Last week I had the best conference experience of my entire ministry life. Over the years, I’ve been to more conferences and seminars that I can count. I’ve attended preaching conferences, prophetic conferences, leadership development conferences, spiritual growth conferences, coaching conferences, pastors conferences, denominational conferences—you name it. Some were Pentecostal, some were Evangelical, some were Charismatic, and a couple might have been crazymatic. Most were really good in terms of achieving their intended purpose. But the best by far was the 2016 Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia.
The presence of the Holy Spirit was tangible in the midst of extraordinary worship, powerful preaching, and practical teaching. The atmosphere was charged. But what does all this have to do with a blog post about why we need revival? Here’s what I believe about the Hillsong Conference and the whole movement that is Hillsong Church: It could very well represent a movement that addresses the need for revival that comes about when the Church must develop a fresh way to reach a changing world in the power of the Spirit.
Most of the time, when we think about the need for revival, we think about what’s wrong with the church. Indeed, spiritual decline, sin, institutionalization, routinization—these are all very real indications of a need for revival. But they’re not the only ones. Sometimes, the church needs revival not just because something is very wrong, but because the world has changed and the church needs to change in order to reach the world with the unchanging Good News of Jesus.
We expect a missionary in a distant land to learn the language and culture in order to build bridges to reach the people of that land. The church must do the same in whatever land it finds itself. And sometimes it’s not that the church has traveled to distant shores, but cultural changes around us happen so quickly that after a few decades, we find ourselves in a strange land. Maybe the church hasn’t fallen into sin and spiritual decline, but it needs to change in order to be effective in our mission. A revival at that point can infuse the church with fresh vision and propel innovation and creativity that will be able to bridge the gap between the church and the “foreign” culture around it. A revival can ignite the church to be willing to take some risks that will make it more powerful evangelistically. Most important of all, a revival provides a fresh spiritual dynamic necessary to reach a more resistant world.
A changed environment, then, presents a strong possible need for revival. We see something along this line in Acts chapter 4. At this point, we have no indication that something was wrong with the Early Church so that they needed “revival,” yet Acts 4 gives us an account of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Because of the changed cultural environment, which in the Early Church’s case meant increased resistance, God filled the believers afresh, giving them greater boldness and increased power.
We don’t have to focus on what’s wrong with our church today to justify the need for revival. There are plenty of local churches, full of sincere believers who are living godly lives, but who sincerely need revival. In America, our culture isn’t as Bible friendly as it was a few years ago. While I believe that America is ready for a great spiritual harvest, that harvest won’t happen on the scale God desires without revival. Good churches need revival, too.