Revival. This is such a strong word in the Christian community. People think of revival and they think of Billy Graham. They think of Billy Sunday. Of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield. The list goes on, but everyone has some name of the past that they attach to the word revival. But every revival starts with one person. The power of the Holy Spirit changes one person, moves one person. That person talks to his neighbors, and the Holy Spirit changes his neighbors. His neighbors talk to their neighbors, and before you know it thousands of people are surrendering to the Spirit. Lives are changed throughout nations, and men are left scratching their heads and wondering, “what happened?”
It would be easy to look at revivals in the past and focus on their figureheads. It would be easy to think that since we’re not powerful men like George Whitefield or Billy Graham, we can’t start a revival. It would be easy to despair of ever seeing revival in our country because the figureheads just aren’t there. Or maybe it’s because the receptive spirit isn’t there. Nothing is easier than to sit back and just wish that we could do something to change it.
But that’s the amazing thing about revival. When Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, a man who helped a total stranger at great risk, He ended with these words: “Go and do likewise.” In the book of Matthew He says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” His final command is to be His witnesses, making disciples throughout the world! And the amazing thing to think about is that he’s talking to us. Each and every one of us. He’s talking to me. He’s talking to you. He told me to “go and do likewise.” He told me to “go and make disciples…”
Some of us can feel like we’re the only ones in the field. Like Elijah, we may think that nobody else is called to God’s work of revival.
Some of us can feel like God is calling others to “go.” He’s not calling us, is He? It doesn’t come naturally to us. We aren’t good speakers. We aren’t spiritual enough. We don’t know our theology well enough. We’re just not equipped to “go.”
But the extraordinary thing about revival is that it starts with one person. As each person chooses to “go and do likewise,” as each person is “transformed by the renewing of your mind,” putting off our old life of sin like an old garment and clothing ourselves in the life of the Spirit, amazing things happen. Revival starts with one. Then it spreads to two more. Then two more from each of those. Soon the revival burns brightly – a consuming fire for all to see. There are news stories about it. People are amazed at the brightness of it. Most of all, people wonder how it happened. How did the flame come to burn so brightly?
Revival Starts with One Person
Yinka Akanbi is a Nigerian, as well as a student of Christian Leaders Institute. He lives in the Islamic dominated northern section of Nigeria, where it is a struggle for people like him just to live and practice their faith. Yinka took a class at Christian Leaders Institute about revival. His response to the class amazed me, and I think it will amaze you too if you just take the time to read it.
This was his paper from the revival class.
My name is Yinka Akanbi from southern part of Nigeria but reside in the northern part of the country (Nigeria) dominated by the Islamic extremist. Standing for Christ in this northern part is not easy but by the grace of God Almighty the church of God is marching on and the gate of hell shall not prevail. I came to know Christ in 1996 through my elder sister who has been my mentor. My ministry is to encourage, support and help the less privileged and the poor in the word of God, materially and financially if possible. I believe the CLI scholarship would help me get rooted in the word of faith to fulfill my ministry. I need prayer for strength and enablement to fulfill the ministry God has given me.
Revival ! is a derivative of the word revive, which means to restore to life or consciousness. When Jesus walked the surface of the earth, nobody who had an encounter with the Master remained the same. Lives were changed as a result of the encounter with the Master. When the disciples carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ message to the utmost parts of the world, lives were transformed and societies were turned upside down as evidenced in the book of Acts of the Apostles.
In the course of the Welsh revival, not only were individual lives transformed, but also the society as a whole was transformed. Jesus light shone on the converted Christians and their light shone so bright that those in the wider society saw the reflection of the Master on these Christians and had no choice but to change. When people changed, they stopped conforming to the old ways of doing things and were transformed to the new way of doing things.
As a consequence of the Welsh revival, crime rate in the country reduced by almost 100 percent. The rate of criminal convictions reduced to almost zero. The police became idle and rather than being preoccupied with chasing and catching criminals, they became preoccupied with supervising the human traffic of people attending and leaving church services. It was reported that during court sessions, the magistrates showed up in court only to find out that there were no criminal cases to try. The judges were given white gloves, which signified that there were no court cases to be tried. The alcohol industry almost went extinct because people stopped drinking alcohol and many pubs had to close because people were attending church meetings instead. Drunkenness also reduced significantly. Men became responsible and rather than wasting their money on various vices, they brought their money home and provided for their families needs. According to a report at the time: “Men who had not taken one penny home in 17 years now took all home.” Furthermore, husbands became more loving, while broken friendships were restored. The use of foul words reduced as people opted for uncorrupted words. For instance, people who used to deface bridges and walls with obscene words replaced these words with quotes from the bible and hymnbooks. In short, the Welsh revival resulted in an internal transformation for the people and the society.
After going through this course (Revival and Mission) then I critically examined Nigerian Christians, carefully looking into the problems we are having in my country (Nigeria) and i realized that if really the Nigerian revival is actually effective, Our lights as Christians shine continually before the unbelievers.
But the Nigerian’s Revival in contrast has resulted more in the external transformation of church buildings, church attendance and church collections rather than an internal transformation of a changed society, a changed life and a changed heart. Despite the fact that millions attend church services regularly, despite the fact that we have some of the most anointed and most influential men and women of God in Nigerian church history, despite the fact that Nigeria is the most churched nation and despite the fact that Nigeria is one of the most religious nation in the world, Nigeria is an untransformed society. Since a society is a collection of individuals, the moral fibre of the society is dependent on the moral fibre of the individuals that make up the society. We cannot have a transformed Nigeria if we do not have transformed Nigerians and we cannot have transformed Nigerians, if we cannot have transformed Nigerian Christians.
The wickedness in the land is at historic proportion. A number of Christians who should be the light of the nation are involved in criminal activities. We hear, read and witness instances of Christians defrauding their employers and other people to the tune of millions of Naira only to give the whole proceeds to the church as tithe and offerings. In some of these instances, the pastors collecting the criminal proceeds write personal letters to the criminals thanking them for their generosity. A number of influential Christians who are pastors and head financial institutions have been arrested and charged for siphoning depositors and shareholders funds running into billions of Naira. Corruption in Nigeria is at an all time high, with Nigeria ranking 143rd out of 183 countries in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index.
Despite the prevalence of Christianity in Nigeria, money is gradually usurping Christianity as one of the major religions in Nigeria. The god of money is worshiped in the country and people will do anything to get money. One can hardly have a conversation with many Nigerians without the discussion focusing on money or the acquisition of wealth. Materialism, classism and tribalism are prevalent in the country. We have become very class conscious and rather than treating the less fortunate as fellow human beings, we treat and describe them as things. In short, those who do not meet our so-called social status are ridiculed. A number of our churches are not immune from the plague of tribalism. Furthermore, churches have played a key role in the maltreatment of young people accused of witchcraft. Senior ministers in some of our churches have been involved in beating and torturing young people who have been accused of witchcraft. The breakdown of marriages has been on the ascendency with couples becoming less tolerant of each other. As more people attend churches and church meetings nationwide, the level of immorality in the land is also on the ascendency.
Despite the influence and access that the anointed men and women of God have on the political class, they have refused to use their influence to demand the required dividends of democracy from the political leaders. Rather than use their clout to demand positive change for the country, the theological elite have endorsed some of the government’s unjust policies, which have impoverished millions of Nigerians. Due to the apathy of the theological elite, Nigeria has become hell on earth rather than heaven on earth for many Nigerians.
Many Christians have become cold-blooded and insensitive. Christians who should follow Jesus mission statement of proclaiming good news to the poor, healing to the broken hearted and declaring the acceptable year of the Lord are in many instances guilty of doing the reverse. The widows, the unmarried, the barren and the poor are often ridiculed and mocked by we Christians.
Over a century ago, in a country with a population of almost two million, a minority of one hundred thousand converted and committed Welsh Christians positively transformed Wales during a revival. If over a hundred years ago, five percent of Wales’s total population could positively transform Wales inside out and upside down, why can’t eighty million Nigerian Christians who account for almost fifty percent of the Nigerian population positively transform Nigeria inside out and upside down today? There are two possible reasons for the inability of the current Nigerian revival to effect positive change in the country:
a) What is preached is not practiced or
b) What should be practiced is not preached.
What is preached is not practiced: Perhaps the reason why the country is the way it is could be because we are not practicing what is being preached on the pulpit every Sunday and other days when we go to the sanctuary. Could it be that by the time the church service ends, the message we hear in our left ear has gone out through our right ear rather than being processed and stored in our brains? Admittedly, man is fallible and imperfect, however based on the number of sermons we hear in a year and the hours we spend in church, if we can apply even a small percentage of what we are instructed to do in the Word of God, Nigeria would surely be a better place. It is time for us to follow the instructions of Brother James by becoming ‘doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word’. After all, James was right when he said: “a person who merely listens to the message and does not live it out, is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was.”
Another reason why what is preached is not practiced could be because the church has allowed cultural influences to infiltrate and overshadow some key aspects of the Gospel message and this has been reflected in our deeds.
The responsibility for practicing what is preached lies with the congregation. It is therefore up to the congregation to put into practice what is preached provided what is preached is in line with the Scriptures.
What should be practiced is not preached: The major culprits here are the many men and women who stand in front of the congregation and preach the Word of God. Ministers who are truly called by God should preach what is in accordance with the Scriptures. Unfortunately, several of our ministers have strayed away from the teachings of the Master and have introduced another gospel that has the unintended consequence of allowing the Nigerian society to negatively transform the Nigerian church rather than allow the Nigerian church to positively transform the Nigerian society.
The Nigerian church leadership has to a large extent placed significant attention and focus on the prosperity, which has resulted in an increase in materialism among Christians. As a result, many Christians have become so money focused, money conscious and money crazy. Money is now seen as an end to a means rather than a means to an end, hence, people are willing to do anything necessary to justify the end (money). It should therefore be of no surprise that very often, when the roll call of people involved in corrupt activities in the country is read out, the names of devoted Christians are often included on the first page of that list.
Almost a generation ago, there was a group of Christians that swarmed the Nigerian Christian space. They were called “SU” which is an acronym for Scripture Union. They were devoted Christians who were known for their strict adherence to holiness. Although this group of Christians often took their religiosity to the extreme by focusing on the ‘Law’ while downplaying the concept of Grace, one thing that we could not take from them was there integrity and desire to obey the Lord. They feared the Lord and this translated in their deeds. Companies that employed them were confident that due to the firmness of their faith they would not compromise. Once you had these so-called SU’s in your company, you knew that they would not steal, they would not cheat, and they would not lie. The so-called SU’s were taught by ministers who instilled integrity and the fear of God into their mental sheets. Unfortunately, many church leaders of this current revival preach little about integrity and the fear of the Lord. Yes Grace is important, but as Apostle said many centuries ago: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.”
Another area were preachers are not preaching what should be practiced is in relation to how Christians should deal with evil powers and principalities. Many Christians have been programmed by their church leaders to be suspicious of their family members, friends or co-workers, as their pastors tell them that these people are instigators of their misfortunes. This has resulted in instances whereby children accused of witchcraft are physically and mentally assaulted. Even church leaders have been known to assault children all in the name of establishing the supremacy of the kingdom of light over the kingdom of darkness.
Several church leaders are guilty of prostituting themselves with the corrupt political class thereby indirectly contributing in the current state Nigeria finds itself. They fail to speak truth to power. Rather than crying out like Prophet Amos and screaming: “Promote justice at the city gate!” our church leaders have become like the prophets of Israel that God spoke about to Ezekiel when he said: “My hand will be against the prophets who see delusion… because they have led my people astray saying, ‘All is well,’ when things are not well.” Rather than speak God’s truth and judgment to the political class, many of our church leaders have chosen at best to be apathetic and at worst to be wining and dining with them while endorsing the unjust policies of the political class.
In conclusion, for the Nigerian revival to be truly regarded as a revival, for the Nigerian revival to positively transform the Nigerian society and for the Nigerian revival to be taken seriously, the solution will lie not solely in the thesis of the church practicing what is preached or solely in the antithesis of the church preaching what should be practiced, but rather, the solution will be found in a synthesis that merges both truths.
As a Nigerian youth, I will always try my best to let my people know the truth through my preaching and teaching, never to relent in praying and fasting for a genuine revival in my country.