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America's Next Revival

This will be the hallmark of America’s next revival: an embodied faith that makes the connections between conviction and practice, between Spirit and flesh, between the world that is and the world that ought to be. Something is stirring in a dozen different movements today to teach God’s people to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This one thing is more important than any of the smaller movements we are part of.

If there is a single event driving these various movements, it is 9/11. Unanticipated in so many ways, that irruption of violence on U.S. soil was a wake-up call to a whole generation that something is deeply wrong with our world—particularly, with its social systems. Of course, the tragic events of 9/11 were only symptoms of deeper problems. But those symptoms opened our eyes to systemic connections between religious extremism and extreme poverty, between unjust wars and unsustainable economics, between dependence on oil and global climate change. Eventually, an analysis of these social problems begins to connect the dots, bringing more and more of us to a frightening conclusion: we can’t go on like this. Something has to change.

The temptation at a moment like this is twofold. Unable to see our way forward, we can give into despair. (This is one explanation of why, by some estimates, over half of Americans are now addicted to a substance or destructive behavior). But this is not the only temptation. In the face of uncertainty, we can also succumb to optimism—to the false hope that, against the odds, we will triumph as a nation or as the human race. This optimism, however, is but the other side of despair. Both are a rejection of the new thing God wants to do.

When we come to the end of our strength, the Bible teaches us that we find true life—the life we were made for—in Christ. When an individual realizes this, we call it conversion and celebrate that the one who was lost has now been found. We throw a party and throw our arms around the prodigal son who has come home. When a society realizes this, we call it revival. There’s nothing any of us can do to make it happen. But we don’t have to. The Holy Spirit moves to connect the gospel with our deep need. And, in the words of the old song, ‘when the Lord gets ready, you’ve got to move.’

- Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, "The Next American Revival," Red Letter Christians blog, July 21, 2011

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Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. He is an author, speaker, and activist who currently resides in Raleigh, NC at the Rutba House. 

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