Revivals are pointless if nothing is revived.

27 07 2010

Revivals are pointless if nothing is revived.

I come from the black church tradition and I never quite understood (within my soul) what a revival was for. I never went to a revival in the church I grew up in as a child. I learned of this phenomenon in class but never experienced one until my time in divinity school.

And it felt like a glorified midweek service. Nothing was special about it except the name.


What was being revived? Dead traditions? The old church? Practices of generations gone by?

If so, I don’t think I like revivals. They might as well be renamed “Excited about our Traditions Week.”

It’s almost as if everyone got excited about the tradition more than anything. Like the only thing special about the revival was the fact that a revival was arriving. Like it was time to celebrate the week of celebrating our church. It seemed borderline narcissistic to me.  

But what is being revived?

I understand that revivals are supposed to reignite the spark for church within the church, but to me that seems a bit idolatrous. Almost like an active reminiscence of the good old days when church used to be powerful, fun, when it meant something (like the article, “The Black Church Is Dead” points out, sometimes “memory becomes its currency”: But if the focus is to receive that nostalgic, not spiritual high, the revival is not quite serving its purpose.

Why can’t revival look like community service every week for a year? Why can’t revival be challenging instead of thrilling? Why doesn’t revival look like “Take all the money you’ll spend on a new outfit and donate it to your local food bank? Why can’t revival look like fasting as a church from eating out and coming together for meals once a week?

Why can’t revival be hard?

Isn’t God in the unconventional? Revival should look painful; it should be a time of repentance and mourning, reflection and revisiting why we believe we’ve been chosen in the first place.

Revival should encompass more than what felt good thirty or forty years ago. Revival should be spiritual practice and disciplines. And church folk know better than anyone that discipline is hard. And anti-climactic. And not joyous. And not full or rich music or fiery sermons. But it’s slow. Solemn. Almost depressing to be disciplined.

 And that may be a little too hard. I mean, what about the guest preacher who’s invited every year?



One response

27 07 2010

Amen. You know I’m tired of church as usual and tradition, and revival can sometimes just be more of the same….

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