Why do revivals and movements of God dry up and die or drastically diminish in their original strength? What happened to denominations like Methodism, Lutheranism, and Presbyterianism that started out in a blaze of spiritual fire and revelation, but then gradually dwindled over the years? What about the Salvation Army and other para-church organizations? Here I will strive to reveal the roots of spiritual decline and offer Spirit-designed solutions to keep the fires of revival burning through time.
The church today must be reinvented. It is impossible to read the New Testament without preconceived notions and without a traditional mindset and realize how different the spirit, structure and emphasis of the early church was from much of the church today.
There are three aspects of the New Testament church that I would like to touch on briefly: life, doctrine, and structure. Revival is the restoration of divine life. It has to do with the wine of the Spirit. The writers of the New Testament wrote a great deal about the interior life of the believer. They were also diligent in establishing a foundation of sound doctrine. And they established a form of government or church structure that promoted freedom among ministers and members of the body of Christ and removed control from the hands of any individual.
When Jesus came on the scene, many Jewish scribes and religious leaders did not receive him, primarily because of these three areas. Jesus taught and practiced a life they could not grasp: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness understood it not” (John 1:4-5, NKJV).
Neither could they understand his doctrine. “What is this? What new doctrine is this? (Mark 1:27b). “‘There are six days for men to work; therefore come and be healed over them, and not on the Sabbath day'” (Luke 13:14).
In the following brief excerpt from my latest book, “The Nature of the Kingdom of God,” we will focus on the structure, or the skinskin, if you will. And because Jesus brought the new wine of the Spirit to the earth, a new wineskin was a necessity. Neither did the scribes and religious leaders understand this.
“Then he told them a parable: ‘No one puts a piece of a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new one tears, and also the piece that was removed from the new one does not match the old one. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the skins and spill out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put in new wineskins, and both can be preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, “The old is better”‘” (Luke 5:36-39).
More than a simple contrast between the system of the Law and the traditions of the elders who were reluctant to receive the gospel, Jesus told His disciples that the structures and forms of yesterday (besides) are incapable of managing the spiritual life. today’s dynamic (new wine). In other words, we must avoid imposing the traditional structures of the past on the movement and operations of the Holy Spirit today.
This is the reason revivals die, and most of the time we are not able to maintain the legacy and the long term fruits of a great revival. Hear these wise words from a spiritual man:
“There is no doubt that God works, often powerfully, in the old structures. But it is inevitable that these same structures will impose serious limitations on His work. It’s too easy to lose ground, turn things around, and have to repeat the whole process in a short period of time. Take the Lewis Revival of 1950. Although confined to certain Presbyterian churches in the Outer Hebrides, it was a powerful movement of the Spirit that deeply affected those communities at that time. Many have found faith in Christ, and some of them are now in full-time service. But the fact remains that in less than a decade you could visit those very churches where God had worked so mightily, and never suspect they had ever tasted revival. Without structural change, it is virtually impossible to sustain the fruits of revival. —Arthur Wallis
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Bert Farias‘ books are forerunners of personal holiness, of God’s action, and of the Lord’s return. Find other materials and resources on her website, Holy Fire Ministries.