Revival Atmosphere without Revival

I was taught in Bible college how to create a "revival atmosphere" and that it was vital to the church's worship services. The "spirit" of the service would be killed without an exciting, energetic revival atmosphere. There is something true about that...you can feel a coldness or deadness when people are not really excited to be at church and are not eager to hear from God's Word. The need, is not a hyped up song leader or a motivational speaker type of pastor to pump up the crowd and get everybody all hyper.  The need is a real moving of God that awakens people. This is something that can't be manufactured. That deadness and quietness is a fearful thing! Nobody likes to be alone in silence. There must be noise, music or something always on to keep us from being alone in our thoughts. We must be carried along by an outside stimuli to give us the sense of security that everything is alright. So, we have a tension between enthusiasm and solemnity. Is there room for both? Here are a few interesting commentaries on the subject. The first was from one of my teachers in college:


"Even when announcing the song, the song leader’s countenance should be radiating the message and his voice must be filled with energy. We cannot expect that the congregation will be more stirred about the song than the song leader. When the song leader is stirred, the people will soon follow. A smile is contagious. Excitement is contagious. One Christian whose heart is aflame soon spreads the fire to those nearby...   Consider what takes place moment by moment during your services. Are there times when nothing is happening? Dead space is a real killer for the service. This dead time allows people to become distracted. Those awkward moments interrupt what God has been doing in the hearts of the congregation. Find the dead space, and cut it out of the service." - Brad Boruff 


This seems to be more like psychology than "God doing something in the hearts of the congregation". In real revivals, there were times when everything stopped and silence fell on the congregation precisely because God was doing something in the people's hearts! They were being confronted by the presence of God and they were being made to solemnly contemplate their sin. Then weeping would break out and  people began to confess their sins to God. Then, listen to what this author says about "dead time" in the service, he argues for the exact opposite:

"I encourage service leaders to NOT do the "no-dead-airspace" TV standard of busy-ness. We LIKE "dead air space." "Dead air space" gives us time to reflect. To collect our thoughts. To consider what we've just heard or read or sung. The silence amplifies the words or music we've just heard. It allows us time to take it all in, and to pray. We have silence to prepare ourselves. We have silence between the announcements and the scriptural call to worship." - Mark Dever

There is something scary about knowing that you're in a church where there is no moving of the Spirit. We long to experience something that is of God. Our problem is, when we don't experience something of God, we must do something to make us think that we are experiencing God. This is why there is such an emphasis on the atmosphere of excitement in churches because the truth is, there's nothing to be excited about...we are in a deplorable condition. Christians are living sinful and hypocritical lives.
Read what Martyn Lloyd-Jones had to say about this hype:

"We are to sing God's praises in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Yes! But again, there is a sense of proportion even here. Have you not noticed how singing is becoming more and more prominent? People meet together for singing only...the singing is the big thing. At a time like this, at an appalling time like this, with crime and violence, and sin, and perversions, God's name is being desecrated and the sanctities being spat upon, the whole state of the world says that this is not a time for singing, it's a time for preaching...We are wafting ourselves into some happy atmosphere...my dear friends, this is no time for singing: Psalm 137:4 How shall we sing the LORD's song In a foreign land? 
This is no time for singing, it is a time for thinking, for preaching, for conviction...Let us beware of this subtle temptation to entertain the people, thinking that thereby we can attract them and save them, thinking that thereby we can keep ourselves happy!" - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Here is a man in touch with reality! He doesn't want manufactured revival from men and women who are fooling themselves into thinking that "God is doing something in the hearts" of people when it is nothing more than the psychological manipulation of emotions. So, what do we say to this? Is any kind of enthusiasm a sign of false revival? Lloyd-Jones denied this opposite extreme as well:

"Another characteristic of dead orthodoxy is a dislike of enthusiasm...If you like it in more biblical terms, I could put it like this: it is to be guilty of quenching the Spirit...this charge of enthusiasm is the one that has always been brought against people who have been most active in a period of revival...because life has come in, and you have got problems of exuberance or excessive manifestations of uncontrolled life and living... The first principle is that everything must be done decently and in order, but there is another statement: Quench not the Spirit!...Some feel that unless they are all shouting together at the same time, the Spirit is not present....a false sense of excitement or joy can be purely of the flesh...So, any effort which deliberately tries to work up the emotions whether by singing or anything else...is condemned by the New Testament. The mere playing on the emotions is never right. The emotions are to be approached through the understanding through the mind by truth....when the church is not in revival, there is an emphasis upon choirs, quartets, soloists and the congregation just sits or stands and listens and the choir even does the singing for them. This is quenching the Spirit."

The Doctor puts things into perspective for us. When God is truly at work, He often does stir people so that there are manifestations of excitement, enthusiasm and holy affections. This is a subject worth studying in Jonathan Edwards book, Religious Affections. We do need to be aware of the fact that real moving of God brings about real emotional experiences. But notice what moves emotions..."the understanding through the mind by truth"!

So, how do we know if all this singing and exciting atmosphere is hype or revival? Is it the song leader's happy clappy countenance? Is it the up-beat tempo in the music? Is it the lighting and the colors of the auditorium that make you feel warm? Is it the cutting out of dead time in the service? NO! It is measured by how much truth is being declared. My college teacher would be under the delusion that the purest truth is being preached and taught in his church, and therefore, all the excitement is real and that they have a real sense of "revival" In fact, they name just about everything their doing with "Revival". The test is always the truth. And when this kind of pulpiteering  is considered a great standard of preaching, as their Pastor commends, then you know that their revival atmosphere is void of the truth and thus it is clouds without rain. It is not real revival.

~ Originally posted at Reforming Baptist

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