There is more!
This is a spiritual reality I’ve been chasing for the last fourteen months. There is more that God intends for his church and for the people called United Methodists. There is more that he intends for my life as a disciple. And unlike any hunger I’ve experienced before, the more I feed on his Word and presence, the more desperate I become to go deeper still.
John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, were also desperate for more – more of God, more faithfulness and righteousness demonstrated through a life of obedience, and more people to know the transformative power of God. They had front row seats to an extraordinary move of God.
Some believe that chasing revival is as pointless as chasing the wind. After all, we are told, God does what God wants, and who knows where revival will land. I see this differently.
First, God is actively and generously pouring out his Spirit across the globe and upon the United States. We simply need to look at what God’s doing beyond our own denomination. Second, we must ask ourselves how much do we want it? How much of God do we desire? Do we only want a form of godliness but no power? Are we willing to cry out fervently for God to fill us, transform us, and empower us to turn the world right-side up?
Not long ago, I awoke from a dream where I had launched a website called www.TheUnchangedGod.com. The site was full of testimonies that demonstrated God has not changed; his power has not diminished. The focus was that God’s transformative love is still as powerful as it was for Paul, Peter, Wesley, and so many others. Although this was a dream and the website does not exist, God made his point in my spirit. If our God has not changed, the deviating cause is our lack of expectation and anticipation of what God can and will do to save the lost and empower the church.
The reality is that the God of Moses and Elijah, Mary and Elizabeth, has not changed in his desire to break into this world through love and power. According to Jesus, God’s work is going to increase; we are going to do greater things than Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 14:12). We need to put down the white flags of surrender as if God is presently doing less through his people than before. If Jesus tells us his work will increase, and it is not manifesting in the church, the short circuit is on our end, not God’s.
“It’s not just about living the principles of God, but living in the abiding presence of God,” writes Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. As a disciple, I don’t want to settle for a life without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to bring glory to Jesus’ name. That is why I have been chasing revival!
If you had asked me two years ago if I thought I could be a part of revival, at best I would have doubtfully replied, “Perhaps.” But I don’t think I’m alone. We have lost an expectancy that God will show up. And because of that loss of expectancy, we do not cry out or pay a price for revival to happen within us.
The danger is we can fool ourselves into believing “less” is all there is. “If you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting,” observes author John Piper. “If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a streetlight. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightening you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.”
In Ephesians 3:19, Paul prays that we would “know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” To be filled with the fullness of God, we have to go beyond an intellectual knowledge of the Lord and find intimacy in the presence of God. We need to hunger for more of God and seek him with all our hearts. This is where true transformation begins. Did Jesus die on the cross so we could feel and be just a little bit better on occasion? Was it for small victory or life-changing victory? Have you settled for less than God’s fullness in your life and ministry?
This question would push John Wesley from trying to walk the narrow path under his own sincere desire to be obedient, to encountering the living God in a new way that would change the course of his life.
As we look forward to our future as United Methodists, it is worth recalling Wesley’s greatest fear. “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America,” he wrote. “But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
This fear is rooted in what Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 3:5 where he wrote about those who have an outward form of godliness but reject the power that could truly transform them. Wesley did not leave us in despair but reminded us that the only things that can keep us focused are “doctrine, spirit, and discipline.” The devil works hard to convince the church that revival is a thing of the past and that we need not expect God’s empowerment.
The Apostle Paul instructed us to put on the “full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Why? Because our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
We find ourselves in a battle on many levels these days, and sometimes I fear that the battle within the church is used to distract us from the revival that is breaking out all across our country and the world. Do we need to work to uphold Scripture and our church polity? Absolutely! Wesley lists doctrine as a major component in the Methodist Movement remaining viable. At the same time, we must earnestly seek to be a people of the Spirit, fervent prayer, and holiness.
As a global denomination, we should observe the many ways God is moving and expanding his Kingdom. Within our own context, all we have to do is look at the astounding work of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural numerical growth that has been taking place in Africa within the last 25 years. As we seek answers to our own North American membership woes, disciples are multiplying in Africa.
Growth, expectancy, and passion are the hallmarks of a supernatural movement of God. These are the very elements we need in our contemporary United Methodist Church.
The New Room Conferences recently sponsored by Seedbed are attempting to stoke the embers of a Wesleyan reawakening. During one of his presentations last September, Dr. David Thomas, a United Methodist clergyperson, observed that there was a common denominator that has consistently preceded great revivals throughout history: believers persistently and fervently crying out to God and seeking his presence. “They would band together as a church and cry out to God with all their hearts, fasting for days and rejoicing in time spent in God’s abiding presence,” he said.
Do we desire God in this way?
Charles Wesley wrote a beautiful hymn entitled, “Come Holy Ghost Our Hearts Inspire.” In verse 4 he writes, “God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine, and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.” God has called us to usher in the Kingdom, to shine with the light of Christ, to set free the captives ensnared by Satan, and to bring glory and awe to Jesus’ name.
God is working within United Methodists around the world in radical ways, and I know the Lord has more for the church in the United States if we would humble ourselves and sincerely seek to know him. There is more. Cry out! Expect God to come. Revival awaits us!
Madeline Carrasco Henners is the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Luling, Texas.