Tuesday, January 17, 2006
What I think about this week's spiritual emphasis
The Spring Semester’s spiritual emphasis week at our school has reached its halfway point and it’s a different feel than the last 6 summits. For the first time in 3 years the attendance level in the meetings has declined. People on campus are connecting with the speaker as easily and are not coming away with the feelings that they have in the prior 36 months.
There is a difference and this is readily noticed and I think that it is in the expectation students have for the atmosphere. Since the Fall Summit in 2003, the speakers have been powerful and charismatic. Their popularity on campus was not to do with their depth but with their style and authenticity. This is no diss on the messages that they have brought; they were good messages, but this has become the expectation and the atmosphere.
The height of this “show mentality” was last semester; the worship band and the speaker were electric. They played great music and gave a very relevant message. It was a terrific series of services and nobody who was there left the same. They really changed the school when they left; the next summit was going to be forced to measure up against this awesome time of worship and growth. And I believe that this week is the evidence of this.
Kevin, the speaker in the fall, brought with him the message of a “Revolution” how we need to change the culture around the church. He is right we do need to change the culture of the church around us, but while his message was this, his performance was nothing different than what came before him. They put on a great show, and everybody loved it.
I am in no way wanting to tear down what Kevin did when he was here, but I believe that because of the atmosphere his team created, people were more receptive to what he had to say-and not what he did say. If they really had listened to what he was saying the campus would be different-there would have been a revolution.
So what happens is 4 months later in the same setting, Dwight (this week’s speaker) comes to campus with a completely different style, and is greeted with empty seats. To me what happened 4 months ago loses all relevance. Yes, people came out by the truckloads, yes the campus was a buzz with the message that was brought, but the evidence of a God movement, disappeared soon after September was 2 weeks old.
One critique of revivalism throughout the history of revivalism is that it is just a show. We spent a ton of time in Church History class discussing the rise and fall of this movement, and I think it is a topic that we still do not want to address. We struggle with the thought of whether the movement is the show or it is the Holy Spirit. I think the only way to discern this is to look long term. Does the impact last longer than just a few months? Do we see other people impacted by the power of God in their lives? Does this revival not only impact how the people worship but how they live? Because worship is all about how you live, who you are impacting, and a lifelong pursuit of God.
Dwight was part of a revival some 30 years ago, while a student at IWU (then Marion College), and his life has changed the face of the evangelical movement. People are in ministry because of his work. He has touched churches, pastors, denominational leaders, and lives of common everyday people in the pews-all because of the impact of a simple revival that he attended in College Wesleyan Church.
As a result of this occurrence in his life, Dwight has impacted people all across the world through discipleship. His main focus is to not bring thousands of people to the Lord, but to take the people in front of him closer to Christ likeness. In turn, those people he has impacted will impact the lives of the people in front of them-and so on and so forth.
The evidence of a successful revival is the long term life change, not the amount of people who put their butts in the seats of the sanctuary. This is the only way to properly judge the power of God as successful, but this does not mean that a series that has 15 people there is successful if the room is built for 1500! We need to remember that in the end we must wrap the message of truth into a relevant package. The more people who hear the message the better, and the more lives changed the more the Kingdom is built.
So I hope that the lives of hundreds of students on the Indiana Wesleyan University campus are changed eternally tonight and tomorrow as we listen to Dwight proclaim the message he has been given. That’s when we’ll know it has been a success.