The United States is ready for a revival. In fact, there hasn’t been a time in many years when revival was more needed. Statistics show that church attendance is at an all time low in the United States. A scant 4% of the generation that is now coming of age identify themselves as born again Christians. This is the largest (by percent) decline of born again Christians generationally in the last hundred years. In fact, this generation claims 75% less people who claim the title of born again Christians than the prior generation. By contrast, that generation had a 50% decline from the one preceding it.
How did it happen? There isn’t any one thing that we can point to. A variety of elements must be pieced together to create the full image of the church’s decline. However, are just a couple of factors that may have contributed:
1. Secularization of public education.
The public education system took the stance that religious learning is not education. It also presented logic and science, to include secular Darwinist evolution, as the only true source of knowledge. This attitude was reflected in its curriculum and conveyed on some level to students, including the students of Christian upbringing.
2. Churches focused on internal growth rather than outreach.
As the 20th century progressed, the revival of the earlier half of the century began to fade. The majority of the churches in the U.S. were concerned with keeping the people already there than bringing more people in. Instead of banding together to reach the world for Christ, church members became concerned with finding the perfect church. Doctrinal battles ensued. Churches split over theology, music, programs, and any number of differences. Today, most church growth is in the form of people deciding to find a new church rather than new converts to Christianity.
The Time for Revival is Now
Bruce Ballast has devoted much of his life to studying revival. In his book, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things, Bruce outlines some of the common factors to revivals throughout the ages. I focus on three elements here, but I would encourage you to read Bruce’s book for a more complete picture of these extraordinary revivals.
1. A revival is preceded by a period of decline
In the revival periods that Bruce writes about, each one is preceded by a period of decline much like what we are seeing today. In the section about the “Great Awakening,” Bruce writes,
“After the last [period of renewal], eighteen years before the Great Awakening, nothing much seemed to stop the declension or decline of religion.”
Continuing to the “Second Great Awakening,” he writes,
“What effect did [the enlightenment] have on the church, and on the church’s influence in the country? Church membership declined. The typical college student was an atheist and living an immoral life. ”
I could continue through each of the revival periods that Bruce writes about in America, and the theme would be the same. The revival ended. Spiritual warfare commenced, and the church began to decline. I have chosen to end with this last example because the period of decline so closely resembles ours today. We still suffer from the effects of the enlightenment. With that we now have the effects of Darwinism, radioisotope dating, and spiritual pantheism.
2. A Revival is Bathed in Prayer
As he looks at each of the revivals, Bruce also finds a commonality in something that happened within the church in response to the decline: prayer. Prayer is the primary weapon of the Christian. When speaking of the “Second Great Awakening,” Bruce puts it in these terms:
“The problem was too big for human ingenuity or human energy. Neither denominational organization nor inter-denomination cooperation could cope with the emergency. Demonic forces with carnal collaboration had forced the churches into a corner. How did they retaliate and turn the defeat into victory? The only weapon left was prayer, and pray they did…”
Today, after many have struggled to combat the current decline in their own power, we find ourselves in a similar place. Churches throughout the nation are on their knees before God. Christians everywhere are realizing that we cannot do this through reason or argument. Only the power of God can bring revival, and we seek that power through our prayer.
3. Revival Leaders Respond to the Call of God
Whether we consider Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, or any other leader who was an agent of revival we find one commonality. All were great men of the faith raised up by God when they were most needed. However, while some of the revivals had major players or figureheads, some were spearheaded by local pastors. Bruce characterizes the Second Great Awakening this way:
“This revival was different from the Great Awakening of some forty years before in a couple of distinct ways. First of all, there were no prominent names at the beginning… Rather, it was the local pastor in the local church”
God can bring large-scale revival through individuals like Jonathan Edwards and Billy Graham. He can also work through local pastors to have many small-scale revivals that become one large revival. Either way, all leaders in the renewal of the spirit of the church have one thing in common: calling.
What if Called Revival Leaders Could Have Free Access to Ministry Training?
We have seen that revivals are preceded by spiritual decline. We have seen that this spiritual decline triggers prayer. We have noted that revival leaders then experience calling. If we have a period of revival in the church today, how would called leaders go about preparing themselves?
The first step for anyone who feels that he or she is called into the ministry is to find an appropriate seminary. This typically means that the calling must be experienced from a young age, and that the person who is called has the benefit of belonging to at least a moderately wealthy family. The reason for this is twofold. First, seminary requires money. A person must either obtain student loans or pay the costs outright in order to receive ministry training in this manner. This means that anyone who feels the call to ministry later in life, when they have a job, possibly a family, and commitments, will find it difficult to attend. It also requires relocation. Even if somebody is making enough money at their job and has time for seminary, there may not be one close by.
But what if called revival leaders didn’t have to pay for a seminary? What if they had access to a Bible school that offered the training they needed to fulfill their calling? What if that Bible school were free and available wherever they lived? What if they could study at their own pace, balancing their studies with their work and family schedules?
Enter Christian Leaders Institute. CLI is a Bible school that has over 20 classes designed by people that have degrees in theological fields including doctorate level degrees. By maintaining a non-profit status and depending on donors for their costs, Christian Leaders Institute is able to keep all of their classes completely free to students. By not having a physical seminary building and offering all content online, they are able to be wherever the student is. Now a student anywhere in the world can have access to ministry training without having to relocate and pay thousands of dollars a year.
Take, for example, Rosie Glave of Chicago, IL. Rosie is a student at Christian Leaders Institute, but she wasn’t called to the ministry till late in life. Here is what she says about her calling.
“I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, My name is Rosie Glave and I live in Chicago, Illinois. I am the proud mother of two adult children and grandmother of two adorable grandchildren. I worked as a nurse for 33 years before receiving my call into the ministry.
“I love all of my Father’s children and it is my desire that all would enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and experience the life changing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. A scholarship with CLI would give me the education and knowledge needed to teach, train and prepare others to win souls for Christ. I commend the men of God at CLI for allowing God to use them to train the next generation of Christian leaders. My prayer is that God will continue to provide the necessary funds needed to raise up well trained leaders who carry on the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in fulfilling the great commission.”
What are some key things that can be identified about Rosie’s calling? We see the words, “teach,” “train,” and “prepare.” Most important, though, is the object of this. All the teaching, training, and preparation is so that people can “win souls for Christ.” After 33 years in her career, Rosie felt the call to be a revival leader. But where could a mother and grandmother go to get the training that she needs to train others to become instruments of revival? Fortunately for Rosie, God had already raised up Christian Leaders Institute to train called leaders like her.
Imagine what God could do with Rosie’s calling and devotion in her community. Now, imagine what God could do with thousands of people like Rosie throughout the world. Each of these called leaders has their own sphere of influence. Each of them feels the call to ministry. Now each of them can be trained on a level that rivals seminary. They can learn at their own pace. They don’t need to relocate, and they only give what God calls them to give. In an age where the decline of the church seems unstoppable, God can use people like Rosie to work a global revival like the world has never seen before.