Is There Any Hope?
Almost without exception, everywhere I travel Christian leaders are telling me that the great need of their people is to be revitalized with a renewed spirit of hope in God. And for good reason. There are ominous signs all around us.
U.S. News and World Report, looking at “spiritual America,”1 tells us that our nation is deeply conflicted over the role of religion in society, creating a “culture of disbelief” (to use the title of Yale professor Stephen Carter’s book). Spiritual pursuits are increasingly excluded from public life, while our troubled nation is beset by violent crime, broken families, and deteriorating cities. These realities are confirmed by studies of the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators2 (published by the Heritage Foundation), which describe a society in the midst of seeming cultural demise—the vacuum of values. Lance Morrow calls us “a country out of control: drugs, crime, and what has become a morally borderless wandering.”3
The picture seems no more hopeful on an international level. Writing in Atlantic Monthly, world demographer Robert D. Kaplan forecasts a “coming world anarchy”4 in which national borders will disintegrate under the pressures of poverty, population growth, environmental stress, lawlessness, and resulting chaos, such as ethnic wars. To this, we as Christians might add sobering statistics of what appears to be a diminishing percentage of earth’s population that calls itself followers of Christ. “In a startling brief period,” writes Chuck Colson, “the West has been transformed from a Christian culture—in which the majority accepted basic Christian concepts—into a postChristian culture.”5 It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, by A.D. 2000, 37 percent (one hundred million people) will have absolutely no church background whatsoever. In addition, others document what some term an unfolding “satanic revival”6 that is nothing less than a conspiracy from hell, exacerbating destructive global trends while at the same time reentrenching enemy strongholds against the worldwide advance of the gospel.
It should come as no surprise then, that today’s “twenty-somethings”—often referred to as “baby busters”—are “world-class skeptics, cynical about mankind and pessimistic about the future.” They seem to lack heroes, causes, and vision. They lack an abiding hope for themselves, for their relationships with each other, and for their relationship with God. In fact, they take their hopelessness so seriously that no previous American generation has ever experienced a suicide rate as high—more than five thousand each year.7
And yet . . . and yet, the Spirit of God is inciting hope throughout Christ’s church from so many directions. Dick Eastman, international president of Every Home for Christ, says that between now and the year 2000 “more people could come to Christ than in all of recorded history.”8 He calls this the Jericho Hour, the church’s final offensive. To use his term, the church is moving into a “season of suddenlies,” where we see many obstacles of the gospel crumbling so quickly that its almost impossible to keep up with the story of what God is doing.
Recently, for example, leaders from a number of church traditions gathered together to voice their common concern for the moral reclamation of America and to form an informal alliance to stand against the evil tide.9 Shortly before, another coalition, Evangelicals for Social Action, drew together five hundred delegates to issue a declaration that calls for “weeping” over racism and other persistent social problems in America. At the same time, however, it calls for a rising hope that God will pour out his Spirit again to renew the church and move committed believers unitedly into both evangelism and social engagement. In addition, a new national “Reconciliation Coalition” has taken off, sponsoring interracial, multiethnic gatherings of evangelical Christian leaders to deal with past offenses and discriminations against one another, in order to bring healing to the body of Christ and to prepare the way for revival in the church.
Of course we already see great hope in pools of renewal emerging in parts of the church. Take, for example, the Charismatic movement, focusing increased confidence in extraordinary gifts of God’s grace; or the across-the-board reconstitution of Christ-centered worship within various Christian traditions worldwide; or the Christian men’s movement (Promise Keepers) that recently brought together hundreds of thousands of men across the country to pray, to worship God, and to commit themselves to be instruments of revival in our nation.
One of the most encouraging developments in this decade is global missionary cooperation toward the possibility of total world evangelization around the year 2000. Whether or not this can actually be accomplished, there is an air of hope that such vision breathes into all of us, which, when combined with other pools of renewal, gives us reason to reject any competing spirit of despair.
For my part, however, the activity that really sets me to cheering—and about which I write the most in this book—is the unrelenting development of revival prayer throughout the Christian community. It truly is the most hopeful sign of our times.
Illustrations of this are legion. For example, we’ve just concluded an international event called “A Day to Change the World” when an estimated thirty million Christians prayed in unison over a twentyfour-hour period for the closure of the Great Commission by the year 2000. Marches for Jesus, involving millions, occurred in every time zone in thousands of locations in more than one hundred nations. Across the globe there were all-night prayer vigils, hundreds of concerts of prayer, prayer walks, and prayer journeys. Thousands of children were mobilized and trained to love and pray for the lost children of their generation. What a creative initiative of the Holy Spirit this was!
One special dimension of this prayer movement can be seen in God’s work among pastors. In just a few days I am scheduled to address six thousand pastors in Manila from every province of the Philippines, many of them heavily subsidized because they would be too poor to attend the Philippine Prayer Congress on their own resources. All of them are committed to mobilizing united prayer for revival throughout their land. And just today, there fell into my hands a document entitled “A Solemn Covenant for Christian Leaders in the Southeast.” One hundred pastors from different states in that part of our nation spent four days secluded in prayer for revival (quite a breakthrough for busy clergy!). At the conclusion they entered into a written covenant, confessing both the vision they are praying toward and their agreement to keep on praying together until God answers. Part of it reads,
We repent of holding to a form of religion that denies the power of it. We repent of racism, of religious pride, of hypocrisy, of status quo mediocrity; of materialism and selfish madness and lusts of all varieties; of busyness and of prayerlessness.
We are, hereby, called to devote ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ in brokenness, repentance and obedience. We will pray until revival comes to the Southeast. We will promote this call as broadly as possible throughout the Body of Christ. We realize this call is costly and we resolve in advance to pay the price.
We are full of hope and confidence that Jesus is coming in revival to the Southeast, bringing glory back to himself through the Church.
Does this reflect the longings and hopes in your own heart? It does for me and for thousands of leaders I have talked with around the globe. This is also the kind of hope we know our people desperately need. Renowned British historian Paul Johnson in his widely respected 870-page-treatise Modern Times surveys the major crosscurrents in world history from the 1920s into the 1990s. His sweeping, incisive interpretation of this century concludes by asking whether the primary evil forces that made possible modern events of catastrophic proportions—bringing to a violent end over one hundred million people—can be overcome. Such forces include the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of ]udeoChristian values, and the “arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects.” His answer to his own question is found in the final sentence of the book: “On that would depend the chances of the twenty-first century becoming, by contrast, an age of hope for mankind.”10
The thesis of my book is that the twenty-first century will be an age of great hope because it will be an age of world revival in the church. This revival will be of such magnitude that it will significantly push back the demons of which John writes in Revelation, while at the same time awakening multitudes of earth’s peoples to the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ.
In part 1, I want to explore with you a fresh new perspective on what true biblical revival involves, and document for you how many Christians are standing on tip-toe in anticipation that a massive revival is close at hand. In part 2, I focus on the issue of confidence—confidence in the character and ways of God in revival, and seven good reasons why we can turn from any spirit of tentativeness about a coming national and world revival. Finally, in part 3, I detail practical ways we can pray and prepare for revival, and bring others into the action with us.
Yes, this book is about hope. Because I’m not simply talking about a revival in the twenty-first century I’m talking about a revival for the twenty-first century I’m talking about a revival already bearing down on top of us. Read. Rejoice. Pursue. Receive.