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1/7/13 at 10:31 AM 0 Comments

Teenagers, Revival, and the American Church

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By Richard Ross

Is an awakening to Christ possible in your church and youth ministry? Absolutely. That is exactly what the Father has been orchestrating among believers down through the centuries and today.

Awakening is a church saturated with the supremacy of Christ by the Spirit of Christ. God floods His church with fresh hope, passion, prayer, and mission by refocusing believers on Christ for all He really is. The awakening then spills into the community and cannot be stopped.

Awakening is a church saturated with the supremacy of Christ by the Spirit of Christ.

All true awakening is about God's bringing glory to His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit through His church. Between His ascension and His consummation, this is one of the most strategic activities of the Holy Spirit. Corporate awakening necessitates Trinitarian activity: Father initiated, Spirit driven, and Son centered. If any spiritual experience—whether called revival, awakening, or something else—diminishes, bypasses, or leads people away from Christ, it is not of God and holds no hope for any generation.

Some use the term revival to describe an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results. God begins, at His choosing and timing, to break the hearts of those seeking Him. There is a profound sense of repentance and focus on the holiness of God.

Believers confess these sins openly, restore relationships with Christ and others, and the church is revived. This is different from revivalism, which is activity that is entirely human in origin. Some reserve the term spiritual awakening to refer to a time when God transforms not only the church but also whole cultures and continents. Revivals alter the lives of individuals; awakenings alter the worldview of a whole people or culture.

Revivals alter the lives of individuals; awakenings alter the worldview of a whole people or culture.

During seasons when students have been at the forefront of awakening movements, their lives have been marked by brokenness for sin and radical obedience. They have been bold in sharing their faith and often have witnessed a remarkable harvest of new believers. Multitudes of students awakened to Christ have entered vocational ministry and have become some of the key leaders in the church.

We stand in great need of revival today. When Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”—He was not speaking to lost people. He was speaking to the church in Laodicea. This church had become so self-absorbed, so comfortable, and so lukewarm that Jesus was standing outside. This situation literally made Him nauseated. The Laodicean church and the American church today are two of a kind. We stand in desperate need of revival.

Awakening comes from God alone. No human-designed formula can compel God to grant it. The church cannot plan it, stage it, or organize it.

However, the Holy Spirit—the primary agent of revival—often chooses to work through believers’ prayers, Bible studies, worship, fellowship, and daily obedience. Christians can do nothing to guarantee revival at any particular moment, but believers can always intensify preparations for the wonderful gift of God, in keeping with their hope in His promises. Scripture connects God’s sovereignty with cooperation in this way: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you” (Josh. 3:5 NASB).

In every revival repentance must have precedence. Everything that disobeys the Holy Spirit—everything that is incompatible with Christ Himself—must be confessed to the Father and put away. Once believers recognize how far they have fallen, then they will “humble themselves and pray and seek [His] face and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chron. 7:14 NASB).

The road to awakening is paved with contrite and broken hearts. With such a people God is pleased to dwell (Isa. 57:15). Thankfully, Christ is more than willing to transform believers, taking them into a deeper encounter with all He is as Savior and Lord.

Since “faith comes by hearing,” any biblical revival must be a Word-anchored revival. Therefore, Christians should hold high the biblical promises for personal and corporate revival, of which there are hundreds.

Awakening comes from God alone. No human-designed formula can compel God to grant it. The church cannot plan it, stage it, or organize it.

They also should give reports of what God has done and is doing in revival around the world. And Christians should help one another envision what a revival in this generation might look like inside and outside the church. Teenagers need to hear the thrilling stories of those times when God moved through young people to spark revivals and awakenings.

Though biblical revival is preeminently a corporate experience, each believer must be willing and ready to become the starting point for a fresh work of God in His church. Is it possible that revival in your church could begin in you?

Throughout history concerted prayer movements have provided launching pads for major advances of Christ’s kingdom. This was certainly true with the major religious awakenings in this nation the past two centuries. Let me ask, is there a movement of prayer in your church toward revival? If the answer is no, should that prayer movement begin with you?

Christ is prepared to awaken believers to much more of who He truly is today. Parents and other adults may have the privilege of awakening teenagers to the King. Or the God who is always full of surprises might first ignite students to bring awakening to the church. Either way, come Lord Jesus.


Richard Ross is Professor of Student Ministry and J.M. Price Chair of Religious Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and blogs at Theological Matters.

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