Revival – The disappearance of an Era

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones

On a discussion board one of the recent topics is ‘Unction’ in preaching. The topic came about through Carl Trueman‘s ‘Mortification of Spin’ podcast and the forum were asked for their thoughts on the review. In this MOS podcast the topic or book they were discussing was Dr Lloyd-Jones book Preaching & Preachers. They agreed it was a great book and a helpful book but were perplexed, even calling it ‘bonkers’, when it came to ‘Unction’. The Dr (Dr Martyn Lloy-Jones) discusses this subject at length in the book.

One or two, myself included, found the way Carl was so disparaging of ‘Unction’ quite concerning and even questioned whether he had ever experienced it either in his own ministry or from the pew.

John Knox

This set me thinking about the sort of situation where this ‘Unction’ would be evident. We read about this sort of thing being evident in Revival – especially during the periods of The Reformation, the Puritan era and the the 18th Century Evangelical Awakening in the US and in the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales). The subject of Revival does seem to have fallen out of fashion.

This sent my thoughts back to when I first became a Christian back in 1979. Back then there was constant talk of Revival. There were conferences about Revival, there were prayer meeting for Revival, there were many books and magazine articles published about Revival. The public prayer in many services of worship were full of longing for Revival. It was something to be prayed for, longed for and worked for. But now, all that seems to have gone.

I can see this in part concerning the History Lectures that I help organise – where are the lectures on Revival? Not quite so prominent. This is something I will try to rectify for next year (2015).

I can understand to some extent how as a subject it has gone into decline. There has over the last few years been massive advances in Secularism and really a turning away from the Christian faith while at the same time what the apostle Paul described as ‘a form of godliness, yet a denial of its power’. In other words the State wants to maintain its grip on religion but wants nothing to do with its reality – the true Christian faith (the faith we are charged to contend for Jude 1:3) . The church gets caught up in all this. It forgets its prime mission is to preach the Gospel. We have nothing else and the world does everything else better anyway.

Thoughts of Revival these days seem to revolve around doctrinal precision. This is good and proper but without the Revival emphasis the church has lost something. The adage that Revival is ‘Truth on Fire’ could do with coming to the fore in our thinking. It’s not enough to be precise, though it is necessary. What we need is to be on fire. What preaching needs is to be on fire. This isn’t something you can get from a book, from a Seminary or from a program of study or whatever. Revival it seems to me, is the prerogative of God. And where a Revival is advertised, you can be sure that that revival is false.

To be sure an over emphasis on Revival as the panacea to all our problems is not only unhelpful – it isn’t true. And, I think this was seen as the view. Consequently the pendulum began to swing away from a concentration on Revival. As ever, the Christian life is a life of balance and it’s all too easy to fall off the knife-edge and become unbalanced. So far I’ve not so much as mentioned the Holy Spirit nor Jesus. But make no mistake if you want a Revival in your Church preaching endless stories and anecdotes about yourself or your dog or whatever your favourite hobby is will not cause the Spirit of God to fall upon your ministry. But preaching about Christ, and keeping Him central to your ministry may do. Remember, Revival is the blessing of God as He see’s fit, ‘the wind blows where it will’. Being faithful to the Gospel of Christ, being precise in doctrine, caring deeply about the truth of the Word of God will be blessed by God. He has promised to do so. Revival, that’s another matter, but perhaps the Church of Jesus Christ should begin to seek Him afresh for it, even in these degenerate days.

There was a ‘Concert for Prayer’ (modeled on Jonathan Edwards prayer for revival) held in one of the local churches last week. I’m told it was an encouraging meeting. About 20 people attended with 5 local churches represented. About the size of a man’s hand. The plan is to hold a ‘concert’ quarterly.


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