Have you ever seen an altar call or been part of one? Usually what happens is the pastor gives an emotional message about sin and damnation and how one can avoid it. Then the speaker gives people the opportunity to avoid hell by accepting Jesus through praying a prayer. At the end of these the pastor then says something like “angels are celebrating in heaven now because of those who have accepted Jesus” but then there is a pause… the speaker waits and says in a solemn voice “now I know there are others” and then goes on to call on everyone who hasn’t raised their hand yet, sometimes even going as far as to say “this may be your last chance to be saved.” At the end they celebrate all the people who are going to heaven because of this call. Am I pretty close? Now, have you ever heard a speaker at the end celebrate the change that is coming to the world because of these new Christians? Have you ever heard any emphasis on the difficulty of being a Christian and the commitment to social reform which is required of anyone who claims Christ? Have you ever heard them talk about what they should do now that they are a Christian other than reading their Bible and praying everyday? Does an alter call have anything to do with what The Holy Spirit is really out to do, which is to bring an end to pain an suffering here on Earth?
I hear people talk about how much we need revival in America and “revival” may be the last thing we need. Let me explain. In the past revival has been understood as having a whole lot of Alter calls; getting a lot of people out of the world and into the church doors. It’s been getting a whole lot of people saved for when they die but it hasn’t had very much to do with bringing the Kingdom of God. We don’t need any more people isolating themselves from the world and hiding in the safe haven of the church. Truly, the Church is not a safe haven. The Church is an agent of reform, a conduit through which God fills the earth and sin is finally pushed out to wherever it came from. Church is a movement, a force for change which acts in the world instead of running from it. If revival means anything other than this then America doesn’t need it.
Now, if we’re talking about real revival (and I’m not sure revival is even a good word to use anymore because of what it has meant to so many in the past) then America is more in need of it than anyone. If we’re talking about bringing the Kingdom of God to earth then America is deathly ill and revival is our only cure. It has become almost impossible to live in America without taking advantage of someone. Everywhere you look there are beautiful expensive things much of which is being produced in the poorest of nations by people who are severely under paid and even abused. There is so much money here and so little money in so many other places. There is obesity here and starvation over there. Real revival would respond to this problem and the world is desperate for a response. If reading our bibles and praying (the two things which are said to be most important in the Christian walk) doesn’t in the end lead to a response to the problems of the world then they are useless and even hypocritical tasks. Following Jesus means taking up our cross and following in His path headed toward His goal. If our path leads to the pew instead of the poor then ours and Jesus’ paths are separate.