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We’re praying for revival, but we need this instead …

| by Matthew Fretwell

The Western church has lost its identity and its prophetic voice. Our specific voice to proclaim the gospel—to live within culture, but counter-culturally—unfortunately, the American church has become enculturated.[1]

Instead of praying for revival, the church needs to earnestly repent and seek reformation. Let me give you three brief reasons why:

Revival means to bring back

The American culture has shifted and morphed into an ethnically diverse myriad of people groups. The U.S. has always been a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge. But facts are facts, with the rise of globalization, immigration, and urbanization—these three will send America to where it has never ventured.

Many believers desire a first-century church. I, too, study the first-century church planting models and receive great insight. Yet, we must realize that cultures always change—they’re always evolving and moving forward, not backward.

To reach the influx of people groups and the numerous religions, the church must prepare itself. We must ask ourselves if we serve God or culture. I believe that we can do the first, while living within the latter.  Our churches are neither dispersing nor deploying believers, merely gathering them.

Israel had the Sabbath for rest—the last day of the week. The Church gathers on the first day, to be reminded and prepared for mission. Monday does not begin the week, Sunday does. We need a reformation to be sent people—not to bring back what once was. God is doing a new thing (Is. 43:19). 

Our Theology is messed up

The American church is theologically emaciated. We’ve lost our first love—Christ. For over sixty (or many more) the American church has worshipped nationalism as its god. However, it has been linked to a pride that drives deep into the church. Pride created an American gospel of seeking happiness, health, and wealth. 

As Terry Coy asserted, America has five favorite idols (1) radical individualism, (2) materialism, (3) technology, (4) entertainment and sports, and an (5) insatiable sex-drive.[2] Revival may only bring us back to the 90’s or 80’s or even 60’s, instead of a reformation of theology. Al Jackson summarizes it best, “The greatest obstacle to the Great Commission Resurgence is the American Dream.”[3]

Deeply rooted into the American church is the false gospel and false theology of “me.” The church must be reformed to become thoroughly biblical, Christological, and gospel-centered. Jesus Christ must be our craving and precedence.

The Church must be prophetic, not political

The Church must be prepared to speak out against both political parties—not aligning itself with either. The Church must live counter to culture, but engage and live within it. As Christopher Wright stated, “God has a Church for His mission,”[4] not the other way around.

During the 80’s and 90’s the church compelled to be the American moral majority. The church desired to regulate moral behavior. While I agree that all civilizations should have moral boundaries, we must recognize that most of them did. Egypt had its Pharaoh, Persia had its governors, Rome had its senate, and England had its King and parliament.

The Apostle Paul declared, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1b). Daniel affirms, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan. 4:25b). The church has lost its prophetic voice—declaring social injustices, travesties to the unborn, the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, the lowly and meek, those living in bondage to sin, addiction, and slavery.  

I believe God has allowed the current political set of events to occur to say to His church, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). The Church must recognize that, by God’s sovereign hand, we have become the missional minority.  


The church needs a reformation, not a revival.


[1] Enculturation: the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values. "Enculturation." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 4 May 2016.

[2] Coy, Terry. Facing the Change: Challenges and Opportunities for an American Missiology. (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2013), 277.

[3] Jackson, Al. The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate In Our Time. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishers), 246.

[4] Wright, Christopher. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. (Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 62. 

Matthew Fretwell

Matt Fretwell is married, has three daughters, is an author, revitalization pastor, national director of operations for New Breed Network, and leadership coach. Matt holds a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission reproducible disciple-making strategies. Matt also writes for Church Planter Magazine and interviews well-known evangelical leaders on his discipleship podcast, The Wretched & The Wrecked.

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