I've been thinking a lot about revival recently. A number of dear friends have written off the 'institutional' church as a thing of the past, and it bothers me. Even with all of my orneriness I can't go that far. Why not? I've been thinking about it and it comes to this. A history of revivals will quickly reveal that when God moves mightily in a culture, where do the people do? They go... to church. The prodigals come home, the new believers make it their new home and the church is renewed in the process. And guess what, against all of our counter-culturism, (some of it expressed in this very blog) the church doesn't change in essentials too much. It merely is re-strengthened to withstand the depredations and bewilderments of the next cultural shift. Take the Jesus people for example. God moves among the hippies. Boy-oh-boy, what fertile ground for a brand new type of church, a culturally relevant church, a cool church... Oops, sorry, where'd they all go? They went to local churches and filled up the traditional services and apparently couldn't get enough of it. Even the churches they started have become part of the larger organized church -- another denomination. And you can't say that they were seduced or anything like that. When God's Spirit is moving in unchurched people it's a bit like the cows hitched to the cart of the ark of the covenant in I Samuel. You just watch and see where God will take them. If they go somewhere surprising, it's very significant.
So I've become convinced again that the church is God's plan. His only plan. If he comes in like a mighty wind to bring revival to the world, the results of that revival will come to church. And probably it won't be some counter-cultural movement of house churches or anything. They will fill our vacant sanctuaries and we will not know what to do with them. And the best thing we can do is pray for that event.
Because it's time. It's time for quantity again. Quality alone is not going to do it for us. Quality will dwindle and die without quantity. It's time to pray for churches full of disciples, all in right relationship with God and each other, disciples who love and follow Jesus with all their hearts, filled with the Holy Spirit such that they shake the world every time they get together. This is where my pilgrimage has taken me.
And we really can't tweak the church too much in advance of that. Guess what, if millions come, the work that we thousands have done to remake the the church after some pattern that is more appealing to us will be swept away because it's whatever the millions want that will happen. Will it be God laughing at us? Maybe. Are we willing to lay down our cherished issues for the coming of the kingdom?