Wanna see a revival tonight
Lord, let there be a revival, yeah
I need to see a revival tonight, oh
Wanna see a revival, oh

A bit of a dirty word in some circles, some prefer the gentler “renewal” – but what is it about this idea of “revival” that captures us for good or bad? The sin scandals of tent-revival televangelists used to undermine charismatic belief. The “glory days” of the past world-shaking movements – now studied and dissected in the hope of finding a sliver-bullet to turn the tides of decline in church and religious adherence. It’s fascinating.

I first heard the song “Revival” by Soulsavers (a British super-group of sorts) in the trailer for “Machine Gun Preacher”, the Hollywood portrayal of Sam Childers: biker- thug-turned-preacher. The haunting lyrics, the melancholy gospel choir, the raw energy of the song is powerful. On Sunday while stood at the bar after Church in the Pub, a good friend (shout out to you Jonny), shared how powerful the video has been for him. I watched it when I got home and now I’m hooked.

The video shows a drunken preacher hiding backstage at an old-time tent revival, getting ready to go out to an expectant crowd in search of healing and a touch from God. Interspersed with flashbacks to past sins, the preacher staggers out to a zombie-like horde of congregants, eventually collapsing.

Some time ago I started to pray for our beloved town of Luton as I looked across the rooftops on my way down the hill to work. But I realised that I didn’t have enough faith to pray for a whole town, so I started praying for the parish I was walking through, but it still seemed too much. Even my own street seemed too big a target. I started praying for my own household, hoping that we could be a place of hope, eventually I ended up just praying that God would change me.

The thing that troubles me about much of the talk of renewal and revival is that there is little focus on the greatest miracle of all: a life characterised over the long course of years by a day-to-day following in the footsteps of our great Rabbi Jesus. Do I want the Church to survive? Yes – despite popular belief the Church is an incredible force for good in the world (and yes at times for bad). Do I want to see people engaging with this story which has so shaped me? Yes. But if we try to achieve these things without investing our energy, time and resources into helping each other to grow in our faith and devotion, in our love of neighbour, in our working for justice and peace, in our journey into the great mysteries, in our orientation towards the poor, then we will fall flat on our face.

I’m currently researching for my BA Dissertation on Early Methodism and Working Class Leadership. Many things have struck me about the Weslyan revival, its incredible impact on our nation, its influence in the bringing to birth of trade unions and justice movements, it’s raising of leaders from backgrounds where no-one else was looking. But the conclusion I’m rapidly coming to, is that John Wesley never set out to do any of those things. He set out to find a way of making disciples – followers of Jesus in word and deed. The rest just seemed to happen. One soundbite I came across in an excellent book called “Pitmen, Preachers and Politics” was this:

“The Methodist sought self-mastery and self-perfection rather than striving to change the world”

I think there’s something in it.

Why am I so blind
With my eyes wide open, oh?
Trying to get my hands
Clean in dirty water

Wanna see a revival tonight
Lord, let there be a revival, yeah
I need to see a revival tonight, oh
Wanna see a revival, oh



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