Why America is not experiencing revival.
By Kevin Probst
God is moving in wondrous ways in the Middle East. There are stories of wonderful conversions to Christianity coming from Iran, Egypt, Syria and other Muslim countries daily. Joel C. Rosenberg covers this great movement of God in his book, Inside the Revolution. Aljazeera satellite television confirmed that Muslims were converting to Christianity by the millions. Sheikh Ahmad Al Qataani was not happy when he shared statistics for conversions: “In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” Rosenberg goes on to say that these statistics cannot be confirmed but that there is definitely a noticeable trend of Muslims turning to Christ. (Page 381, Inside the Revolution)
“In the last 20 years, more Iranians have come to Christ (than in) the last 14 centuries,” said Lazarus Yeghnazar, an Iranian-born evangelist now based in Great Britain. “We’ve never seen such phenomenal thirst…I believe this phenomenon (will) snowball into a major avalanche. This is still a rain. This is not the avalanche coming…But it will be happening very, very soon.” (“Behind the Black Veil,” Charisma, June 2004)
Many of the conversions in these lands are a result of dreams and visions. Rosenberg shares the story of an Iranian woman who had had a dream in which God told her, “Whatever the two women you are going to meet with tomorrow tell you, listen to them.” She had no intentions of meeting anyone but she desired to obey. The next day she was approached by two Iranian women who shared with her the gospel message of salvation. She listened, she obeyed, she confessed and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of her life.
In Rosenberg’s novel, The Ezekiel Option, he tells a true story of two Christians traveling in Iran with a car load of Bibles. The steering wheel of their car jammed and they slammed on their brakes to avoid going in the ditch. When they looked up, an old man was knocking at their window. He asked them, “Do you have the books?” They were astonished and replied, “What books?” “The books about Jesus,” he replied. The old man told them that an angel had given him a vision and told him about Jesus. His entire mountain village had had the same vision. The old man later had a dream in which Jesus told him to go down the mountain and wait for the books that would come. These books would tell them how to be Christians.
Americans are mostly unaware of the rapid spread of Christianity in Muslim countries. It’s not a topic the American press gets too excited about. Many Muslims who converted to Christ had become disillusioned with the hopelessness and despair of radical Islam. Some turned to alcoholism, some to drugs, some focused on fighting and killing for a radical cause but the result was emptiness, a desperate void in hearts that whispered a suggestion that the only peace to be found is that in another world achieved through suicidal sacrifice.
Why does it seem revival is prevalent in other parts of the world but absent in our own country? We have had revivals in our past, great revivals that reached thousands of souls and extended for many, many years. But now, America seems to be spinning its spiritual wheels in a rut of despondency.
Could it be that those previous revivals were a result of the Spirit of God responded to Americans yearning for the truth? Did we experience revival because preachers were preaching the truth and congregants were responding to truth? Isaiah 5:11 says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We heard truth, we responded to it, we loved it and cherished it. But as humans are so likely to do, we allowed something of great value, something precious beyond words to become a mediocre thing in our mediocre lives.
In our early years millions filled our churches to search for and hear this precious truth that could so transform lives. But then we lost our way. We began to fear rejection. We were embarrassed to be called a “peculiar people”. We began to replace scriptural truth with pop psychology. We took words like “hell” and “sin” and “the blood of Jesus” out of our sermons and we replaced them with “Seven ways to financial success” and “five ways to satisfy your spouse”.
So people began to leave America’s churches because there was little truth to be found. In an attempt to lure their congregations back our pastors failed to turn to what people were really searching for, truth, and instead decided to create a big tent. More people will come if we become more inclusive. Who could possibly argue with that? We dropped doctrinal words from our church names, like “Grace” or “Faith” in an attempt to please potential clients. We then decided to drop denominational words like “Baptist” and “Methodist” so as to be even more inclusive and now we have churches named “The Bridge”, “City Beat”, and “New Tribe.”
In an attempt to satisfy the masses did we not sacrifice some of our doctrine? The big tent was a great marketing idea but in the process did we not water down the truth so as not to offend the customer?
In our frantic desire to grow churches we sacrificed theology along the way. Pastors were hired not to shepherd the flock but to be CEO’s and managers. Sermons were shortened and watered down. Many Americans now believe they are going to heaven, not because they have been saved by grace, but because they have never been told that there is a hell. Many churches have replaced true worship with entertainment designed not so much to bring glory to God as to bring in tithe-paying clients. Pastors stand in long, flowing robes and proclaim that all is needed to experience salvation is to say a one-time prayer and you’re in forever. So, our churches are full of millions who have never been truly transformed because they see no need for transformation. They said the prayer.
More and more people will leave the church. Even the mega-churches will see members walk away. They will realize they can learn twelve ways to achieve material prosperity from a book at Barnes and Noble. If its entertainment they seek there is plenty of that available in the secular world. The darkness in the unredeemed human soul will naturally seek out entertainment that will satisfy sinful lusts and desires. The church can’t compete with the world in that realm.
The church in American will continue to decline until we offer real, true, scripture-based hope to those who so desperately seek it. The reason other nations are experiencing phenomenal revival is because they are seeking after real truth. We, too, can experience that kind of revival. But the American church needs to be cleansed before it can be revived.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.