So you say you want a revolution?
There’s a longing in our hearts for a better world. Some might be quite selfish about it and just want a better future for their own family. Others might have a vision for renewing the structures of society and bringing about political change. When the Beatles sang Revolution they were cynical about political change and any group wanting their allegiance - instead they advocated retreating into meditation that blanked out everything outside themselves.
For those who know God as not just a philosophy or ideology but as a Person and as the Almighty - the Lord and Judge who will ultimately put all things right - there is a hope for a better world. Our hope is not about escaping this physical universe, nor about retreating into some ‘spiritual’ experience. It is a hope of God’s presence and glory filling the Earth (see Habakkuk 2.14 and Isaiah 40:4-5 for example).
Revivals in history have linked deep devotion and commitment to prayer and worship with very practical actions to love others, especially the poor, and to proclaim the good news. God’s intention is always to bring about change. The kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God: Revelation 11:15. That means political and practical changes, but they start with changes of heart, as individuals and families and whole communities respond to the gospel and are transformed by the power and presence of God.
We need a revival that will last and develop, one that is sustained not a passing flash of fire.
History suggests that the keys to inviting the Holy Spirit to bring revival are two simple things: prayer and unity. But history also shows they are not sustained easily.
John and Charles Wesley, for example, discovered the power of prayer and unity in the Methodist revival in the Eighteenth Century - and also the pressures and difficulties in maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The practical solution was to band people together. The “bands” in early Methodism were the basic building blocks of community, the essential units within the societies. Small groups of believers met to pray and to confess their sins and ask for help in the temptations and trials they faced in life.
These bands of about 5 to 10 people were large enough to bring a diversity and to stop an individual perspective from dominating. But they were small enough to make sure everyone was encouraged and no one could hide from challenging questions. They were the context in which what was preached could take root in the day to day lives of believers so they became disciples.
The bands were the place believers learned to pray and to develop friendship with God. They were the place they could develop friendship with one another and trust each other. And the bands were where they learned how to be salt and light in the world around.
In launching an initiative to encourage fresh expressions of church, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, argued that where there is community, worship and mission there is church. The message is a simple one - church is not complicated! Increasingly in All Nations we hear Ps Steve and the various leadership teams talking about what really matters in All Nations - prayer/worship, community/unity and mission. It is not rocket science - in fact it is when we make the simple things complicated that we lose our way.
We want a real revolution that starts in the heart and is seen in lifestyle. A revolution that affects society around us. Maybe the way to bring about such a revolution is to pursue prayer and unity with a radical passion and devotion that takes the risk of being very un-British, including the risk of being open and vulnerable with those God has placed us with so we can encourage and challenge one another. It is not very British. It is not very easy. But it is an essential part of seeing a revival like the Wesleys did. Let’s pray and act so that the revival is sustained and grows until we see the kingdom come.
That will be the real revolution.