From the 1790’s to the 1850’s, camp-meeting revivals sprang up in Kentucky, Tennessee and other places in the newly formed United States of America. These gatherings brought thousands of people together to pray, worship, and hear passionate sermons–often delivered by itinerant pastors atop tree stumps.
What historians would later call the “Second Great Awakening” saw great demonstrations of emotion and religious fervor as thousands co-mingled in the teeming fields of faith. My home church (the Restoration Movement) which was born during those days.
That revival was loud and demonstrable.
Today, another spiritual renewal is visiting America and the world–because of a virus. It’s different than the camp-meeting variety.
Let’s call it the Quiet Revival.
The Quiet Revival
During Colonial Days, people experienced daily the ravages of disease and other disruptions of normal life. Some years over ten percent of the population of Philadelphia died of yellow fever. Indian wars, Revolutionary War mayhem, and a lack of modern medicine made life precarious and fleeting.
Then God used boisterous and crowded camp-meetings to stoke faith of the American people, encourage social reforms (including abolishing slavery) and focused the people heaven-ward toward the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. That was then.
This is now.
God can awaken individual people and nations in multitudes of ways. He’s not limited to crowds, stumps. jumbotrons or stadiums. He uses many creative methods to get our attention and draw us to Him. In early America God used loud sermons and crowds of people pressing in on one another to accomplish his purposes. In 2020, is God using the global pandemic of the Covid 19 to speak to people in the privacy of their own homes?
I will not ponder the “whys” of the pandemic here. Nor whether God causes or simply allows natural disasters to get our attention. That’s next week’s subject. Today let’s examine how God is using quiet and quarantine to teach the peoples of the world some important truths.
Here are some aspects of the Quiet Revival.
Last night, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee gave an indefinite “stay home order” to all Washingtonians (except movement for essential needs). This follows the edicts of governors in California, New York, New Jersey and other states trying to slow down the spread of the virus.
Hunkering down is unusual and creates hardship for many families—both in scheduling and economically. But it produces a Sabbath-rest from our workaholic lives–a commandment that the Western World has neglected for at least two generations.
We pride ourselves on 24/7 work weeks and numerous cities that boast that they “Never Sleep.” Maybe we need to learn “sabbath” again–for our own good. In fact, maybe 2020 is our “Year of Jubilee” from the rat-race of busyness.
It’s interesting that the first major closures brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic came from the NBA, Major League Baseball and other sporting events. I love sports. I was an avid athlete in my early years. But I also allowed it to become a god in my life which took too much of my time and attention.
Now movie theaters have closed, and Hollywood’s line-up of blockbusters stands threatened. Yes, we can still watch shows at home and on our devices. But we can do better than that.
I have felt for many years that entertainment, sex, and money stand out as the Western World’s biggest idols (see 1 John 2:15-17). All three are tottering during the pandemic. We must change our idolatrous ways and emerge from this crisis with better practices in our lives.
Houses of Worship shuttered for the first-time last Sunday and Easter services may be in jeopardy. But the Church of Jesus Christ–the people of God–got creative and used technology to beam the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. My home church streamed Sunday services for the first time—and more people watched than normally attend Sunday services (four times as many views).
While taverns and bars often serve as a secular version of fellowship and “communion,” they didn’t “stream” this week–just the people of faith. Let’s continue to use world events to share koinonia together along with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
Thoughts and Prayers
Hunkering down world-wide has forced billions of people to do more thinking, reading, talking and praying to God. I have greatly used my prayer walks during this time to intercede for the afflicted and ask God to give wisdom to our leaders. Everywhere you look, you see a slowed-down society taking walks, enjoying God’s creation and conversing with each other (six feet apart). Global trauma is bringing a renewal of meditation–a key to spiritual growth.
If opposites attract, then these are special days with God. Social isolation is attracting spiritual intimacy with the Creator of the universe. At every store I frequent, most people want to talk about God. As I was buying chicken tenders for our family last night, the girl at the counter expressed a desire to renew her relationship with Him. Spiritual gain often grows through physical and psychological pain. Share your faith during this season–in thought, word, and prayer.
The schools are shuttered, and kids remain at home with their parents–a hardship for many two-income families. But as Dr. Lindsey M. Burke puts it, “We Are All Homeschoolers Now.” God is using the pandemic to bring fathers and sons and mothers and daughters together in ways unimaginable just one month ago. Yes, it’s hard (I heard a radio broadcast yesterday of whining parents), but it’s an important time of renewal for the nuclear family.
Shirley and I home-schooled our six children for thirty years. We see it as the greatest season of our lives. In 2020, circumstances have forced it on many parents “for their good” (and their children). Parents–don’t let this priceless “blessing in a crisis” go to waste.
Trials reveal who we really are. They either make us bitter (bad character) or better–revealing good character that reaches out to help others.
Many leaders such as Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi and Pastor Hernan Castano in Houston Texas are encouraging their people to pray for those around them and reach out in love in their local communities. An explosion of compassion is taking place everywhere with professional athletes paying the salaries of idle stadium workers and people sharing toilet paper and foodstuffs with worried neighbors.
Pastor Bryan Montgomery of Danville, Kentucky is changing the way his congregation reaches out to the local community. “Our country is at its best when we are serving others,” he told a local reporter. “The church is going to have to adapt, but as much struggle as it may be, all of that hard work will eventually pay off. Pastors are going to thrive as they serve their cities during this crisis.”
They will know we are followers of Jesus by our loving actions.
University of Texas professor Rodney Stark says that until about 3000 years ago, in a slower, less populated world without noisy machines and sleepless cities, one phenomena dominated human life:
“Everybody heard from God.”
Maybe the Covid 19 pandemic is quieting us to listen more carefully.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
NEXT WEEK: Why the Pandemic?