Revival: Blessing or Problem? -- By: Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:3 (Summer 2002)
Article: Revival: Blessing or Problem?
Author: Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.


Revival: Blessing or Problem?

Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

Is revival a blessing? No. A boost in church attendance is a blessing. Ending the year in the black is a blessing. A successful staff hire is a blessing. Revival is not a blessing. It’s heaven on earth.

Is revival a problem? No. A lawsuit against your church is a problem. Conflict among your lay leaders is a problem. Deciding whether to go traditional or contemporary is a problem. Revival is not a problem. It’s a disaster.

Revival Is A Disaster

Revival, a disaster? Yes. When an earthquake levels a city to the earth, that qualifies as a disaster. And revival—the real thing1 —will shake a church to its very foundations. The prophet envisions:

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain (Isaiah 40:4).

In other words, the moral topography of the whole world will someday be dramatically reordered by the power of the gospel. All the obstacles to the gospel will fall, all the

complications will be smoothed over, and the Word will run like lightning. This will entail massive upheaval. But then “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 40:5).

Do we, as pastors and church leaders, want revival, with all its upset? Or are we threatened by revival? Several years ago I flew to a city in the western U.S. for some preaching. A pastor from that area picked me up at the airport. He had his finger on the pulse of the churches in that region, so along the way I asked him how his brother pastors felt about revival. It seemed to him, he said, that the local pastors didn’t want revival. I asked why. He said it would upset their church programs.

I hope my host was wrong. I hope those pastors, in their heart of hearts, are ready joyfully to drop everything and suffer anything for the glory of the Lord to be revealed with compelling power. But my pastor friend is not a superficial or unfair man. And that was his assessment. So what about you? And what about me? Do we want revival, or are we threatened by revival?

Revival is destructive. It breaks up the good ol’ boy network controlling a church. It destroys a church’s proud self-image. It diminishes the importance of denominational names. It draws criticism from the world, as formerly intimidated Christians find their prophetic voices and m...

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