When the pandemic first began, I had high hopes for the American church. After all, the two periods of the most rapid growth of Christianity in history have been during and just after global pandemics! (Specifically, the Antonine plague of the second century and the Cyprian plague of the third.)
I expected that after a short period of not even being able to meet in person, American Christians would run back to their churches, and would also fall on their faces to repent of what we have become and to cry out like Daniel in chapter 9 for our desperately sick nation.
So far … not so much. Some studies suggest that perhaps as much as a third of all American church members will never return. And maybe that’s okay. We have always been at our best as a remnant people.
But the question is, “What will the rest of us do now?” For those still committed to the community of faith called the church in America, what will we become?
Clearly, an ecclesiological reformation is underway. It’s been forced on us by disease, but it was rapidly coming anyway, because—let’s face it—the American church has been diseased and declining for a long time. But what we will re-form into remains to be seen.
There are some encouraging signs. Prayer movements that really do resemble Daniel 9 have spread like no time I have previously seen in my ministry. As president of Life Action, I have been amazed to see, for example, the explosion of prayer in America through our sister ministry OneCry, and the international cry to God being lifted across the world by the partners in our other sister ministry, Revive Our Hearts.
Even as I write, God is powerfully moving at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, led by my friend Robby Gallaty. And one of our Life Action teams has had to extend their event in a Louisiana church because of the powerful work of God’s Spirit there. God is not absent in these days, and He is responding where His people are seeking Him.
But still, we are a long way in this country from the reviving work of God we see in so many places in the world today. Iran, China, and Brazil come to mind.
If we long to see God authentically revive us again, the best place to start is with the biblical model. I believe Acts 4:31-33 may be the best example of this model in the Bible:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:31-33 ESV).
This is what the body of Christ looks like in its Spirit-filled, revived state. Maybe this acrostic will help. If we are to function well as Christ’s BODY, here is what we must pursue:
Yielding to the Mission of Jesus
In the days ahead, I’ll comment on each of these points. But they’re not hard to see in the Acts 4 passage.
The church boldly prayed like they believed God; they put aside lesser things to join their hearts toward one focus; they didn’t just talk about justice, but they actually made sure that needs were met and right was done; and they followed Jesus to a lost world.
And we know the results.
Consider using this acrostic as a personal prayer list and accountability checklist. The only way the church in America will ever function like this—will ever truly be this kind of body of Christ—is if I am.
I am the problem.
Revival is the solution.
Lord, revive me.
And then we can encourage others to join us.
My biggest fear is that the church in America may be so sick and self-centered that even if pastors begin to lead their churches to actually look like this kind of body of Christ again, their members may not put up with it. Will they simply bail out and congregate in whatever church will “feed” them, “meet their needs,” and provide the comfort zone they were familiar with from the past?
I don’t know the answer to that. But I know that God has consistently done miraculous things with His revived remnant. So rather than worry about what everyone else will do, I want to heed the words of C. S. Lewis in my own life and encourage others to do the same:
Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done (from Surprised by Joy).
Yes. It’s about time. Will you join me on a journey to be part of the revived body of Christ again, and encourage everyone you know to do the same?