Perhaps you remember a time (maybe in the not-too-distant past) when the church would have a “revival”– a series of services with a focus on preaching and evangelism. Many churches still do this. In fact, I am taking part in such an event this month at one of our sister churches in the Baltimore-Metropolitan district. There is, however, another deeper sense of the word “revival.” A revival is an extended, profound work of God in a church, a community, a nation, or even a continent, which draws people to the Lord like iron to a magnet. The ‘unchurched’ become convicted and turn to God. The ‘churched’ find themselves in a sort of holy discontent– a growing conviction that there has to be more to God than what they’ve experienced. Vicarious spirituality is no longer good enough, but young and old begin to earnestly seek the Lord for themselves. God’s hot pursuit of humanity becomes a reality that few can deny.
As United Methodists, longing for this type of revival is in our DNA. The Methodist movement emerged and flourished in periods of revival so vast that they were called a “Great Awakening.” Although it might seem like such revivals are a thing of the past, I am coming to believe that God working in such a powerful and visible way is one of our greatest hopes, and therefore it must be one of our most fervent prayers.
As we look at the turmoil in our society and in our world, we have to confess that we need a vast work of God. In Baltimore, we see a murder for nearly every day of the year. Every day in our country, nearly 3500 high school students attempt to take their own lives. 3500! Every day! We need God to act! We watch in horror as lit torches parade through the streets apparently authorizing a new generation of racism and antisemitism. We need God to wake people up! The transformation that we need is too deep for human means to accomplish. This is not to say that we won’t do what we can, but ultimately what is needed is not legislation, but heart-transformation. We need the Spirit of God. (See June’s article: Pentecost Still Happens).
I wonder if you would consider joining me in prayer. Let’s set our sights high and pray the big prayer: God, we need a Great Awakening! But let’s also pray the smaller prayers: God, would you increase my faith. God, would you help me have the courage to invite someone who doesn’t go to church to our next Alpha group? (Alpha is a 10-week course that is specifically made for people who don’t believe, or who aren’t sure if. It’s a place to get a free meal, make new friends, listen to a talk about the Christian faith, and have a discussion about it. You can check out the first talk here.)
There are great things going on at Lansdowne UMC and in other churches in the area. It’s not that we’re in some particular near-term crisis. This is much bigger than that. This is bigger than Lansdowne UMC. It’s bigger than the United Methodist Church. This is about the Kingdom of God breaking into the world in a powerful, fresh way. “Thy kingdom come!”