Return to Church
With in-person church gatherings being suspended for much of the past few years the return to physical church was much anticipated. Looking around church auditoriums, it was comforting to see the familiar faces mingling with the new faces sitting amongst the congregation. The reunion was sweet with the relief that online church was no longer compulsory.
However, there were a number of bodies no longer occupying pew rows. At first, it could be wondered whether this missing crowd was COVID cautious, and simply hesitant to make a physical return. Perhaps, they were part of the pajamaed bodies with coffee in hand, sitting at home watching the live-streamed service.
As the weeks passed, the pajamaed bodies began to make their cautious return to physical gatherings. Yet still, some of the previous regular church subscribers no longer warmed seats amongst the congregation.
It was like they had simply disappeared.
Recently, I was engaged in a discussion whereby the remaining believers at church were referred to as the Church remnant. Now, this posed two questions for me.
Firstly, as I continue to wrestle with the Calvinism versus Arminianism debate, I become increasingly aware that the idea of ‘remaining believers’ may in fact simply be an oxymoron. Can, one lose their salvation?
Secondly, as the time of Christ’s return draws nearer are we to expect a great revival of believers?
Do not grow cold
In John Piper’s discussion on “Should we expect revival or social decay?”, he uses the metaphor of a glacier coming over the Earth. The progression is slow and left unchecked, it results in the love of many growing cold. He encourages believers that it is not a requirement for your city, nation or much less church to turn cold. Rather, as believers we are called to remain hot for Christ at all times.
A great rebellion precedes the return of Christ. Thus, we can expect to see an increase in evil as we near this time. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 1 to 12, Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica speaking a warning about the man of lawlessness, a figure of evil in the end times.
The time of intensified evil and rebellion against God was already happening in some form in Paul’s day. We have in fact been living in the last hour for the past 2000 years.
Scripture does not advise us that the great rebellion will come as a steady, irreversible decline. We are not to simply expect that the last hour will be one of gradual worsening, with a great hardening of hearts towards Christ. Nor does Scripture claim that there will be a mass great awakening, or revival of the Church.
This debacle brings us back to the discussion about revival and the place for it within the Church today.
Paul continues to write in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 13 to 16, an encouragement for Christians.
”But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 13-14).”
As Christians we can prayerfully expect a God given revival in our churches, cities, and world. Yet, we need to apply a Biblical orientation to such a view.
Jesus describes the progress of the gospel being shared throughout all the nations in the time when the love of many grows cold. This is reassuring. It encourages believers to not only preserve with the Great Commission, but also reminds us that not all have grown cold.
Is there a biblical warrant for a great revival?
This leads us back to the question: is there a biblical warrant for a great revival?
Considering the gradual nature of what is happening in the world and what has been happening for the past 2000 years, this appears to be the wrong question. Rather than focus on a great revival, we should yearn for our churches and our communities that, in the face of a sovereign God who knows his people, we should not grow cold but seek to have his truth proclaimed in all places.
In the end, it is all in God’s hands, and that is a blessed place to be.
Kiwi-born with British roots, Jessica Gardiner drinks tea religiously while her dinner table discussions reverberate between the sovereignty of God, global politics, and the public health system. Having experienced churches from conservative to everything but, Jessica writes out a desire for Christian orthodoxy and biblical literacy in her generation. Jessica is married to fellow young writer Blake Gardiner.