Reformation or Revival?

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Ken Ham

illustration by Viktor Miller-Gausa

Ken Ham
President/CEO
Answers in Genesis

Does the church in our Western world need a revival or a reformation?

When we look realistically at the state of the church, we have to recognize a serious problem. Consider how the church’s influence has greatly waned in Europe. In the United Kingdom, church attendance has dwindled, and many church buildings have been abandoned and turned into secular facilities.

Careful research that Answers in Genesis commissioned through America’s Research Group documents that the church in America is in trouble. The results have been published in three major books: Already Gone, Already Compromised, and Ready to Return. Research on Millennials confirms around two-thirds of young people are leaving the church by college age, with few returning. Most Millennials who still regularly attend church are very secularized. Forty percent declare they are not born again, 65% believe being good will get them to heaven, and 40% openly support gay marriage.

Also, from my years of experience interacting with churches and church leaders, and reading research conducted on Christian institutions, a spirit of compromising God’s Word in Genesis with evolutionary ideas (in biology, geology, astronomy, and anthropology) permeates the church.

Secular thinking has permeated Western cultures, and there’s been a generational change in worldview within the church. In America, Christian symbols have been by and large removed from the culture, and prayer, Bible, and creation have been all but eliminated from the government education system.

Many of those who remember how Christianized the West used to be call for a revival in our churches. Along with the psalmist, they cry: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

What is the difference between reformation and revival?

In the 1866 Sword and Trowel, C. H. Spurgeon defined revival: “The word revive . . . may be interpreted thus—to live again, to receive again a life which has almost expired; to rekindle into a flame the vital spark which was nearly extinguished.”

Notice the condition for revival. You can only revive something that was once healthy. While I agree that we need a new revival in our churches to sweep the land, something needs to come first.

Much decay has occurred as generations (and many church leaders) have been abandoning the authority of God’s Word.

I suggest the church body has a cancer that is attacking its life, and this needs to be dealt with, so the body can be revived. In this era, compromise on the historical truths of Genesis, which leads to further compromise throughout Scripture, is a cancer. Much decay has occurred as generations (and many church leaders) have been abandoning the authority of God’s Word. This has opened the door for secular thinking to permeate the church, including antibiblical views of marriage.

It is my contention that for God to bring a revival to the church, there needs to be a new reformation. Reformation is a call of the church back to honoring the absolute authority of the Word of God, from the very first verse in Genesis. We need a new reformation today—a reformation where God’s people, and particularly Christian leaders, repent of compromising God’s Word.

I’m reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah addressing the people of his day: “‘But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:1). Also, the words of the prophet Zechariah: “‘Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you’” (Zechariah 1:3).

I would love to see God bring a revival in our churches. But how can this happen if God’s people, and particularly many of its leaders, are not honoring God’s Word as they should? “Come, and let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1).

I love how the great expositional teacher of the twentieth century, Martin Lloyd Jones, put it:

“The Church, after all, is the Church of God. . . . We are a people for God’s own peculiar possession. And why has he called us out of darkness into his own marvelous light? Surely it is that we may show forth his praises, his excellencies, his virtues. And, therefore, we should be concerned about this matter [of revival] primarily because of the name, and the glory, the honor of God himself. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that the world judges God himself, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole of the Christian faith, by what it sees in us. We are his representatives, we are the people who take his name upon us, . . . and the man outside the Church regards the Church as the representative of God.”

At this point in time, the world sees much of the church accepting secular thinking and compromising God’s Word with the pagan religion of evolution, which the world uses to justify rejecting God. How can the church impact the world when church members dishonor God by treating His Word so glibly?

To impact the world, we need a new reformation in our churches. Pray that when such reformation occurs, God will then bring revival in the land and we will see people fall on their knees before a holy God, recognizing their sinfulness and need for repentance and salvation.

Ken Ham is the founder and president of Answers in Genesis–US. He has edited and authored many books about the authority of God’s Word and the impact of evolutionary thinking on our culture, including Already Compromised and The Lie.

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