Reformation or Revival: What Does the Church Need?
Because the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church has
spoken against the current emphasis on revival, there are those who
believe that we have "denied our revival heritage." We wish to set the
We would agree with many that the visible church
today is in a sad condition, torn apart, weak and compromising. But we
do not believe that revival, as it is commonly understood, is the
We have no objection to the word "revival," since it
is used in Scripture. We believe, however, that the kind of revival most
people want and pray for is not the kind of revival that Scripture talks
about. Nor do we believe that the popular idea of revival is the kind of
thing the church needs today.
We believe this because the one word that comes
through in all the talk about revival is the word "extraordinary."
Revival itself, according to all who speak of it, is something
extraordinary and involves extraordinary numbers of conversions,
extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit, etc.
What the church needs is not something extraordinary,
but some very ordinary things (ordinary, at least as far as the Word of
God is concerned). Before the church prays for extraordinary numbers of
conversions, she needs to do the ordinary work of caring for and
teaching the members she already has. This is seldom done.
Before we think about extraordinary gifts of the
Spirit, we need to have the ordinary gifts of the Spirit, godly
Christian living (Gal. 5:22-26), teaching and preaching the whole
counsel of God (Acts 20:27), biblical church government (not by one man,
but by elders), and biblical worship (John 4:24). These are sadly
lacking in the church.
Such a return to the ordinary things of Scripture
(really not so ordinary), we prefer to call "reformation," not
"revival," though we would not quibble about words.
The great Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth
century was a true reformation in that sense. It was a return to the
Scriptures, to the doctrines of Scripture, to preaching and teaching
the truths of Scripture, to biblical church government, discipline,
These things and many other "ordinary" things,
desperately needed in the church, are missing. The children of the
church are not instructed; family worship is a forgotten thing.
Observance of the Lord's Day has all but disappeared. Where the church
does have elders, they are often ignorant of their calling and the
election of elders is little more in many cases than a popularity
contest or a matter of politics. Worship is largely a matter of
formalism. Church discipline is completely lacking. Preaching
degenerates into political commentary or a call for social action. Many
doctrines of Scripture are almost entirely forgotten.
To give just one doctrinal example of what we mean:
among many other things the Reformation of the sixteenth century was a
return to the great biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone
without works. Not only is this doctrine rarely preached today, but
there is hardly one Christian in ten who can even explain what it means.
Yet it is an understanding of this truth that leads to peace with God
through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). So with many other doctrines.
We believe that the current interest in revival is
just a desire for a "quick fix" of the problems of the church, when the
thing that is really needed is the hard work of doing the ordinary
things to which God's Word calls the church. That work belongs both to
the officers and to the members of the church. By such work the church
will be reformed and renewed as it was nearly 500 years ago. Without it
there is no hope for the church. May God in His mercy grant it!