangelical and especially Pentecostal circles is a higher socio economic status. With a higher socio economic status comes a desire to fit in and keep the status quo and also less of an acute need for God. I was raised in a Pentecostal church (Church of God in Christ) and during the beginning there was a need for God to heal, to deliver from drunkenness etc. Once God saved people and cleaned them up they were able to get better jobs and became more respectable. With this added respectability came more commitments outside the church and more money to spend on entertainment (the worldliness factor). There also was less of a proclivity towards risk taking since the status quo had served them well. Hope that makes sense.
Oops I think I replied to duke and not luke 🙂
I really think there is a huge connection between our (actual or perceived) need, desperation and expectation and how often we see the Holy Spirit move in powerful ways. I’ve always been struck by how our brothers and sisters in the non-western world (particularly in places that are severely underdeveloped and impoverished ) seem to more regularly see signs, wonders and the miraculous. My only conclusion is that we don’t have the same perceived need (for a powerful move of God) and without seeking after it, we see far less of it. Unfortunately, as we see far less of it, we come to expect far less of it. So on and on it goes.
I think you are correct sir.