A group of students from a student ministry led by my son Drew gathered in our backyard for a bonfire last night. You know the drill: large pile of brush, limbs and yard cuttings set ablaze, faces reflected in the flickering circle—and S’Mores!
The idea of a spreading blaze has always struck me as a compelling image of the revival that must come from God to the church in the United States. To be more specific, the revival that must come to our church, which like so many is struggling to break from a plateau and to regain missional energy necessary to reach the vast numbers of people who desperately need Jesus and His gospel.
So, while watching the blaze last night and thinking about the church, some thoughts came to mind:
+That which appears most dead may be most primed to burst into flame. The brush pile had been on the back edge of our lot since mid-summer—through the scorching, moisture-sucking heat of summer days and the humid nights, cut off from root and source. But ironically, it was that very lifelessness that primed it for a blaze.
The essence of gospel renewal is resurrection, that the Risen Jesus brings what was coldly dead back to teeming life again. But the real key for revival is that a church sense, name and own its deadness. That realization leads to a heart of welcoming desperation.
+Just one spark can erupt into a blaze and change everything…suddenly. It literally took one spark to set our brush pile ablaze. One spark, and within seconds, a fifteen-foot-high wall of fire rose in front of me. One spark, and the roar and crackle filled the night. One spark, and the darkness gave way to the light.
One Holy Spirit moment in a cold, languishing church could be the spark to transform everything. It may come spontaneously or as the result of steady leaning in God’s direction, like the repeated striking of a flint.
What might that spark be? A profound encounter of awe in worship that elevates a people’s view of the holy, sovereign God they claim; desperate, pleading, unyielding prayer for a fresh move of God on His people in a particular place; a willingness to give up selfish preferences, endure discomfort and crash through comfort zones for the sake of gospel advance; taking God’s Word more seriously so that it begins to shape daily choices and foster courageous, Kingdom-directed obedience; deepening relationships with brothers and sisters who will help one another more faithfully live the Christ-life; engaging in genuine friendships with people outside Christ’s grace–broken, indifferent, secular, self- satisfied—so they encounter Jesus’ love with skin on; breaking past the church walls to live Jesus’ mission in the world’s mess.
Or the spark that breeds a reviving flame could come from something completely unexpected that the Holy Spirit determines to use for His reviving purposes.
+ After the initial flame erupts, it requires a continuing supply of fuel to keep it burning. The brush pile was so dry that the flame consumed it in a matter of minutes. So, we had to scramble to use boxes from the recycling bin, pine straw and other sticks in the yard to keep the flame alive
I can’t tell you how often I have seen a Holy Spirit moment erupt in a church, only to have it reduced to dying embers in a short time. Why? No fuel. No courage from some to step into a movement that was wild with newness and short on precedent. Or the bucket brigade made sure to douse the spark before it became a flame, having more passion for the status quo than the Spirit.
What is the fuel to fan the Spirit’s flame? An increasing number of churchmember hearts, tender and adventurous with more faith than sight. Life-shaping passion for both the things that delight and break the heart of God Love for people who need Jesus, a hatred of hell, a longing for heaven — the perspective of eternity.
It’s essential that more hearts join the first spark, fanning it with even more Holy Spirit power.
+ The flame consumes what is unnecessary and prepares for what’s next. By the morning the flames and embers had died. The eyesore old brush pile was gone, and that spot in the yard is leveled and ready for something new to grow.
The Holy Spirit flame will consume what is not of God, inconsistent with the gospel. not necessary or in keeping with His mission and the display of His glory in a particular place at a particular time. The consuming may feel like destruction to some, but it may in fact be the prelude to life.
There are things in many churches that have grown up –stacked structures, systems or styles that are lifeless and dry. They have become such a part of the background for insiders that they never see them. But those very things are sucking the life out of Christ-followers and blocking outsiders from seeing the beauty of Jesus.
The church needs revival, a Holy Spirit blaze that draws people out of the dark and into the Light of Jesus.
It needs a revival to consume what is not of God and prepare the way for the new, fresh, beautiful and transforming work of Jesus.
We need Holy Spirit fire to fall, so that God’s people know that He has acted to “turn their hearts back” and will then “fall on their faces and cry “the Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:37, 39)
Thus set afire, those who are His will take that flame into the world, spreading the light of the world who promises that all who follow Him “will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn.8:12)
Are you seeing Holy Spirit fire in your local church? If so, share for our encouragement. If not, how are you praying for Him to come?