A couple of years ago, I had a conversation that really messed with my head. I was visiting someone and they introduced me to one of their friends who began asking me about the condition of Christianity in Ireland today.
‘When I look around, things can be pretty disheartening. But I’ve been getting emails from other parts of the country about prophecies that revival is coming to Ireland. Do you think that’s true, Scott? Do you think revival is coming?”
I think she must have caught me in a particular mood that day … which would explain why I replied,
‘I bloody well hope not.’
Seeing the look of confusion on her face, I explained myself.
‘Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I don’t want revival to come … but I also don’t want it to be wasted. As much as it would be amazing to see a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit and to see God move in ways that would draw people to him in their droves … I think it would be wasted on us right now. Most churches in Ireland are struggling to disciple the people that they have, let alone disciple a massive influx of new people.’
‘Yeah … but do you think revival is coming?’
These are the kind of conversations that I find endlessly frustrating. Emails whizz around inboxes. Posts go up on Facebook.
Lovely images. Lovely verses. Lovely sentiments.
But, as far as I can see, we are crying out for a quick fix. We are asking God to do himself what the church so often refuses to:
To make him known.
It reminds me of the passage at the beginning of Acts when Jesus ascends into Heaven. They have watched their rabbi, the miracle-worker, the Son of God, the Messiah be lifted into Heaven. They are astounded, moved and — inevitably — gutted that he is gone. It’s often the same when we read the Gospels and hear of what Jesus said and did. We feel his absence and we look into the sky with longing, wishing that he would return to lead us, guide us and allow us to witness what the disciples did.
As they stand there, looking up and doing nothing, two men in white robes appear and ask them:
'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward Heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
In today’s language, ‘Lads. What are you still doing here, looking up like eejits? He’ll come back eventually. In the meantime, you have a job to do.'
Which is why I don’t pray for revival. I pray that God would make us people who are ready for revival, people who could be entrusted with revival because it has to start there.
Or, even better, people who don’t need ‘revival' … because God is already so powerfully visible in the way that they live and love.