Saturday, 29 November 2014

let the prophets speak (3)

The final talk in the series, 'Let the Prophets Speak' was given by Martin Allen who was minister of Chryston Parish Church, Glasgow for over 30 years. He chose to speak on the subject of revival in the church. He has studied this phenomenon for many years and packed a great deal into a relatively short message.

Martin based his talk around the asking of four questions.
1. Why study revival?
He believes there is a contemporary reason for looking at it. We have witnessed a massive decline in church attendance over the last five decades. We need God to move through his church in order to reverse this trend.

2. What is revival?
(a) It is, firstly, a biblical happening. It is well illustrated in the unfolding story of the Acts of the Apostles. There are times or periods of Holy Spirit inspired refreshment for the people of God (Acts 3:19).

(b) There is a specific focus as far as the meaning of revival is concerned. Martin quoted Iain Murray who said, 'Revival is the experiencing of larger measures of the Spirit of God.'

(c) There are also consistent characteristics that can be identified in revival.
To explain this he drew on the teaching of J.I. Packer who identified four family traits that can be found in genuine revival.

In revival:
(i) God comes down
God is always present with his people but there are times when his revealed or ‘felt’ presence envelopes a people. To quote Duncan Campbell in his description of the Lewis Revival of the 1950s, it was 'a community saturated with God.'
(ii) God's Word comes home
In particular, it appears that preachers are gripped by the character of Jesus and the irresistible attractiveness of his grace. Hearers are overwhelmed by the love of Jesus.
(iii) God's purity comes through
There is an awareness of our sinfulness and the need of forgiveness.
(iv) God's people come alive
There is a new energy for worship and service in the Church.

(d) There are, lastly, invariable consequences of revival. There is a great increase of numbers in the church and there is a decline in general crime within the community.

3. When does revival occur?
Heartfelt prayer often precedes revival. However, we must submit to the sovereignty of God.

4. How can we respond?
At a personal level Martin urged us not to seek revival but rather to seek God.
The church response should be the honouring of the Holy Spirit. By this he means that the church gives itself absolutely to prayer and preaching, ongoing pastoral care and creative outreach.

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