My friend and I were texting between Canada and Korea today. She has some great points about the need for revival in the West in order to catalyze increased missions efforts around the world. But she exposed an all-too-common North American fixation with the concept of “revival”. Here’s the conversation:
J – The World is in desperate need of a Revival!
Scott – There is a problem with the concept of “revival”. From the viewpoint of North America and Europe, the concept of a need for “revival” is congruent. The peoples used to be largely Christian, and they do need a “revival”; or to have life again. But much of the rest of the world have not known Christ yet at all; they don’t need a “re-vival” they need “vival”, they need the life of Christ for the first time! Our current fixation on the need for “revival” is not congruent with the need in the rest of the world!
Scott – This isn’t just semantics; this terminology and all-encompassing conceptual bubble that surrounds Western Christians clouds our thinking about what we should do and how we should do it. It confuses outreach approaches and practices, and it certainly confuses prayer for the world — which totally needs Jesus, but as an initial introduction.
J – Agreed! But in order to be efficient spreaders of the “Fire,” first you have to carry it, know it and be changed by it and truly exude love! I think we have to be revived – and then others will go out!
Scott – I was at a roundtable with Christian leaders from around the world in Japan, and all the Westernized Christians could pray was for “revival” for Japan. What does that even mean in a totally unsaved environment? This is more than an upgrade of terms; this means a radically different approach! What Japan needs is a simple salvation experience; it doesn’t need our concept of revival meetings!
J – Yes, I believe that totally.
Scott – The same goes for Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia… they are reaching out for the simplicity of the Gospel, and so much of what they are getting is a rant about the need for revival!
J – Oh no…! That’s putting the cart before the horse…
Scott – We are doing our best, but a beautiful opportunity is passing us by in Asia.
J – I am hoping that the transformation will awaken people with a hunger to go out to these places… Am I hoping for the wrong thing? I just don’t see many wanting to go…. many think of Africa, but the world is so much bigger.
J – God himself is spreading the Word throughout the Islamic Nations – what I hear from there is just amazing and exciting!
Scott – We need to be going! But not with our own idea… we need to be going with the needs of our audience in mind. We need to go to unsaved nations with simple expectations. We need to be going with love. We need to be going with a message of God’s love and the simple yet profound offering of salvation from heaven. These are the first steps!
J – Agreed!
Scott – We need to be soft and kind and generous — not judgmental, looking for responsive hearts… then genuine salvation and heart change. We need to be nurturing new life in practical ways among unsaved people!
Scott – We bring stage bands and loud ranting on microphones about “revival”. We bring a message with a volume and edge appropriate for a slumbering church in North America, but when we go to hungry nations which haven’t even heard the first steps — we don’t shift gears to a simpler and gentler and more loving message about the Heart of God in salvation!
Scott – So many across Asia end up wanting the stage glitter, they want the microphone anointing, but they end up with no message; they have no root; they end up with no heart change; and they don’t know how to even get to square one. When we are preaching revival in unreached nations, we are not preaching the good news of the gospel!
J – But Scott — I don’t see many ready to give up everything and go into that hungry world to take the Gospel to them. That is what I have been hoping a transformational revival would do. The great revivals of the past all seemed to release many who went out as missionaries, bringing the Gospel to a dark and hungry world.
J – We are Blind… and in desperate need of eyes, eh?
Scott – It sounds to me like you are carrying a heart for your setting in North America, and I am exerting my heart for mine here in Asia!
But when all is said and done: We do need that “revival” across Europe and North America. But we need to be able to go out into the rest of the world with the pure, simple and sweet message of God’s heart of salvation for the lost and dying. We can’t bring a message of “revival”. We need to be willing to invest in lives. We can’t bring a loud, obnoxious insistence on an alien theological premise. We have to be willing to love the people and meet them at their point of felt need. We need to commit to the long-term in teaching, training, discipleship and support. We need much more in many nations than a series of revival meetings! We need to be bringing the sweet, pure, simple water of life!