A reference point in this correspondence means a motivating factor or a precedent. Is there a challenge or an aspiration that you aim to overcome or attain? It is without a doubt that for many of us, the word, Revival may not be a new vocabulary, but its meaning and depth definitely are.
Last October, we joined the ECWA global family in the First Tuesday Prayer and Fasting for Revival. But at some point , I began to fear that this spiritual discipline with a good intention might soon become a meaningless ritual – unless a clear reference point is brought into focus.
Venturing into any activity without a reference point inevitably results in boredom, empty legalism and meaninglessness .
Let me illustrate with a true story. Back in the days when the Czars ruled Russia. A young monarch began to notice a daily brief military activity that occurs in the royal garden: the changing of the guards. Out of curiosity, one day he sent for one of the guards to find out what they were doing? To his surprise, the royal guard had no answer, only obeying orders from his superior.
The Czar then sent for the superior who embarrassingly had no clue why he ordered the guards to the royal garden. He was only obeying his commander’s order. The commander was sent for and on arrival admitted that he himself is unaware why the royal garden was been guarded . Only obeying a standing military order.
This admission of ignorance as to why the royal garden was being guarded suddenly raised the curiosity of the Czar to consternation.
The Czar immediately extended the inquiry to the highest-ranking officer in the Russian military who in turn like his subordinates was clueless. Only obeying a long-standing military tradition. These unsatisfactory answers by the military officers caused the now suspicious monarch to order an inquiry into the royal archives. And there lay the answer. More than 75 years earlier, the Czar’s grand parents had gone on a European tour and received precious rose plants as a present during their royal visit. Upon return, these roses were transplanted in the royal garden. Being a royal memorabilia, royal guards were sent to protect it. But that was more than 75 years ago. The original recipients had long died, and years later, followed by the royal memorabilia which had long been forgotten. But the ritual of an obsolete history was still being observed.
In his small classic, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, the nineteenth century Revivalist, Charles Grandison Finney, listed seven occasions when a revival is needed. Due to space and time constraints, I select two for our consideration.
- When there is a spirit of controversy in the church or in the land, a revival is needful. The spirit of religion is not the spirit of controversy.There can be no prosperity in religion, where the spirit of controversy prevails.
- When the wicked triumph over the church, and revile them, it is time to seek for a Revival of Religion.
Only those practicing mindless Christianity, or borrowing Finney’s archaic term, religion, would deny that America as nation and her church are in the throes of the above described situations.
When a nation abandons its spiritual heritage and the Church loses its spiritual moorings as a vanguard for moral restoration, that predicates for a Revival.
The hostile challenge of the worldly system and the growing avalanche of legislative moral debauchery being unleashed on the culture is enormous.
All this, while the guilt-placid church seems apathetic, helpless and incapable to respond, is a clarion call for a Revival in the land. When God’s people who are called to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world (Matt.513-14; Phil.2:15-16.) succumb or surrender to the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the age). It is time for a rapid call for Revival.
A Biblical Precedent
The times in which we live is not the first generation that lived by its own rules apart from Biblical precepts. The prophet Elijah lived in and witnessed such a time. The king of Israel at the time was Ahab. A brief description of the period is given in 1 Kgs.16:29-34. Two verses highlight the characteristic spiritual rebellion and defiance that dominated this period.
- And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.1 Kgs 16:31 (KJV) The tone of the sentence suggests that Ahab’s marriage to the Sidonian pagan princess, Jezebel, was a purposeful act to boost his already outstanding idolatrous record.
- Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel before him. 1 Kgs.16:33. The next verse that describes the period, 1 Kgs.16:34.
In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram, his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which had been spoken by Joshua. Cf. Josh.6:26. The hubris to rebuild Jericho tantamount to both a disregard and mockery of the word of God.
Think of a man who is so surfeited with evil that he would sacrifice his sons to the wrath of the Almighty God. Such arrogance aligns with the sentiments of the wicked described by Job. Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us. For we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him? Job 21:14-15.
The co-regency of Ahab and his domineering wife was a reign of terror that not only filled the land of Israel with idolatry, but promulgated active hostility against the worship of the true God. It annihilated the prophets of God that they could lay hands on, and those that escaped went underground into hiding. 1 Kgs.18:13;19:18. This dark and dismal picture was the prevailing condition in Israel when prophet Elijah entered the scene.
Elijah appeared unceremoniously with a thunderous rebuke to the celebrated paganism and ungodliness in the land, and he declared, As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years except at my word. 1 Kgs.17:1.
This declaration made with such a holy audacity was based upon a warning issued by Moses. Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be deceived, and turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the LORD’S anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you. Deut.11:16-17. The judgment pronounced by Elijah had galled the land when he finally had a face to face confrontation with the wicked monarch, Ahab. This unfriendly meeting led to the test to prove who the true God is. The match took place on Mount Carmel.
After the 850 prophets of Baal failed to elicit a response from him, then came Elijah’s turn. He prayed thus:
LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD ,hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again .1 Kgs.17:36-37. In answer to this God-honoring petition, the fire of God immediately leaped from heaven and consumed the sacrifice and licked up the water in the trench. The astonished witnesses in amazement applauded, The LORD, He is God, The LORD, He is God . V.38-39. A veritable testimony of a heaven-sent Revival.
POST TENEBRAS LUX(Light After Darkness ) This Latin phrase could also be paraphrased “It gets dark before light dawns”. It was adopted as the motto of the Protestant Reformation in celebration of the return to the Gospel and Biblical Christianity following the separation from the dark history of Medieval Roman Catholic church. There are several Biblical and historical accounts that attest to the truth of the Latin phrase in addition to Prophet Elijah and King Ahab episode.
Reformation in Scotland
Although he led the Reformation in Scotland , John Knox faced so many opposition and threats to his life both in England and Scotland. He was forced to flee to the Continent where he sheltered himself for several years before returning back to Scotland. Back in Scotland, he had several encounters with the Roman Catholic Church, and Mary Queen of the Scots.
In the midst of these challenges, the undaunted Knox persisted and wanted the kind of reformation he saw in Germany and Geneva in his native country. His famous impassioned prayer to God for Revival is “Give me Scotland, or I Die”. The ardent Roman Catholic, and Mary Queen of the Scots, no admirer of the Scottish Reformation, was greatly influenced by the prayers of its chief proponent that she confessed, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of Europe.” God answered the prayers of John Knox and the Reformation spread in Scotland.
Renewal Movement in England
England in the eighteenth century was not a “haven of rest”. It was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of the Enlightenment. Within the Anglican church itself, there was division and disaffection between the “High Church and the Low Church and the Non Conformists were in between”. A handful of conservative minded individuals like William Wilberforce not only began to publicly denounce the slave trade, but sought for its abolition.
Some young ministers within the Anglican Church including John Wesley and his friend, George Whitefield, began to address the evident moral lapses in the Church. They adapted a different method of preaching addressing the crowds in the open air and public places. The socio-economic mobility of the Industrial Revolution, the skeptical rationalism of the Enlightenment and the growing unrest in the Church tended to upend the English society. But for the fiery preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield and their newly formed Methodist Movement.
It is the opinion of many scholars that were it not for spiritual renewal brought by the Methodist Movement, the upheaval caused by the new changes would have resulted in something similar to the French Revolution.
The Great Awakening in America
The spiritual fervor which the Pilgrims carried to the new world gradually began to cool off and diminish years after they have settled. In New England which was the hot bed of puritanism, things were no different. Spiritual life and moral behavior were at a low ebb. Jonathan Edwards, the foremost theologian and pastor describe church-going people as being irreverent in God’s house, disregard the Sabbath, neglect family prayer, disobedience to parents, quarreling, greediness, sensuality and hatred of one’s neighbor.
Another account described the youth as addicted to night walking, frequenting the taverns and engaging in lewd practices. It is said that theological liberalism had engulfed the church and religious education that at one College that was training ministers, there could not be found one regenerate person. Dead formality had replaced fervent spiritual life and godliness. It was against this background that Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the hand of an angry God” Edwards was soon joined by George Whitefield and John Wesley who traveled all over the colonies as evangelists. America witnessed three Great Awakenings besides the Azusa Street Revival which began in 1905.
Does ECWA Need A Revival?
This is by no means a million dollar question. Anyone who witnessed or knows anything about the days of NEW LIFE FOR ALL (NLFA) Evangelistic Campaign as it was called then, would not hesitate for a moment to cry “O God, do it again” The NLFA was in the 1960s and brought sweeping Revival in many parts of Northern Nigeria accompanied by unsolicited miracles and healings. By the early 1970s ECWA was at the helm of leadership of the Evangelical church movement in Nigeria and beyond. An illustrious son of ECWA, Dr Byang Kato, singlehandedly defended the Gospel and the evangelical missionary enterprise from the looming theological liberalism in Africa. Dr Kato went on and led in the formation and leading the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Malagasy (AEAM) to counter the liberal All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC). In Nigeria, ECWA led in the formation of National Evangelical Fellowship (NEF) as a platform for Evangelicals in place of the National Council of Churches (NCC) or the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN). Time and space constraints would only allow these few highlights, gigantic accomplishments as “a teenager ” or even younger. ECWA was formed as a denomination in 1954 and officially registered with the Federal Government in 1956.
Those were days of glory. Are they gone forever? Will God restore ECWA back to its days of leading the Evangelical Movement in Nigeria and Africa? That’s why we need and are praying for Revival.
Bringing It Closer: Does ECWA Need A Revival?
Coming back to the question, In ECWAUSA, we have a lot to ponder about. With the exception of one, all of the few LCBs we have existed before our inauguration as a DCC on the Memorial weekend of 2003 in Louisville, KY. An honest self-assessment may indicate that we have not gained much ground, or perhaps that we have lost some grounds. 18yrs is considered a legal adult age in nearly all civilized human societies, but does our state as a DCC correspond with our age?
In human development, it’s considered an abnormality when the physical development fails to correspond with normal age. You get the idea.
Let’s look at the Report Card together.
- After more than 20yrs, no LCB is capable of supporting a full time pastor.
- Activities ( Bible study and Prayer meeting) are minimal in most of the churches.
- Numerical growth seems to be retarded in most LCBs.
- With only two exceptions, all our LCBs are still begging or renting a place for worship.
- No new church plant in more than 13 years.
There are more areas to examine, but the above suffice to make the point . I have decided in view of the bleakness of this “Report Card” to make this correspondence an “in-house report“. Unlike the previous ones, the distribution will be limited only within (immediate) ECWA USA family, and I bid you to do the same.
The above mentioned are stark realities and challenges that we cannot honestly ignore or deny . We must not rest on our laurels. We cannot face them lying down . Now we have enough reference points when we pray for Revival. Remember that a reference point is a motivating factor or a precedent that we should focus on when we embark on a project. An aspiration that should challenge or ignite determination in us.
I recommend that we all look up the lyrics of our theme song “God is Here and that to Bless Us” The hymn is a heart-cry for Revival, and let it be in our hearts and our lips.
The following is a Missions Hymn, but it has Revival sentiments.
Ho, my comrades! see the signal
Waiving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing ,
Victory is near !
Hold the fort, for I am coming
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven
By Thy grace we will
See the mighty host advancing
Satan leading on
Mighty men around us falling
Courage almost gone
See the glorious banner waving
Hear the trumpet blow
In our Leader’s Name we triumph
Over every foe
Fear and long the battle rages
But our help is near
Onward comes our great Commander
Cheer, my comrades, Cheer