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On RevivalA realistic look at revival

Revival is a popular subject today. This collection of contributions on the subject from 15 different authors is free from hype and enthusiastic vagueness; as my heading says, it is 'realistic'.

That doesn't mean lacking in fervour or so scholarly as to be out of touch with ordinary people's hopes. The book does, however, banish some of the airy-fairy mystique that has tended to cloud much discussion of the topic. It is On Revival, edited by Andrew Walker & Kristin Aune (Paternoster, 2003, ISBN 1-84227-201-2).

It's all here: the Wesleyan revival, the Welsh revival (which deadened the church rather than give it a boost!), George Jeffreys, Wimber, Toronto and much more. Some of the authors view the subject sociologically, others historically, yet others linguistically, but it's all thought-provoking stuff.

Before we can declare that we are in favour of revival, or perhaps even be opposed to it, we need to understand what we mean by the term.  (p xxiii, Intro)

Strictly speaking, the word 'revival' should only be used in contexts where the church has already been at work. You cannot revive something that did not formerly exist.  (p24)

The only revivals that I have had anything to do with are the ones that did not happen… The prophecies of such a revival that we have been hearing over the forty years of charismatic renewal have been false prophecies, by the simple test that what they promised has not happened. Because of this, one is bound to approach still more prophecies of the same kind with a considerable degree of caution, to say the least.  (p59)

In the case of the Welsh Revival, there is the historical observation that the century following on from the revival has seen a relentless decline in the life of Welsh Christianity, to the point that Wales can now be regarded as one of the least Christian countries of Europe.  (p120)

Christianity is unavoidably a metanarrative (one of the reasons why it is so hard to promote in a postmodern society), and entire metanarratives are not gleaned and adhered to within the space of a forty-five minute sermon, no matter how persuasive. The overwhelming majority of converts from meeting-driven revivals did—and do—inhabit societies which are already superficially Christanised or in which central Christian tenets are already widely accepted.  (p163)

Revivals in minimal-Christian-presence societies such as ours tend to come from the hard work, prayer and witnessing of the many, rather than from the high-profile pulpit declamations of the few.  (p167)

What is disturbing is the way places like Brownsville and Toronto, themselves representing very different theological and spiritual motifs, are mimicked uncritically. Susceptibility to only the latest and the sensational demonstrates an adolescent spirituality; one that is demonstrably ill prepared for the vagaries and mundanities of normal Christian living. Moreover, it encourages a fascination with the novel that weakens the tenacity and perseverance required for the challenging missiological setting the charismatic-Evangelical church finds itself in. (p242)

The charge has been levelled at Alpha that the note of repentance, which is the first note of the gospel, has been diluted for the sake of an audience and a brand of Christianity that has some striking resonance with modern consumer living.  (p243)

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