Part 2: Is There Hope for a Christ Awakening in America in 2016?
Second of a Four-Part Series
After years of research comparing the promises of Scripture with annals of Church history, the New England pastor and scholar Jonathan Edwards wrote in 1747 about what many of us today call a “Christ Awakening”:
God has had it much on His heart, from all eternity, to glorify His dear and only Son. Universal dominion is pledged to Christ. Even so, there are special seasons God appoints to that end, where He comes forth with omnipotent power to fulfill this promise and oath to His Son. These seasons are times of remarkable outpourings of His Spirit. They prove the reality of Christ’s Kingdom to a skeptical world and serve to extend its bounds [emphasis added].
As I’ve taught on this wonderful possibility across our nation for the past 25 years—describing the biblical hope for, significant impact from, and impending nature of any God-given, nationwide Christ Awakening in our own generation—I’ve found not a few asking me:
- How much does the American church really need such a Christ Awakening right now?
- And even if we do, in the light of so many pressing crises, what practical difference could such a phenomenon possibly make?
In the first blog of this series, I discussed how the universal testimony of Scripture is that waking up his people to more of his glory in his Son dominates the revealed purposes of God the Father. As we found, he wants to give this good grace to the Church anytime, anywhere—including every individual follower of Jesus.
With this blog, then, let me try to address these persistent follow-up questions about the extent of the current need for such a miracle.
How Much Does the American Church Really Need a Christ Awakening in 2016?
First, however, let me ask you another question: What do you think God sees when he looks at the American church today?
Despite all the glitz and glamour, how much hollowness, barrenness, and spiritual exhaustion does he find inherent in our ways? Regardless of our published claims and flurry of commendable activities, when it comes to advancing the work of Christ’s kingdom, how often do you think he finds our ministries ineffective, paralyzed, stymied? Though outwardly we seem to be prospering in the workings of “Church-ianity” would he not conclude that inwardly we are far too dull, too weak, too stagnant?
Remarking on evidence of the church’s current spiritual depletion, world-renowned British evangelical leader Dr. John Stott sometimes expressed it this way (paraphrased): When the nighttime overwhelms us we don’t blame the darkness; it’s only being what darkness is. We blame the tragic dimness of the light. If the hamburger spoils we don’t blame the patty; that’s what happens to dead meat. The problem is with the potency of the salt that should have retarded its decomposition.
Stott concludes: “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?'”
To that point, when research tells us there’s little difference between the lifestyle of Christians inside the church and that of our society as a whole, it’s not hard to understand why our influence for Christ (our salt and light) is so negligible in the life of our nation.
The truth is that grievous manifestations of moral and spiritual disintegration rampant in the culture at large can be found all through our churches as well. Racism. Hypocrisy. Hero worship. Materialism. Busyness. Lack of social conscience. Road rage. Dysfunctional families. Addiction to pornography. Status quo mediocrity. Self-indulgent abundance.
These leave America (including our local communities) to fend for itself in the face of persistent fears of terrorism, stunting political gridlock, the drumbeat of ethical scandals, urban poverty and violence, unresolved economic and racial injustices, as well as confusion over our nation’s proper role in a world also in turmoil.
Look What We’ve Done to Christ!
The sad part is that when these crises (inside and outside the church) are combined they create for us a multitude of distractions that end up, for all intents and purposes, marginalizing the living Christ among us. Spiritually exhausted, most of us are unable to retain the kind of passion for him he deserves as Supreme Lord of All.
Unconsciously, many Christians settle for regarding him as little more than a divine additive available to embellish the schedules of our churches, enhance the reputation of our ministries, and possibly help America reclaim her divine mission in the world. Sadly, he is treated more as our “mascot” than our monarch.
As American evangelicals, can we read Revelation 2-3 and not wonder if our Lord may be speaking equally penetrating analyses of much of contemporary Christianity? I think you would agree, for example, that modern-day believers frequently “have forsaken [our] first love” (Revelation 2:4), leaving us with “a reputation of being alive, but behold [we] are dead” (Revelation 3:1).
In many churches, the counsel of Jesus two millennia ago to a lukewarm congregation in Asia Minor needs to be repeated over and over to believers in 2016: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18).
Open Wide the Gates! Let the King of Glory Enter In!
If the American church became more intentional about gaining a better diagnosis of our true need, discovering how we too have become “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17), surely we would run—no, we would race—to Christ. Together we would fall before him begging the King of Glory to once again burst through the doors of our hearts and the doors of our congregations, manifesting himself among us in the fullness and power of his reign.
Thankfully, as we saw last time, there is nothing the Father is more able, willing, and ready to do by the Spirit than to have his Son invade his followers afresh, conquer us anew, and retake us captive to himself and to all he embodies as Savior and Sovereign.
That’s what Jonathan Edwards concluded.
That’s also what Dr. Ebenezer Porter, president of Andover Theological Seminary on the East Coast, reported in 1830 to his student body. In a series of seven lectures, he shared firsthand observations of the essence of what happened in churches throughout the decades historians define as the “Second Great Awakening” in America, including:
When the Redeemer comes in the triumphs of His grace to visit His churches, then his true followers are seen waking from their apathy, and going forth to welcome the King of Zion with an energy and earnestness and ardor of affection greatly surpassing their first love [emphasis added].
Could another such radical “visitation” of our Redeemer come upon our people today?
Could another such “waking from apathy” into “ardor of affection” toward Christ unfold among us before the close of 2016?
Those are the questions we’ll explore in the third blog of this four-part series.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bryant
Known as a proclaimer of Christ and Messenger of Hope, David Bryant is the founder and president of Proclaim Hope!, a ministry whose goal is to serve a nationwide Christ Awakening. David is the author of five books, including Christ Is ALL! Join in the Joyful Awakening to the Supremacy of God’s Son.