From the Mountain to the Mundane: How to Make Revival Last
Revival is experiencing a revival.
The ongoing chapel service at Asbury University — and the events and interest surrounding it — has sparked nationwide conversation in Christian circles, and has now even reached mainstream media. Google Trends shows that in the week following the February 4 chapel service where it all began, nine out of the top 10 searches involving “Asbury” include the word “revival.”
If you were reared in evangelicalism, revival is a familiar term. In my childhood, so-called “revivals” were typically a pre-planned week of special services where an itinerant preacher would come to the church and give nightly evangelistic messages. Strangely, I remember most of those evangelists having very high and highly coiffed hair, which as a kid I understood as a requirement for the office. While big preacher hair may have played less of a role than I imagined, the format was designed to give greater focus to the gospel in a short period of time. Truth be told, these “revivals” were planned to fuel actual revival, but they in themselves weren’t revival.
The word “revival” isn’t found in the Bible. Like the trinity, we see it conceptually. One of the more famous passages associated with revival is Psalm 85, where the sons of Korah call for God to breath new life into his people:
“Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:4-7, ESV)
The “re” in revival is a call for the Lord to do something again. We’ve seen it happen at times in church history, where the people of God, having strayed, are moved by the Holy Spirit back to their first love in Christ. So it is with the discussion about the current movement at Asbury.
Growing up in the Appalachians, it was unavoidable to encounter mountains. Roads in East Tennessee tend to go straight up, as if the switchback was never invented. Climbing up is always labored, but if it’s a clear day, the reward at the top is worth all the pain of getting there. But you can’t stay there. Life is below, and sustenance is in the valley. At some point you have to go back down, which is always speedier and always more treacherous than going up.
Any spiritual revival worth its salt will make the trek from the mountaintop back into the valley of the everyday. Why? Because if it is a work of God, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). Fruit doesn’t typically grow at high elevation (although one could make an argument for the divine blessing of coffee …). Fruit doesn’t grow on the slopes, but in the bottom land. Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit flourishes in the valley.
Mountaintop experiences with God are good. We shouldn’t shy away from them. After all, Moses, Peter, James, and John all benefitted from them, passing on those revelatory experiences to us. But the bulk of our lives are not lived at the mountaintop. That’s why the bulk of the New Testament is devoted to building up the church in the everyday moments of the mundane. Whether we’ve experienced revival, or if we’ve simply been newly “vived,” (without the re-), “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).
Will we one day look back at Asbury, and perhaps beyond — and see the lasting fruits of revival? I hope so. From early reports about what’s happening there — prayer, humility, a focus on Scripture — I’m encouraged. I pray the students of Asbury are affected in a Christ-exalting way for the long haul. But I also hope we Christians who are not at Asbury don’t overlook the manifestation of the Spirit in their own lives in the valleys of everyday living.
Paul wrote, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” In short: keep walking. Keep walking up to the mountaintop, keep walking down the slope, and keep walking in the mires of the valley. If we have the Spirit indwelling our steps, we’ll be revived every day.
Jared Bridges is editor-in-chief of The Washington Stand.