Can God change the world, or at least leave more than a lasting impact on the world relative to your location, using a group of friends who gather together for study and worship? It would seem not, wouldn’t it? As though the very idea that God could use a person, or a few insignificant persons, belongs more to the unrealistic world of folklore at worse, or perhaps to the “lucky” few at best? How can a small clan, especially our small clan here in insignificant Windsor – neither bad enough, nor amazing enough to have any serious significance even by our cultures standards, have any hope of changing the world? At best we hope to change ourselves. At worse we surrender to the probability that perhaps not even that will happen.
But what if I can encourage you with the reality that – in fact! – it has happened in exactly the same manner as the image portrayed above? What if the story isn’t about some Pauline Damascus road experience, some dramatic Augustine conversion or Lutheran thunderstorm awakening or Billy Graham gifting? What if it happened before when a group of friends, flawed, stumbling, roughly educated, but passionately seeking God friends, got together in the same manner as above; and through this normal (your kind of normal!) group of people, the world has since never been the same. Would that then encourage your little gathering?
When you think of the Wesleyan Revivals (or if you prefer, think of George Whitefield Revivals) what comes to mind? Highly educated men standing on soap boxes in front of rail road workers and mine workers converting people by the thousands! How else can a revival which sweeps across the nations and of which would eventually spawn dozens of denominations have happened? Wesley, travelling night and day on only three hours sleep in an effort to turn the world upside down for God; or rather to be used by God as a tool in which the world is forever changed. When I thought of the Wesleyan Revivals that was the image I had. Something so terribly impractical in today’s world right?
Reading Wesley and the People Called Methodists has pretty much caused my rose coloured contacts to slide off my eyeballs, to wake up and smell the reality of how those revivals began and how, for example just last night at a young adults gathering I managed to catch the tail end of, such earth shattering revivals are not so far distant from us.
The movement known as Methodism of which many denominations claim some heritage to – especially within the holiness wing of the faith (personally, I think all wings of the Christian faith should bare the label “holiness”, but that’s just me) – started when four friends passionately on fire for God and hungry for more of him to change their lives, gathered together and built a core.
[And then God honored it and within months of their first meeting they spread across the world and thousands joined in on their passion, right!?! Riiiiiiight….] In reality these men got together for what seemed like forever, some left the group, others came. They were called things like “God’s Club” or “Bible Thumpers”, terms meant to be derogatory. These men fumbled in their theology and sometimes didn’t get along (sound familiar?). But they were always driven to grow in a deeper passion for Christ and to impact the world for the Gospel. Some men would start other groups, cells, of three or four and it took years before their numbers even reached 70 regular members. From this, and over many years of maturing, came the great Wesleyan revivals.
My church, on our best day, might max at seventy members. What serious impact could we accomplish for Christ? We sit in the shadows of some very large (by comparison) churches in the area. I have friends who want to start home churches and other friends who are beginning a new Downtown mission project. Brothers and sisters, true revival does not begin in a thousand member church which is set in its ways with great kids programs, charismatic preachers and awesome and ever growing building facilities. No, revival begins in a setting similar to the one I witnessed tonight when about twenty young men and women devoted the evening to prayer and worship, and with the words of a man – perhaps not a great man by historical standards, but that’s all the better by Gods standards – who invited us all to raise our hands towards heaven as though we were lifting up a gift, then launching into a fiery and passionate prayer of surrending all we have, emptying ourselves, acknowledging that all our gifts and talents amount to nothing, and then asking God to fill us.
My friend, that is how revival begins.
So meet with your friends. Meet in a room of two or three or four. Pray and study and read. Meet often if you can.
Who knows if the next great awakening – and everyone knows we are certainly due for one – may begin with a group of humble men and women gathered around a kitchen table in a small rustic mobile home, with nothing more than a sole guitar, bibles open, and hearts obedient to the Spirit.