By Michael C. Mack
“Jesus loves this. He loves humility. He loves unity.”
A leader at Asbury University spoke these words amid what some have called revival.
I visited Asbury in February and witnessed what I would call a gentle moving of God’s Spirit among people both young and old—but led by the young (Gen Z). Several things were noticeably missing at the college, however. Not once did I hear anyone refer to the denomination or tribe they belonged to or the name of the preacher at their church. I heard no arguments about worship style, Bible versions, or any other matters of preference. The focus was on Jesus and worshipping him. There was a sense of humility and unity . . . and I agree: Jesus must love this!
As I write, something similar has occurred over the past several weeks at the church where I serve. I’ve noticed among many people a hunger and thirst for God to move and to experience his presence and power. Our leaders haven’t tried to force anything, but they have made room for the Spirit to move. And God is doing what only he can do. This past Sunday, in a service focused on worship and prayer that was scheduled months ago, adults and teens and children streamed to the front of the auditorium and knelt to worship, pray, and repent. About eight high school boys came forward together—during an old hymn—and knelt, put their arms around each other, and praised God together. Older saints came forward to kneel and worship, and then they ministered to the youth, and vice versa. God’s sovereignty, truth, and grace were on display through humble and broken hearts as tears flowed down cheeks and we poured out our praise to him.
God generously scatters the seeds of both revival and unity, but they take root and grow in softened, fertile hearts. Unity arises within revival because in revival we focus our attention on Jesus rather than other things, many of which tend to divide us. Both revival and unity call for a commitment to truth and grace and require discernment, but they are better experienced than overanalyzed. They both bear fruit in transformed lives and the advancement of God’s kingdom.
In the history of our movement and God’s church, revival and unity have often occurred in tandem. The early church is our prime example. Read Acts 1 and 2 and note how then as now humility, surrender, common unity (community), prayer, and repentance were the fertile ground in which revival grew.
Many in our movement want and have been praying fervently for revival and unity. But we know we have an enemy who wants neither to happen; he will build barriers to try to stop unity and revival. Hard hearts. Lukewarm faith. A focus on everything other than Jesus—our programs and plans, our politics, our great ideas, our disagreements with others, and more. Sometimes we focus not necessarily on the wrong things or bad things, but just not on the main thing: Jesus.
Why doesn’t revival happen everywhere? Perhaps because we are simply otherwise occupied. And when we do focus on Jesus and revival begins to spring up, the enemy counterpunches. He knows that “if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (Mark 3:24). So, he uses this divide-and-conquer strategy to try to destroy our unity and any chance of revival in Christ’s church, individual congregations, and families. Of course, he will ultimately fail and lose the war (cf. Revelation 20–22), but until then, he continues to steal, kill, and destroy.
James asked, “What causes fights and quarrels [disunity] among you?” (James 4:1). Dana Carvey as the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live might ask in response, “Is it . . . Satan?” Well, yes, it is. James tells us what to do: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (v. 7). The verses that follow sound a lot like revival: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (vv. 8-10).
In February I wrote in an online article,
We all want to see people come to Christ; we want to see lives transformed, marriages reconciled, people healed, and more . . . but we can’t force God’s hand; we can’t do any of this in our own power, we can’t do it only according to our own schedules, and we certainly can’t manufacture or contrive a movement of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we must come before God in repentance, and then prayerfully, patiently wait on God’s perfect timing. . . .
Be watchful. Stay ready. We never know when God will show up and work in ways we don’t expect and maybe do not even understand.
The Church Report. We have included our annual church report in this issue on unity for a good reason. The survey results are intended to show the state of all our independent Christian churches and churches of Christ.
This report is meant to unite us, not divide us. We do not print these lists as a competitive “ranking” of churches and their leaders for comparison’s sake. But I’m concerned some may see it or treat it that way. My brothers and sisters, this should not be! Rather, we should be rooting for one another; we are one church with one leader and one mission. Let’s humble ourselves and pray for, encourage, support, and serve other congregations and their leaders. That would be a mark of unity and revival among all of Christ’s church!