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I have often heard Christians talk about “revival breaking out”. I think they are half-serious, half-joking statements. We’re not really expecting revival to break out. But it would be nice if it did, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it be good to see hordes of non-Christians suddenly turning to God? The church filled to over-flowing? Wouldn’t it be good if we as Christians were gripped by the truth of the gospel and just didn’t care anymore about what people thought of us as we spoke about God to them, but just went ‘nuts’ for God (so to speak)?
John Wolffe, writing about the revivals of the Second Evangelical Awakening, states the following about revival breaking out: “material circumstances and events could be a significant catalyst. Communities experiencing economic difficulty … proved receptive to revival… Alarm at cholera stimulated revival… Conversely, economic prosperity … could dampen and divert revivalistic energies.”
Wolffe mentions some other disasters or misfortunes that triggered local revivals. He also mentions other distractions besides economic prosperity that dampened tendency towards revival. However his point is clear. Wealth often leads to apathy. Poverty and disaster may lead to revival.
I have long assumed that the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 are representative of all the church. There are the churches experiencing difficulty with false teaching and immorality; the persecuted church; the spiritually dead church; the doctrinally correct but cold-on-love church; and the wealthy and luke-warm church. The churches in Australia that I have attended have not been persecuted; have withstood false teaching and immorality fairly well; and were not spiritually dead. Some churches were doctrinally correct and in danger of growing cold on love. But without a doubt, all the churches I have attended have been wealthy and apathetic: luke-warm.
Of course one can be wealthy and a very keen Christian. I am not praising poverty and decrying wealth. These are generalisations. Also, I’m not wanting to point the finger at some amorphous entity called “the church”. I am wealthy and apathetic. I myself, and my Christian family and friends, are wealthy and luke-warm Christians. We’re trying not to be! We are trying to repent. But it’s hard not to get weighed down in apathy with our comforts and wealth. We are very attached to them.
Revival starts at home; revival starts with us. We will need to repent of our luke-warmness. Perhaps God will take away our wealth through war or natural disaster. We dread such a thought, and yet I wonder if it would end up being a kindness to us in many ways. Our wealth and comfort is killing our earnestness for God. We really are slack Christians! I don’t want us to feel guilty for our failures. We should focus on Jesus, on the cross, on the gospel, not so much on ourselves. But really, we are slack, aren’t we? We are slack in Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, evangelism…
Can revival break out in Australia? I hope so. But there will need to be great change in us. A great focus on the word of God and prayer often preceded revival. Being soaked in the Scriptures and spending much time in prayer could be a catalyst. How earnest for God are we?
 John Wolffe, The Expansion of Evangelicalism (Nottingham: IVP, 2006), 86.
Thanks for your challenge Martin. In the western world we do live a wealthy lifestyle relative to the rest of the world. As a result we have the apathetic attitude that “we don’t need God” or allow ourselves to be distracted by material things in our lives. It doesn’t mean we can’t necessarily enjoy those things in themselves, but rather we need to prioritise our time better. Easier said then done! May God help us all to be more dependent on Him and earnest to serve Him in our lives. Maybe then we will be used by God to bring more people into a saving faith.