Thoughts on Awakenings and Revivals

I’ve spent the last six weeks preaching on Sunday mornings about spiritual awakening, both individual and corporate. I mentioned at some point my own experience of becoming a Christian in 1970 during what many regard as “the youth revival of the early 1970s.” That’s why this article got my attention when my wife Becky passed it on to me. This confirms that the Holy Spirit was up to something big back then. I pass it on for your encouragement and as an incentive to pray that the Holy Spirit would do something big in our time and place.

Revival. This word makes Christians light up with excitement. Or roll their eyes with suspicion. Regardless of where you lean, might revival be something God’s people ought to pursue, not with frenzied pragmatism, but with chastened, prayerful hope?

There is, after all, a Reformed heritage of revival, Don Carson notes in a new roundtable video with TGC (The Gospel Coalition) co-founder Tim Keller. And revival for both men, it turns out, isn’t just something they’ve heard or read about. It’s something they’ve experienced.

Keller was converted in 1970 at a central Pennsylvanian college where the InterVarsity chapter experienced an unprecedented “awakening” that they soon realized was occurring on other campuses throughout the region. Likewise, Carson witnessed “a singular movement of the Lord” while pastoring in Canada around the same time. Almost two decades later, Keller witnessed in his first couple of years at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (1990–91) a reminder of what he experienced in college. “We grew to almost 1,000 people in about two years in the middle of Manhattan at a time when people were leaving the city because of a recession and high crime.”

Though Keller and Carson could both be described as “pro-revival,” they are clear about unique dangers that have historically attended outpourings of God’s Spirit. “There is the danger of domesticating, of packaging, that can often end up making it feel phony,” Carson observes. As Keller adds, “Some are attracted to the glitz, others just want the attention.” He cites Jonathan Edwards’s little-known Thoughts on Revival for a sober-minded reflection on the false experiences that sometimes attend revival because of human sin.

You can find this article and a video discussion between Tim Keller and Don Carson at: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/keller-and-carson-on-revival.

Good stuff.

Chris Edwards

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