13 Modern Challenges to Awakening and Revival

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empty church pews
We cannot expect a national awakening without first addressing several pressing issues. (Kristin Huntley/creationswap.com)

2. The independent rather than communal mindset of American culture.

As I hear stories about the revivals in South Korea, China, Africa, Columbia and the like, I can't help but think these nations have less cultural challenges than we do here in the USA. These cultures have a more communal mindset, in which they would tend to conform to the norms placed before them by a strong leader and/or a group of people, as opposed to the mindset of rugged individualism in America, which has been accentuated and made worse by the advance of technology.

Thus, it is harder to get the typical American to hold to the structure of attending a small group, getting up to pray at 5 a.m. every day, attending church services five nights a week, following a set of goals for evangelism, etc. This is why church growth and evangelism strategies, like G12, have not worked in America. (Not even the founder of G12 has experienced massive church growth and success launching a local church in Miami as he did in Bogotá, Columbia!)

We in America have to find strategies that work in the context of our own culture, not just imitate strategies that are effective in communal cultures and contexts.

3. The lack of geographic cohesion in modern cities.

The days of Finney, Wesley, Edwards, and Whitefield preceded the Industrial Revolution, when men and women left their rural farm communities to secure jobs in cities. Thus, in those days, the average person never traveled far from home, had the same 15 friends from the cradle to the grave, lived with or in proximity to their family, and had nothing to do at night but get together with the rest of their community for socials like dancing, card playing, etc.

Thus, when an evangelist like Finney held a revival meeting the whole community came out every night for weeks. Both the Holy Spirit and the evangelist had the undivided attention of a whole community, resulting in mass revival which eventually spread to the whole region.

Nowadays people do not associate their lives with their communities or even their block. Thus we are not connected to the lives of our neighbors but have divergent interests. This means that we could live on the same block as another person for decades in a city like New York yet never know their name!

In this kind of social disconnect a church could have a meeting across the street from their neighbors yet have a very difficult time getting everyone on their block to attend the meeting. The effect of the gospel is diluted.

Also, churches are not often community-centric but often have attendees who travel from different communities in their region. This fragmentation results in a lack of cohesion and is a huge challenge to community-wide revivals and awakenings.

For several years during the beginning of my evangelistic ministry in 1980 we were able to break down these barriers in my community because we would close off whole blocks and show gospel movies like The Cross and the Switchblade. The result was a Finney-like revival; we would see many people living on the same city block come to Christ! It was like something out of a history book: We would show the movie, I would preach an evangelistic message for 15 minutes, have an altar call for salvation, and 50-70 people who lived on the same block would make a decision for Christ.

We saw great revival and recommended people to many different churches because our mother church was far away. Of course, this was before the advent of home videos, computers, the Internet, etc. Thus, it would be much more difficult in today's world to get everyone on a city block to be interested in seeing a movie—especially low-budget Christian films with B actors.

4. The amount of distractions and numerous options.

During the revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries people had few options in regards to transportation, technology, education and financially. Thus, when a church opened in a community it became not only the spiritual center but also the social and cultural center of all the people, even the unbelievers. (For example, Charles Finney was a member of the church choir in his community even while he was a staunch unbeliever.) Thus, when God moved upon a church it automatically affected the atmosphere of its community and region!

Nowadays, people have televisions, radios, computers, bowling, movies, sports, the gym, martial arts, etc. Too many options results in less social and community cohesion and less attention to give God and church.

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