We may pray until we are blue in the fact that God will bless our activities and put his approval on our machinery, but God cannot bless what is out of conformity to His Word. If God blessed and revived some institutions, He would be perpetuating error. Rather than ask God to bless our program, we must get back to His plan and then we can expect His blessing.
We must have a reformation that emphasizes not only the inerrancy, but the sufficiency of God's Word. We dare not add to nor take from the Word of God. It is our sole authority for faith and practice.
The battle cry of Martin Luther was "justification by faith." We dare not substitute signs and wonders or standards of dress for faith in the finished work of Christ. Every great awakening has been proceeded by a fresh emphasis on justification by faith and the new birth.
The evangelical church has cheapened the phrase "born again" and has reduced it to a human decision. We must teach a supernatural new birth which gives victory over sin. There is no explanation for the new birth except the Holy Spirit.
We need a new emphasis on holy living. Holiness is not a rigid state that cannot be lost, but it is a conformity to the image of Christ. The holy life is not characterized by peculiarity, but by practicality. It will be marked by a commitment to fulfill the ordinary responsibilities of life. It is not a spectacular emotional experience, but consistent Christian living which is sensitive to the needs of others. When it falls short, it does not cling to an empty profession, but seeks a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.
The revival we need must be preceded by reformation.
The story of Frank Bartleman illustrates a sincere search for God without a proper concern for God's Word. Saved in 1893 in the Baptist Temple of Philadelphia, Frank turned down a chance to go to college and began preaching. Four years later he joined with the Salvation Army and became a captain. He was soon disillusioned and was ordained in another holiness group.
During this period, he experienced emotional instability ranging from suicidal depression to falling unconscious at camp meeting under "electric shocks" of blessing. After marriage, he pastored a Wesleyan Methodist congregation and shortly thereafter moved to Denver to work with the Pillar of Fire Church. In 1902, he was arrested in Boulder for painting scripture on the canyon walls near the city.
In 1904, he was in charge of Peniel Mission in Sacramento, California. At times his wife had to scrounge thorough garbage cans to feed their two children after he left Peniel. Then he moved to Los Angeles and worked with several missions before joining with a Baptist pastor who started the New Testament Church.
In 1906, a black evangelist came to Los Angeles preaching that tongues was the "initial evidence" of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Bartleman was in the group that moved to the historic 312 Azusa Street Mission with the evangelist. This location became the most famous address in the pentecostal-charismatic history.
Bartleman, a frequent contributor to holiness periodicals in the East, focused international attention on the new movement through his glowing reports. However, Phineas Bresee, who was founding the Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles at the same time, called the situation at Azusa Street "a senseless mumble... a poor mess" which bordered on fanaticism and heresy. When Charles Parham, the father of the Pentecostal movement, arrived at Azusa Street, he denounced the phenomena as "spiritual power prostituted." He claimed the meeting had been taken over by "hypnotists and spiritualists." He was invited to leave and barred from returning.
In 1911, William Durham of Chicago arrived with his doctrine that entire sanctification was a "fictitious experience." When he was locked out at Azusa Street, he and Bartleman found another mission hall and the "revival" went on. When the "Jesus Only" movement came to Los Angeles in 1914, even though it denied the Trinity, Bartleman was rebaptized in Jesus' name. When he died in 1935 he was not a member of any church.
If we emphasize emotionalism at the expense of sound teaching we, too, will be lost in a sea of subjectivity. One charismatic had written on the flyleaf of his Bible, "I don't care what the Bible says, I've had an experience."
The growing Christian school movement is a conscious attempt, not only to fulfill the mandate of Scripture, but to set the stage for a genuine revival by teaching God's Word daily. In many cases, not only do the children need to be trained, by their parents, too, need to be grounded in the faith. Even on mission fields, God has sent revival after His Word was translated and faithfully taught.
According to J. Edwin Orr, there has been a great move of God somewhere in the world every generation since 1725. We can see revival, too, but as A. W. Tozer warned, "To beg for a flood of blessing to come upon a backslidden and disobedient Church is to waste time and effort.... Unless we intend to reform we may as well not pray."