Revival, An Old Schooler's Perspective
by William Baldwin
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re•viv•al (rĭ-vî'vəl) 1. Restoration to life, consciousness, vigor; 2. Restoration to use, acceptance 3. A new production of an old play; 4. An awakening
My son, Josh, calls me “Old school” sometimes. To make me feel better he tells me I’m more up-to-date than most old school guys he knows. That may be true or he may be trying to make me feel okay about my fifty-three year old self. Today, however, I don’t care. Outdated or up-to-the-minute, all I know is, in my thirty-four years of following Christ I’ve never known a time when the Church needs revival more than today.
I know. I lost some of you on the “R" word. Bear with me! I wish I had another word that more closely expresses what I’m talking about. Some use “renewal” and others “outpouring” to describe the same thing. But check out the definition. Basically, this is it. No wonder in the eighteenth century the word “revival” was coined when God showed up and changed the Church, and then, the world.
Consider this. We have the largest congregations in the history of this nation. The average attendance for the five largest churches in the United States is 43,000, 23,000, 22,000, 22,000, and 20,000, respectively.
In the face of record breaking attendance in a few churches, Islam in America is growing faster than the church while most denominational churches are losing members and closing by the droves. Much church growth is superficial because, to some degree, we’re only trading Christians. Hell is still filling up like wildfire (no pun intended).
Our nation is slipping farther and farther away from Christ and the decency that made America great. Besides approving of abortion and homosexuality as “normal”, the newest kid’s movie, Astro Boy, reportedly has threads of Marxism woven into the plot. I got sick reading the news story on Yahoo.
Alongside the negatives, there’s never been a time like the present when it’s so fashionable to be “hip” in church. Ten or fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine wearing jeans and tennis shoes with my shirt-tail hanging out to preach on Sunday morning. I do now, and love it. I realize that all those years when I choked myself in a black suit, starched white shirt, and tie, I did it for you. Even then, I preached that God cares more about our soul than our suit. So it only reasons that I must have dressed up for you because I thought you cared. I hope you’ve changed because I have.
And guess what? Yesterday, our church worship band opened up with the 70’s, Doobie Brothers tune, Jesus is just alright with me! There was a time when I would have cringed at the thought! But today, religion–free church is just alright with me! After all, Amazing Grace was at one time a bar room tune.
But—and all you young and not-so-young “cool” Christians please hear me out—I miss God’s presence. And NO, I don’t think our jeans and jingles have caused him to leave. I just think we may try to wow the crowds more than worship the Christ. Could it be that we’re trying so many stylish ideas to get people to come that we’ve forgotten to ask the Lord what we should do to get Him to come.
I know. It sounds so old school, even legalistic. Just saying it makes me feel like an old sobbing deacon, crying religious tears because some young, whipper-snapper took up the hymnbooks (which I really did, thirty years ago).
As well as a communicator and writer, I’m a musician and worship leader (old school, of course), and I absolutely LOVE watching a big Church praise God on His dance floor. David danced. The last two Psalms encourage loud, cymbal-crashing, lyre-playing, horn-blowing, dancing. I’m convinced God loves a joyful, dancing bride. Hallelujah!
But, and here’s the catch—you can’t get pregnant and have babies while you're on the dance floor. You can enjoy dancing with your bride, but if you want to have babies you’ve got to stop boogying long enough to find an intimate place and…well, you know. It’s in the intimate place where a new life is created.
I hope you’re getting this.
I love hurrahs and hallelujahs, big numbers and crowds. But it’s rare to find a church that is intimate with God long enough to beget new life with Him. We talk intimacy, but when was the last time you were in a worship service where the presence of God was so thick, that you, along with the other believers, could hardly move? When were you so consumed in His presence with other brothers and sisters that you dared not move because you, the bride, were in the loving embrace of the bridegroom?
Intimate worship is the room of conception, where revival—new life—is conceived, and later, given birth.
I need the presence of God more than I’ve ever needed Him. I want His presence more than I’ve wanted Him in a long, long time. I’m praying that I’ll want to want Him more than I’ve ever wanted Him before, though I’m not saying I’m there, yet. When need and desire collides, there and only there, will we pay the price for revival.
I realize this title will date me. You who know me may mutter, “There he goes again ‘wishing upon a star,’ trying to bring the past into this techno-trendy, church age.” “Good luck,” you say.
Perplexed, others may counter, “I just don’t get it.”
All I could say in response to you is, “I know. Most don’t. Unless you’ve been ruined by His presence I’m not sure you can. But once you’re ruined, you never forget it and nothing else works for you.”
I’m not giving up my jeans or tennis shoes on Sunday morning because I’ve been ruined by comfort. And this Sunday the band’s going to sing Jesus is just alright with me…again. We’ve been ruined by crazy, unreligious joy!
But I want to put you on notice today that I’ve got to have more. With or without you, old school or hip, I’ve been ruined by His presence, and I miss Him so badly!
If God doesn’t give me a personal revival, I think I’ll die. And whether you’re aware of it or not, so will you. So will all of us, even an entire nation.
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