A LIARS REVIVAL?
By Thomas Horn
"I do not expect the tide of evil and immorality in America to ebb. We are cycling, as cultures and civilizations have always cycled, and are now on the down side of glory. Our once great and godly nation, having crested the hill of God's grace, has begun a slow descent into the abyss of self destruction."
The late Jamie Buckingham, award winning columnist, January, 1990
Was Jamie Buckingham's ominous "Buckle Up for the 90's" prediction accurate? Did America lose moral ground over the last 10 years? Does it continue to do so? The answer to these questions is a resounding "Yes!" Undeniable statistics verify that Buckingham was indeed a true prophet.
"Forget all the talk about revival in America," said a recent Charisma news release. "Individual churches may be experiencing moves of God, but overall the numbers simply don't support the claims of a national awakening, nor has the men's movement made as much impact as has been suggested."
Charisma's comments are based on the sobering conclusions of the Barna Research Group, a leading Christian research team, which dismisses the claims of a national spiritual awakening as "myth." BRG repudiates recent revival reports by some of America's leading evangelists, citing statistics that illustrate no significant change in religious habits by Americans.
"There does not seem to be revival taking place in America," said Barna. "Whether that is measured by church attendance, born again status, or theological purity, the statistics simply do not reflect a surge of any noticeable proportions."
While Barna did offer some encouraging words about the increase of Bible reading by Americans, he pointed out that people are "still in a shake-up period where [they] are trying to discover how to fit [religion] into their increasingly fragmented, busy and changing lives. Few people are seeking to remove God from their life. They're just not sure when and how often they will pencil Him into their schedule."
Some celebrity evangelists have taken issue with Barna, questioning where the "faith" is in the Research Group's statistics. "But why lie about revival?" responds Donna Anderson of Raiders News Update (RNU). "To deny the facts is distortion. And to bend the truth about a national revival under the pretense of 'expressing faith' is to practice ecclesiastical deception."
IS A REAL REVIVAL COMING?
George Whitten of Worthy News (www.worthynews.com) talked with RNU recently about the wildly popular television program "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Pop culture dynamics were discussed and questions about whether people are getting tired of "sex-avision" and turning to more wholesome entertainment was pointed out as possible indications of cultural change in America. Given the decline in values over the last few decades, it would be nice to think people are getting tired of the empty promises of secular society and are hungry for something more substantial. Enter real revival.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, at the close of World War II, said, "History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster."
According to MacArthur, the choice before this generation is simple: Spiritual awakening or progressive deterioration.
Jamie Buckingham forecasted the latter for the decade of the 90's. He turned out to be right. Can we now predict the opposite for the very near future? I hope so.
During the famous Welsh revival of 1904, judges were presented with white gloves; they had no criminal cases to try. No rapes, no murders, no robberies, no embezzlements--nothing. People 100,000 strong were converted to Christianity in 150 days. District Consuls actually met in emergency meetings to discuss what to do with the police, now that so many of them were unemployed. So great was the social impact of revival that by the following year (1905) 240 department stores closed from eleven to two each day for prayer in the streets of Portland, Oregon. In Atlantic City, only fifty people, from a population of fifty thousand were unconverted at the time. Is it naive to believe that this kind of societal awakening could happen again? I hope not.
What could bring about such an awakening in the new millennium? According to some experts what we need is persecution. Yes, that's what I said, persecution. And lately Chinese Christians have been praying for just that: for believers in the U.S. to come under persecution. This is because history concludes that believers most often experience legitimate awakening through the catalyst of crises, which leads to repentance and true revival.
REVIVAL THROUGH CRISES
Throughout history, God, at times, has allowed a crises to grip the soul of a nation, so that through it people might come to the end of their human abilities; and, in desperation, cry to God for help, forgiveness, personal restoration, and social healing. The Old Testament illustrates repeatedly how tribulation or trials often become God's only means of redemption. The God who chastens whom he loves will allow famine, military aggression, economic woes, or whatever may be necessary to turn the heart of the nation back toward Himself.
This is not to suggest that revival is impossible without persecution or crises. In fact, long before God sends crises upon a land, He first sends people of faith (prophets) to announce the impending divine chastisement. This is a gracious appeal from God; He wants to show mercy instead of tribulation. If God can bring a nation to repentance without introducing a crises, this is the choice God obviously prefers. In Ezekiel 18:30, the prophet said, "Repent, and turn from your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin." Repentance is the key.
When Jonah, the reluctant prophet, spoke to Nineveh concerning the impending judgment of God--that judgment was certain, but open repentance provided a means of escape. When the king of Nineveh heard the prophetic preaching of Jonah, he believed the true prophet and repented in sackcloth and ashes. The result was a revival of righteousness without need to initiate the impending crises.
During these crucial days, God is looking for Jonah-like leaders who will preach repentance in love. Only God knows how much time we have before the crises begins. This is where it gets challenging. Calling a people or a nation to repentance is not an easy task. It's easier to preach things people want to hear and will applaud--such as lauding the politically correct claims of a great revival, even when statistics reveal it's a lie. Thus, crises often become necessary. It forces people to face the facts even if they prefer hiding from them.
WHEN PREACHERS LIE
In 1 Kings 22:15-23, we find a time when God grew weary of Israel's negligence of the truth and allowed a "lying spirit" to fill the mouths of the prophets. They prophesied deception and caused the people to trust in a lie. God tolerated this in order to expedite a crises against Israel for their refusing to repent.
Something similar to this began happening in the United States in the 60's, and has continued to the present. While some church leaders continue to speak the truth, others have given in to a lying spirit and preach only the popular doctrines that please their audiences. Instead of righteousness, service, and devotion to God, people are made to feel at ease while they dine on doctrines of self-rights and privileges tailor-made for prosperous constituents. Portions of these teachings are true, but are often without balance. That is a deadly poison.
Such leaders stretch the truth about revival and avoid talking to their congregations about the very element that could lead to real revival--repentance--because they fear losing their attendance and support. So, they rob them of spiritual life while seducing them with falsehoods and feel-good theology.
In 1 Timothy 4:1 we read of such people: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." Later, in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul wrote, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
WHAT CAN CHRISTIANS DO?
If America is to experience true revival, we need church leaders who will decry the sins of the church and of the nation while there is time, and that will call America to repentance. It may not be too late for the U.S., but we must recognize our fallen condition and repent. In Isaiah 6:1 we read, "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord." Upon seeing the Lord, Isaiah discovered that he was unclean, and that he dwelt with unclean people. He called upon Israel to repent. In the days of 1 Kings, chapter 22, Israel would not listen to the true prophets who preached repentance, but preferred the easy messages of the false teachers. Crises came upon them. The same choice stands before Americans today.
It may take a crises to stir American believers toward repentance and prayer, or perhaps we shall simply obey the Spirit's pleading. But, through whatever combined source of prompting, church leaders and their congregations must now turn from the addictions of religious entertainment and humble themselves in this hour of darkness, pray, seek His face, and turn from every shadow of wickedness.
In so doing, believers will triumph over evil and open the door for real revival--God's restorative power and the recovery of this generation. If we as the church in the U.S. prefer delusions of revival over factual reality, we invite Jamie Buckingham's gloomy vision of America's future to come to its natural and dangerous conclusion.
By Thomas Horn