THE CHALLENGE OF GLOBALIZATION CALLS FOR REVIVAL
REVIVAL AND GLOBALIZATION: Beyond Business As Usual
We are living on the edge of the 21st century. The greatest opportunity in the history of the Church is ours during this first decade of the 21st century. Unprecedented opportunities are opening up in Eastern Europe, while the Church in China is the fastest growing in the world. In the next ten years the population of our planet will double in size, from five to ten billion people! Revival is imperative if churches are to have a strategy for global witness. What perspective do the Scriptures provide?
OLD TESTAMENT MODELS OF REVIVAL:
A. Six revivals in Israel occurred in the days of the Judges: Judges 3.7, 12; 4.1; 6.1; 10.6; 13.1; I Samuel 7.3-17.
B. Seven revivals in Judah took place during the period of the divided kingdom and following
the Babylonian captivity: II Chronicles 14, 15; 17-20; 23; 24; 29-31; 34,35; Ezra 5, 6;
Nehemiah 8, 9.
C. Israel’s destruction was twice deferred by revivals before the Northern Kingdom was destroyed: I Kings 17, 18; II Kings 9, 10.
A study of these accounts reveals the following factors present in the revivals at Mount Carmel and at Nineveh and the revival under the leadership of Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah:
1. Someone yielded himself completely to God to be used by God to lead revival.
2. There was always a return to the Word of God.
3. Backsliders were always returned to true worship wherein each came before God to
participate, not merely to be an observer.
4. Bold and consecrated living was brought back into prominence.
5. There was always a return to heartfelt joy.
NEW TESTAMENT MODELS OF GROWTH IN ACTS:
Acts 2.41 contains an aorist verb tense which is translated “added.” In 2.47, Luke uses an imperfect verb which means “continually added.” The Church has been continually growing between verses 41 and 47. Hindrances to the growth of the Church are expressed in chapters 3, 4, and 5. As soon as the Church strategically resolves the internal conflict, it grows again as expressed in 5.14. Three words relating to growth are used in verses 13 and 1 4. The first term “tolma” means “risk.” Apparently it was a risk to become a member of the Church. In 2.41 it is the imperfect verb form which translates as “continually added.” In 6.1 a present participle is used to express “continual multiplication” of the Church.
Growth Through Conflicts: Chapter 6 exposes further conflict in the early Church and as before, when the Church resolved the destructive tension, the Church grew. Luke employs three terms in 6.17 - (1) One expresses qualitative inner maturity; (2) Another speaks of quantitative multiplication of members; and (3) Some describe the social resistance to the growth. The third term translated “greatly” actually means “explosively.”
Geographical Expansion: Chapters 7 and 8 relate Stephen’s death and Paul’s conversion, whose witnessing results in the geographical expansion of Christ’s Body. As Christian witness grows, the Church breaks through all social barriers. In 9.31 Luke employs four terms important for our present study: (1) He speaks of the Church “being continually built up” (present passive participle) and of (2) disciples as “continually walking” as believers. This term represents a Hebrew idiom for “life style” or life pattern. (3) Once more he employs the term for “kept on multiplying” and (4) his fourth word translates as “turned” or “converted.”
Tension Between Gospel and Culture: A fundamental tension develops in the early Church between the Jews and Gentiles. This matter is exposed in chapters 10-11 and 15 (read Romans and Galatians for discussion of the tension between Gospel and human cultural values). God continues to grant growth to the Church that seeks resolution of tension and confrontation with hindrances. In 12.24 once more the Church “kept growing” and “kept on multiplying” (both verbs are in the imperfect tense).
The Church with A Global Vision: The Church at Antioch was approximately ten years old and lived with the dynamics of a world vision. We learn two crucial lessons from this early congregation: (1) The best leadership must be sent out to plant churches, and (2) the city was a crucial part of the vision. By 2000 A.D. over one-half of the world’s population will live in fewer than 500 mega-cities. (Many of the congregations in the Restoration Heritage are in small, rural communities.)
After chapter 13 the Church expands in the Greco-Roman world. In 16.5 Luke once more reports on the qualitative growth of the disciples who are “continually strengthened” and “continually increase numerically” each day. At this juncture the Church moves from east to west, from Asia to Europe. Always upward and onward, Paul moves to the great metropolitan population centers of Corinth, Athens, etc.
On his last missionary journey Paul encounters political, legal, and religious (occult) hindrances. Luke marvelously reveals the “power conflicts” and describes Paul’s multiple confrontations with three terms: (1) “mightily” - an adjective meaning with force; (2) “grew” - imperfect tense suggesting qualitative growth (see also its use in Luke 1.80; Ephesians 4.16; and Acts 6.7), and (3) “prevailed”, expressing qualitative growth or resistance overcome by power.
The Unhindered Gospel: Paul’s arrest and journey to Rome fill the pages of the remainder of Acts. The book just stops; it reveals no details of the consequences of Paul’s imprisonment. At 28.31 Luke’s description of God’s “witnessing prisoner” employs four descriptive terms: (1) Paul is continually preaching (present participle); (2) Paul is continually preaching (present participle), (3) He speaks with “boldness”, which means with full conviction, and (4) the adverb “unhinderedly” which is the final word in Luke’s text.
This third term is used only 25 times in the entire New Testament and appears only 2 times in Acts. God’s desire and design, both for the first and twenty-first centuries, is for an “unhindered Gospel.” In one short decade the world will double in size; this calls for a global vision and strategy immediately! We can only concur with Charles Colson when he affirms:
I began to see that societies are changed only when people are changed, not the other way around. The crisis is not political; it is moral and spiritual, and so is the solution. That’s why Christians are the only ones who can offer viable answers. So, I have written this book not just as a warning, but as a challenge to God’s people. (C. Colson, Against The Night: Living In The New Dark Ages! (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publisher, 1989, p. 11)
Carl Henry said it well--”The barbarians are coming! The Lord Jesus Christ is coming! Let the Church that is here come now with Good News, with the only durable Good News, and come in time!”
Post Biblical Revivalism: The past two centuries have seen many “revivals,” upsurges of evangelism accompanying renewals of fervor in the Church. The first of these great revivals was the work of the Wesleys in England. Change was apparent in every aspect of British life: political, economic, industrial, social. This revival was not built on a monastic, pietistic withdrawal from encounter with life, but rather on repentance and dissatisfaction with the spiritual apathy of the State Church in England.
The Great Awakening of the 18th century came as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were used of God in the American colonies. It was a time of religious and spiritual decay among second and third generation colonists. Jonathan Edwards became a minister at Northampton, Massachusetts, where the fires of revival were kindled under his mighty preaching.
George Whitefield’s powerful preaching brought revival which ultimately spread over most of England. In 1738 John Wesley extended him an invitation to come and preach in the new colony of Georgia. He accepted this invitation and America was richer for it.
Immediately after the Great Awakening the American colonies were plunged into the French and Indian Wars. French troops and their leaders brought skepticism, deism, and infidelity with them to the American shores. America was ripe for revolutionary ideas in politics, religion, and morals (see W.W. Sweet, “Revivalism in America,” (Scribner & Sons).
Soon revival spread through such great universities as Yale and Princeton. It came to Logan County, Kentucky, where in a classic example of the American camp meeting the great evangelist of the Restoration Movement, Barton W. Stone, effected a mighty impact at Cane Ridge. (M.W. Randall, Great Awakenings of The Restoration Movement, 1790-1860 (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1983)
By the 1960's the Church Growth Movement revitalized churches around the world. but what of the churches in the 21st century? They must think globally and act locally. What kind of preparation will this challenge require? Two factors are essential for effective response: (1) Understanding of world-shaping megatrends; and (2) The moral demands that these trends make on the churches to set priorities.
Revival, Trends and Triage: There are ten vital areas that only revival can respond to. Objectives of the ”World Christian” must include awareness of the following: (1) Knowledge and information are replacing capital as society’s most important resource. (2) We must develop strategies to engage our world of 10/11 billion persons. (3) Eighty percent of the world population will live in fewer than 500 mega-cities (Barrett on Urbanization); (4) Strategic attention must be given to the world’s ten largest cities.
1. Mexico city - 25,820.000 6. New York - 15,780.000
2. Sao Paulo - 23,970.000 7. Seoul - 13,770,000
3. Tokyo/Yokohama - 20,.220,000 8. Teheran - 13,580,000
4. Calcutta - 16,530,000 9. Shanghai - 13,260,000
5. Bombay - 16, 000,000 10. Jakarta - 13,250,000
(5) Preparation for a new universal language evolving due to automated communication will be imperative. (6) Communication expansion via telephone systems result in total worldwide phone systems numbering 2.2 billion. Subliminal TV is in widespread use by countries for mass mind control. (7) Tent makers will be needed to witness to 83% of the world’s 4 billion non-Christians who now reside in 120 nations closed to traditional cross-cultural foreign missionary endeavor. (8) Training will be needed to confront mass movements, e.g., cults and religious movements of popular syncretism mushrooming across the Third World. There are 100 million New Agers in the West alone. (9) Strategic response must be made immediately to Mormonism, the fastest growing religion in the USA. Mormon adherents have reached 20 million members world wide, with 30,000 foreign missionaries abroad, and global TV programs in Salt Lake City. (10) World Christians must face the challenge of increased mysticism, magic, divination, cults, and the New Age Movement (see David Barrett’s Cosmos, Chaos and Gospel: A Chronology of World Evangelization from Creation to New Creation (Birmingham, AL: New Hope, 1987).
Bibliography: Colson, Charles, Against The Night (Servant Publishers, 1989).
Finney, Charles G., Lectures on Revivals of Religion, ed. W.G. McLaughlin (combined Belknop
and Harvard University Press, 1960).
McLoughlin, W.G., Jr. Modern Revivalism (NY: The Ronald Press Co., 1959).
Smith, Timothy L., Revivalism and Social Reform (NY: Abingdon Press, 1957
Smith, T.L., Revivalism in Mid-19th Century America (Abingdon, 1957, Baker reprint series).
Sweet, W.W., Revivalism in America; Its Origin, Growth and Decline (NY: Scribner’s Sons,
Weisberger, Bernard A., They Gathered at the River (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958).
Dr. J.D. Strauss, Lincoln Christian Seminary Professor Emeritus