5 Dangers Of An Emphasis On Revivalism
“We believe the church must move away from an emphasis on revivalism. Under revivalism, the key to spirituality is revival—an event where the Spirit of God catches the church up in a spiritual experience of rejuvenation and catharsis that converts the lost, heals the sick and delivers sinners. We believe revivals happen (and we have enjoyed them in our church), even though this is not a New Testament emphasis. New Testament Christians are never instructed how to bring about a revival. Further, the ideology that places revival as the key to success in the church can be destructive to the notion of a church planting movement. People may look to such supernatural events for a shortcut. This expectation drains energy from regular daily evangelism, living for God, and disciple making, which seem mundane and unremarkable by comparison. Church multiplication takes daily effort, often exerted in very non-showy, quiet ways, such as building up fellow believers and engaging in friendship evangelism as a way of life. Consistency is essential. If a spiritual revival comes, we should accept it with joy. But waiting for the Spirit to “fall” often runs counter to the lifestyle needed for successful church planting.”
– Dennis McCallum (taken from “Urban Home Church Planting at Xenos“)
I agree with Dennis. If a revival happens – awesome. Who doesn’t want to see the lost converted, the sick healed, and the demonized delivered? But I believe there are some dangers in an emphasis on revivalism.
1) Exalting the fantastic over the mundane
Sometimes where there’s an emphasis on revivalism, certain things get valued over others that shouldn’t. The seemingly mundane and unremarkable tasks of changing diapers, working a job with integrity and Christ-like character, being a good husband or wife, cleaning toilets, disciple making, etc. can be devalued compared to platform ministry, healing, prophecy, etc. Noah & Jeremiah’s preaching were no less spiritual than Paul’s, regardless of the results, and Jesus working as a carpenter was no less spiritual than Jesus healing the sick.
2) Borrowing from the future to pay for today
Revivalism puts a lot of hope and emphasis on a future move of God. If this is not coupled with a present “in the now” satisfaction in God, completely independent of the possibility of any spectacular future move of God, an unhealthy dependence on borrowing from the future can occur in an attempt to pay for today’s deficit. The danger with this is that God does not guarantee revival in your sphere, in your lifetime. So if that’s what you are banking on for today’s satisfaction, you could find yourself ten years into it, spiritually bankrupt and disillusioned, with not a whole lot to show for years of commitment to something that hasn’t happened and may never happen.
3) Replacing gospel motivation
Because of a contemporary dirth in the centrality of the gospel in some circles, a vacuum of motivation has been created. The gospel then becomes in danger of being replaced with the dangling of euphoric revival carrots. As great as revival is, has been, or ever will be, it cannot trump the centrality of the gospel’s power to motivate followers of Christ to obedience and sacrificial service.
4) Indefinite requirements
How radical, hot, devoted, or sacrificial does one need to be, in order to see revival? How much prayer is necessary? How much fasting? This lack of specificity, especially over prolonged periods of time without revival, can lead to unhealthy personal and/or corporate striving for greater sacrifice in order to achieve revival.
Whenever the key to spirituality or what individuals or groups of people identify primarily with becomes anything other than the person and work of Jesus, the danger of elitism is lurking right around the corner. And this danger becomes all the more prevalent amongst a generation starving for purpose and meaning, who are engaging in radical sacrifice for the purpose of revival.
About Josh Christophersen
Josh is a software engineer, church planter, and blogger with a passion for helping people do their life well. He lives in KC with his wife and 7 kids.