This Sunday I wanted to share an extended quote from Michael Horton’s current book, Ordinary, that speaks so much to the circus that is too commonly accepted for church in America today:
Many of the reasons we offer for needing revival (lethargy in evangelism and missions, lack of heartfelt experience of God’s grace, coldness in prayer, rising vice and infidelity, social evils, etc.) are problems that the ordinary ministry is supposed to address each week. Not only may the longing for revival lead us to treat this ministry as humdrum; it can subtly justify an unacceptable state of affairs in the meantime. Another question is the extent to which a longing for revival has been woven into civil religion. The antidote to a sagging moral nerve and patriotic fervor is a revival. Among other problems, this turns the gospel into a means to an end. No longer is the church’s mission to deliver Christ with all of his saving benefits to sinners; it is chiefly to act as the “soul of the nation,” to lead it onward and upward toward its exceptional destiny.
This has been the vicious cycle of evangelical revivalism ever since: a pendulum swinging between enthusiasm and disillusionment rather than steady maturity in Christ through participation in the ordinary life of the covenant community. The regular preaching of Christ from all of the Scriptures, baptism, the Supper, the prayers of confession and praise, and all of the other aspects of ordinary Christian fellowship are seen as too ordinary. Whether one agrees with that will depend largely on whether one believes that God saves sinners or we save ourselves with God’s help.
Driven to and fro with every wind of doctrine and often no doctrine at all, those reared in evangelicalism become accustomed to hype and cataclysmic events of intense spiritual experience that nevertheless wear off. When they do wear off, there is often little to keep them from trying a different form of spiritual therapy or dropping out of the religion rat race all together.