Welcome to the age of inspiration without transformation. It is a growing phenomenon shaped by religious experimentation. While we have yet to fully understand its lasting impact, there is one noticeable sign that keeps coming to the surface. It happens when our relentless desire to feel good, find success, and face our fears collide with religious fervor. This intoxicating mixture, when left unattended, produces the revival addict.
As a spiritual leader I have witnessed how people go from one religious experience/gathering to the next convinced that the life they’ve always wanted is just around the corner. If only they could get that healing touch or a perfect tip that unlocks their destiny. Then, they believe, they would have ‘the fix’ that sets them free.
What we often miss is that the feeling of freedom is its own kind of bondage.
In critical life moments, sacred moments, meant to draw us into a more mature understanding of faith in God we are also most vulnerable to the lies of a quick fix culture. While this isn’t new, it seems that the internet, individualism and FOMO seem to make it easier than ever to get trapped in this strange revival addiction.
The Emergence of Religious Revivals
Whether you are religious or not, it is undeniable that revivals have had a profound impact on the world and in particular North America. The characteristics are numerous and complex so let me begin by suggesting you pick up a good book by a respected scholar. This is always a good first step. Having said that, it is essential to know that revivals have been some of the most positive expressions of grassroots people movements hungry for lasting change.
What made some of the early North American revivals so powerful was how focused Bible teaching taught people to understand that God actually cared about both this world and the one to come. Furthermore, the God who mysteriously revived people also transformed them by giving them a fresh vision for what real change could mean for people and for society.
This life change was not just personal. It overflowed and thrust people into a fresh sense of their responsibility toward others. It also birth a new need for spiritual friendship beyond the safe socially agreed upon norms. The most significant aspects of religious revivals were experienced when black and white, rich and poor, men and women, weak and strong learned to embrace God’s grace together. This caused religious revivals to eventually find favor beyond religious circles which led to an unprecedented amount of civil change.
HOW COULD SOMETHING SO DIVINE GET SO DISTORTED ?
Unfortunately, what started as gatherings shaped by honest and communal renewal soon became private self serving experiences.
With the influence of modern society’s relentless message of self promotion and individualism the real essence of revivals slowly got lost.
Sadly, God honoring transformation rooted in a hunger to grow spiritually soon became an afterthought.
Revival type gatherings, which were to be understood as the first step in a process of life long change, now became the only experience. Hence, many began to substitute their old struggles and addictions for a new kind of bondage; fueled by the cycle of the next revival; the next fix.
MOVING BEYOND THE ADDICTION
To revive something means to see something that was dead vivified. I still desire that more than anything in my own life.
To have the dry areas of life revived.
To see broken relationships restored.
To long for justice and mercy to shape our communities.
To experience the hope of wrongs being made right.
Yet, I want to suggest that this will never happen unless we move beyond the revival addict pattern being fueled by religious revival culture. One that often has people going from gathering to gathering, conference to conference for their next ‘inspiration’ fix.
As part of my own maturity I embarked on a long process to spot these addictive tendencies in my own life. We are all prone to confuse the hype and excitement with the deeper work of life change. In so doing, I think these two issues helped me to spot and correct things in my life. Moreover, I came to appreciate the difference between a mere desire to change and the painful work of transformation.
i. A REVIVED HEART HUNGERS FOR A REFORMED LIFE
One of my professors once remarked, “It doesn’t matter how high you jump, people will soon be watching how straight you walk.” This was a wake up call moment for me. I liked the idea of change, but when I sensed the possible pain of transformation I moved on. To this day, I still wonder why my revival experiences didn’t awaken a real hunger and passion to see things in my life really reformed?
It was only a matter of time until others started to wonder how much of God’s transforming Spirit was actually at work in me. I realize now that I didn’t understand what it meant to embrace transformation. I wanted a tingle of change. A fix that made me feel like I was getting better. This was part of the addiction.
I enjoyed the fervor of a crowd, the inspirational music (at times I was in the band), but I avoided the accountability and confession shaped by serving others. Revival, when centered on Jesus, always awakens a growing hunger for a reformed life. There is just no other way around it.
ii. A REVIVED MIND LEARNS TO SPOT AND REJECT SHORTCUTS
I once heard a preacher claim that he could pray for people and instantaneously they would lose weight. With a scale on the stage, he would weigh people before a prayer and then after. Wow, just like that, they bypassed hours of exercise. From faith to weight lose. A slick shortcut indeed.
It is clear that whenever flashy claims like this mix with revivalist fervor misunderstandings of healing are bound to take root. In this addictive space, healing soon comes to mean a shortcut to get what I want when I want it. As I struggled to mature in my faith I learned how the Bible itself warned about this type of slick religious marketing. It highlights that God’s ways require a type of daily training as one learns to live a disciplined life surrender to God.
Read it for yourself!
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 1 Timothy 4:7
I remember a time when I easily embraced any shortcut that would make my life easier. It was even better if it made me feel more spiritual and more successful. I found ways to attend numerous religious gatherings that promised a next break-thru. No sacrifice, no serving, no surrender, just a few moments of ecstasy that bypassed the real work of transformation. Sure, I might have sensed a moment of change, but never did I understand that transformation required a renewed vision of the person God was calling me to be; a life formed by the way of Jesus.
When we get a glimpse of the people we should be, our minds get renewed. The reason God renews our mind is because God expects us to use them so to discern, to spot and to reject the sly shortcuts that make us experience seeking addicts.
WHAT NEEDS REVIVING ?
A true reviving movement awakens a desire to see others experience the freedom taking root in our lives. Paul, describing the way of Jesus, reminds us to be those who ‘consider others better than ourselves’. This was and is the Jesus way.
Any move of the Holy Spirit, worth defining as a revival, always draw us to see Jesus’ ways revived in our lives. Now I regularly pray,
Am i becoming less judgmental?
Am I more generous?
Am I becoming more forgiving?
Am I less envious?
Am I more patient?
I have learned that these are some of the most important steps to break the cycle of become addicted to the next fix. Sure, I’m all for revival, but the revival the world is waiting for must reveal something deeper. It begins when those who have tasted of God’s goodness model repentance from immature ways that confuse people who desperately need an example of a truly revived life.