"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end . . ." (Isaiah 9:6-7).
This Christmas season let us ponder a sermon of Pastor Bill Johnson of Redding, Calif.:
"The nature of revival is the nature of God himself. He is a God whose kingdom only increases, advances: 'And of the increase of his government there will be no end.' There has only been advancement, regardless of what Dan Rather has said. He takes us 'from glory to glory' and from 'faith to faith.' He only moves forward. [His kingdom] is only progressive in nature.
"The great tragedy of history is that every revival has been fathered by fatherless children. No revival has ever been received by a previous generation whereby they took that revival to a greater level. Every generation that experiences revival starts from scratch. They cry out to God like the children of Israel did when they needed a deliverer, and God would send this deliverer, and there would be this flaming zeal and this service to the Lord. And then they would pass the baton to the next generation, and it would decline, as the next generation always seems to be unwilling to pay a price to advance what they received for free.
"Inheritance, by nature, enables a young person to start ahead of where they would start without that generous inheritance . . . to start where my parents left off. . . . Revival, by nature, is to carry the nature of God himself (that only advances from glory to glory). And yet history shows us that all revivals are temporary; they last for one generation at the most, and most of them last two to four years.
"As a result, there's a whole branch of theology that has evolved that says that revival is only intended to last a short period of time to give the church that shot in the arm, that booster shot, so that we can progress for yet another season. The tragedy is that our theology is formed by our experience and not our experience formed by our theology. We're supposed to raise our level of experience up to the level of Scripture. . . ."
"Every generation of revivalist were fatherless . . . in the sense that they had no one to train them in the ways of revival. And so the baton gets passed, and then the next generation takes it and begins to build monuments around the previous generation's experience. (Sometimes we call them denominations.)"
What are "the ways of revival" that Pastor Johnson is referring to? From what I can tell reading J. Edwin Orr's A Call for the Re-Study of Revival and Revivalism, they begin with lots of concerted prayer. That is, agonizing prayers for the Church in huddled pockets of humanity in church basements and empty Sunday school classrooms at 8 a.m. on a Sunday or 7 p.m. on a Tuesday are themselves the first green shoots of revival.
May 2010 be the year we see the end of "monument" building, and the beginning of another true "increase of his government and peace."
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.