Life Happened Here Once

It’s an amazing moment when a butterfly hatches from her chrysalis, flexes her wings until they dry, and then takes flight discovering what it is like to be a butterfly instead of a caterpillar.  We get to enjoy this little miracle in Sara’s garden almost every year. But it never happens at the same place twice.

Sometime next month thousands of people are set to gather in a stadium in Southern California on the 110th Anniversary of the beginning of the Azusa Street Revival in hopes of gathering 100,000 people to   call down a great, last-day revival.  This is only the most recent of numerous attempts to get God to act, all driven by “words from the Lord” and interpretations of dreams in hopes that some day “stadium Christianity” will take over the world where gatherings of Christians will replace sports contests in our largest stadiums.

Everywhere I’ve gone on this trip I’ve been asked what I make of all this and if I’m involved.  I’m not. Honestly, I don’t find the prospect very engaging for a number of reasons. Jesus seemed to want us to make prayer a private matter not a public display. He seemed to indicate that praying with 100,000 people has no more power than two or three agreeing in his name.  I also find it strange that the 110th (really, not 100th?) anniversary of a past moment of God’s visitation would be significant to God in any way.  I also find a large crowd of people trying to “call down” revival seems more reminiscent of Baal’s prophets trying to call down their false god, rather than Elijah’s simple proclamation that God simply make himself known as the one, true God. (I Kings 18)

Jesus never indicated that praying in large gatherings would usher in a world-wide revival. He said that when we were loved enough by him to love others in the same way the whole world would come to know who he is. That’s where I want to invest my time and attention.

Thus I am not looking for some great revival as just another “event” that will have it’s day in the sun then fade away like all the others. In fact, I see revival happening all over the world right now.  I see spiritual hunger emerging and tens of thousands of people that I know, opening to God in a fresh way, learning to live in his love and share it with others freely.  Something amazing is already happening that is not controlled or promoted by humanity and yet is filled with the richness of the Living Jesus. I find that much more engaging.  So, no, I’m not involved nor do I have any hope that this event just won’t be another in a long line of prayer meetings, summits, and rallies that smell more of human effort than the fresh wind of the Spirit.

Of course, I could be wrong about this. God might actually be leading them and something significant will happen that day. I’ll be the first to apologize if I’m wrong, but I’ve never seen this kind of thing fulfill the promises of its organizers. It may feel spectacular while people are there, but they will go back to their homes and wonder what it was all about. This is not the way God seems to work.  And by that I am not casting aspersions on the hopes or motives of those who feel inclined to plan or attend these events. For the most part I know them to be well-intentioned people who sincerely want God to do something in our day.  But I am not hopeful that this is the means to the end that they want, or even that the revival they are looking for is very different from what he is already doing in the world to draw people to himself without named celebrities on the stage.

I don’t chase these things around any more than I hang out beside a spent chrysalis hoping another butterfly will emerge. Life happened there once and it will not do so again. When another butterfly hatches it will come from another place, at another time.

Maybe our traditions are simply hanging around old places where God worked once, hoping he will work there again rather than following him to see what he is doing now. How much energy and effort is wasted by those who hope God will do something he did once again and again in the same way and come away disappointed and disillusioned when their efforts bear little fruit?

Maybe God has moved on and life is happening somewhere else. Because, as Jesus said, “My Father is always working.”

Maybe we’re just looking in the wrong place.


15 thoughts on “Life Happened Here Once”

  1. You are being very kind! I am so sad when I see this kind of stuff happening and saddened and humbled by remembering that I once did such things myself, but blessed and humbled that Jesus revealed to me that I no longer have to seek someone who is closer than my own breath.

  2. My sentiments exactly. I have read up on virtually every ‘revival’ over the ages, have prayed earnestly with my congregations in days past for another awakening of the same sort, but have concluded in the last nine years or so that God is working very differently these days, in ways often unnoticed by the institutional church. Just as you can’t capture wind in a box, you can’t put God’s mysterious workings in a box. Together with an increasing number around the world, I think God is doing an old thing in new ways these days. Thanks for another great post.

  3. There are so many of us who could echo all that you have said Wayne and our friends here, that I really believe God is moving in a way outside of the box that none can take the publicity for, great!

  4. Very good article. I agree with most of it.

    However I recall at the Houston event, where I was recruited as a volunteer, in conjunction with the event we prayer-walked the huge Planned Parenthood facility and the surrounding neighborhoods. Since then the State of Texas has passed legislation limiting the activities of Planned Parenthood and its funding.

    At the event, I had opportunities to minister to a number of people as I walked around doing security detail.

    Events like these can bring the body of Christ, which is so divided, together in unity at least for a brief time.

  5. Great stuff Wayne. I remember when I was a young Christian getting hold of as many of the old books about revivals of the past and God stopped me from reading them when He told me this.
    “The revival you will see is coming out of the future, not from the PAST!” I was only lead to read 1 book on the subject and that one was “Thy God Reigneth” by R. E. Miller and was all about the Argentina revival and it was the story of how a man worked WITH God and heard God for that nation then saw God do things as he obeyed what God told him to do.

  6. I agree………I have left ministry myself because of the so called entertainment it seems to be deemed and rules and regulations of getting to know Christ….couldnt be a part of it any longer

  7. It is interesting Wayne, that the initial revival was not through an organized church system and lasted only until the followers began to fragment. Very soon there was a schism, then people started up their own ‘churches’and of course man’s idea of controlling the way God works. No wonder it did not continue! Initial fervor was replaced by tradition and rules.

  8. These places can be an Altar of remembrance
    In a time segregation was both religious, racial and national background . People of all walks of life gathered in pursuit of God .
    Good Article

  9. Amen and Amen, Wayne. As always, you say it so well. We really appreciate Bill Johnson’s definition of true revival: “Revival is not a series of meetings. Revival is when the Spirit of God has arrested the hearts of the people of God; the Presence of God has become the primary focus; and the affects of revival such as manifestations, conversions, healings, deliverances and so on have brought change to the culture.” What a unique idea…revival not another series of meetings, but rather when we see the Spirit of God arrest the hearts the men and women…” When we come to know and experience Father as Abba, and His love fills our hearts driving out the pain of doing life, we then see true revival within the heart of man and change comes to the culture around us. THIS is true revival.

  10. Some of God’s kids seem to need an “event” to find assurance that God showed up, and it is enticing, I must say, to be part of thousands involved in worship together. But in the end, to “be still and know that I am God” is what is life changing for me. Thank you for verbalizing the dangers of looking to man made productions, which seems to be the result of out entertainment culture.

  11. So many posts on my Facebook page from people alluding to this meeting! Some are from pastors who, as you say, are standing looking at an empty chrysalis. I am an alumni of a Bible college that was housed, at the time, at Angelus Temple, one of the original “Azusa” type locations. Many years ago, as I walked those halls(while still in the grip of organized religion), I remember the profound feeling that I was in a place that once “was” but not “is.” There was a sense of history, but that was all. Thanks for the article.

  12. Sort of agree with you Wayne…. There is a revival still going on in Shillong in NE India which started in 2006 on the 100th anniversary of Christianity coming to the Indian state of Meghalaya through Presbyterians who came straight out of the Welsh Revival. In their case, there was a genuine concern about the moribund state of the Presbyterian churches in Meghalaya at the turn of the Millennium and a genuine concern to seek God for renewal through somewhat impromptu prayer gatherings in the fields over many months. Anyway, it’s working, hundreds of thousands have been saved but this has largely gone under the radar as the rest of the world was following the more media savvy Pensacola meetings. I’ve visited Shillong and it is not surprising that God is moving among young people, lives are being transformed for good, the gifts of the Spirit are evident and the clergy have largely been peripheral to it. The gatherings are marked by singing praises and prophesying, not preaching. These are to me pretty good indicators that it is a genuine work of God. So, yes orchestrated events seeking revival a la Finney, without a heart response is not going to go anywhere; but no, genuinely seeking God even if He doesn’t work in revival is always to be encouraged because the Lord does want His people to pray earnestly and continually and to seek His face. I suspect that many folks like the idea of revival or rather the excitement that goes with it, but are not prepared to pay the price personally. After all, that is what revival is all about isn’t it; the renewal of the church’s heart for God? The subsequent impact on the world is nice but not the point. Unfortunately, some of our brothers seem to be overly exercised seeking excitement rather than seeking the quiet voice of the Lord. I saw this too 20 years ago in the Toronto Blessing meetings as well. It is I’m afraid, a consequence of the consumerism of post-modern church life. Let’s by all means pray for revival and actually, mean it!

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