In 1734 an awakening spread throughout the town of Northampton, Massachusetts,. From there it moved up and down the Connecticut River valley. This “Valley Revival” served as one of the early flames that would eventually be stirred into a revival called the First Great Awakening. The central human figure in Northampton was Jonathan Edwards, while a key figure in fanning the flames of local movements into a great revival across the American colonies was George Whitefield.
The message these men preached, and the message others including John and Charles Wesley in England, was justification by faith. They preached the gospel. No, they did more. They RECOVERED the gospel in church settings where tradition, ritual, and in some cases awful theology had supplanted the gospel message.
Yesterday I settled in my hotel in Jacksonville, Florida, where I spoke at Hibernia Baptist Church last night. I happened to be free to listen to some of The Gospel Project webcast. At that time it was trending second worldwide on twitter. This is not a small thing. Why such a stir about this?
Today a growing movement of gospel recovery spreads across the landscape of the church. This is particularly obvious in young adults. Weary of a factory-like church where one basically needs to confess Jesus, show up every week at church services, and be moral, increasing numbers want to believe in something that changes everything in their lives, not just their church or compartmentalized, spiritual lives. They hunger for a gospel recovery not unlike we witness in earlier movements of God.
These prior movements pushed believers to radical obedience, from the two Moravians who were sold into slavery to reach the slaves in the West Indies to the college guys led by Samuel Mills at the Haystack Meeting in 1806 who traveled to Asia. These movements also led to dramatic change in the moral behavior of those touched by the work of the Spirit. But the heart of these movements was gospel fervor.
Today we have often confused the outward effects of the gospel with the gospel itself. As a result of the gospel’s change in a person’s heart. The Gospel Project offers one of many examples of a renewed focus on the gospel’s power to change lives and the gospel’s prevalence throughout all Scripture, and thus all of live.
In his introduction, Trevin Wax noted well that information dissemination does not equal going deeper. Information does not equal transformation. Our wider perspective on truth, including how we see Scripture (in this case less as a collection of moralisms and more on one Story of redemption), shapes the information we receive.
Matt Chandler noted how Paul sought to preach the gospel not only to the lost but also to the church at Rome as is seen in Romans 1. The gospel is not only for the lost to come to salvation but also for the saint to go deeper in sanctification. He continued to explain how there is one great story of redemption in all the Scripture, not 66 books with divergent stories.
I believe the wind of the Spirit is blowing in a gospel recovery, and I want to set my sails to that wind. So many people talk about revival as a form of behavior modification or as a means of putting a stamp on our current ministry practices instead of understanding it as a radical return to the gospel leading to remarkable surrender of lives for the purpose of living and sharing the mission of God.
Revival is not about getting people to support Sunday night services. It is not about getting people to agree with you about musical styles. It is about meeting with the God who created the world and in particular made us in His image, who despite the brokenness that came through the Fall has made the way of Rescue through the substitutionary work of Christ and His glorious resurrection, and about the God Who will bring about a glorious Restoration. I love J.D. Greear’s statement that he said in the podcast and says in his book Gospel, that the gospel is not the diving board by which we jump into the pool—it is the pool!
I believe God is stirring. I believe He is especially stirring in a younger generation, which is why the book I am finishing is aimed at young people and those who work with them. We need a missional, Holy Spirit led, gospel-centered movement of God.
There is an old joke about how many people it takes to change a light bulb.
How many Pentecostals? Ten: One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the power of darkness.
How many Amish? What’s a light bulb?
How many Baptists? WHAT DO YOU MEAN “CHANGE”?
Okay, I am a Baptist. Change is hard for us. I can only speak for myself as one Baptist follower of Christ, but this Baptist believes God is stirring in our time, and The Gospel Project is part of what He is doing.
I believe The Gospel Project can help to pave the way for a better understanding of the gospel and its effect, and by our recovery of the gospel we will receive a greater measure of God’s hand. I believe this. We may be seeing the start of something wonderful. If revival comes today, would it not trend on twitter?