NOTE: I decided to add on a little bit to last week’s 3-part series “Stuff I Don’t Believe Anymore.” I guess this makes it a 4-part series now…


I used to be in the river.

And by “In the river,” I mean I was a participant in revival / renewal / river whatchamacallit. Yeah, I was in a church that had chofars  and streamers and banners and dancers. Church services were looooooooooonnnnnng and rather excitable. People whooped and hollered, shook, and “fell out.”

We sang, “Let The River Flow” and “Revival Fire Fall.” If Lindell Cooley or Brian Doerksen wrote it, we sang it.

It was all very intense. We believed God was moving in a special way through our passion and devotion.

But there was something unhealthy about it. The focus was always on us—on how God was speaking to us, healing us, moving in us, leading us, blessing us… It was always us-focused, and never others-focused.

We were enjoying it. Probably way too much. I write about this in a PG-13 post called “Getting Your Jollies & Spilling Your Seed.”

I used to believe “revival” was what God wanted for us. Now I don’t believe that stuff anymore.

Think about it. Revivals don’t last. They are temporary. Kinda like “being on fire.” Things that are on fire eventually burn out.

Upping the ante, stirring greater passion, and getting all urgent about spiritual things doesn’t always produce a positive result. In fact, it sometimes has devastating consequences.

In our attempts to make something happen spiritually, we can end up looking more like the prophets of Baal than Elijah. They shouted and danced and worked up a sweat, and even bled a little… believing if they were loud and passionate and urgent enough, their gods would respond.

It didn’t work though.

Here’s what did: a simple, quiet, non-showy prayer from Elijah.

The call for urgency is overused and over-hyped in the church.

We sound like that 1981 song by Foreigner, “Urgent.”

You say it’s urgent. Make it fast, make it urgent. Do it quick, do it urgent. Gotta rush, make it urgent. Want it quick. Urgent, urgent, emergency.

How long can urgency be sustained?

I think there’s another, perhaps healthier, way: trusting in the slow work of God. Here’s what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says about that…

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

Yes! I’m learning to trust in the slow work of God – not my passion or my urgency or my revivalistic antics.

Jesus told a parable that is often overlooked. It’s called the parable of “The Growing Seed.” In this story, He likens the Kingdom of God to a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.

Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. —Mark 4.27, 28 NLT

I love this so much.

Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake…

THE SEED SPROUTS AND GROWS. He doesn’t even know how or why.

A leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. Germination and growth and maturity happen slowly.

Does the farmer play a part in this process? Absolutely. And yet, there is mystery and wonder. The miraculous happens. Life. Growth. Harvest.

Is this because of revival or urgency or passion? Probably not.

But it may have more to do with being faithful, doing what is required, being at the right place at the right time, working and resting, planting and waiting, watering and waiting, tending and waiting, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting…

Trusting in the slow work of God.

And that is something I believe in.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? How do you see the slow work of God in your life?

This is an unplanned add-on to a 3-part series. Check out part 1 “Richer Is Always Better,” part 2 “Success Will Make My Insecurities Go Away” and part 3 “Catholics Aren’t Christian.”

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.


  1. Bryan Stanton

    Great stuff here, PB. You really struck a chord with me here.

    I see the point you are making and completely agree, but to quote a line from the movie Radio, “both….I want both.”

    I grew up in the river. There was a lot of good that came of that, but there was also a lot of bad, probably at least as much bad as good. I think the reason that the good seemed to stick and the bad fell away was that I was surrounded and taught by some wonderful people who not only knew “revival fire”, but also trusted in and lived their life by that “slow work of God”.

    I also know more than a few who were never content with a church unless folks were falling out all over the place and the pastor wasn’t preaching and/or praying at nose-bleed level. Sadly, I think, for many that is the heritage of the pentecostal movement. The purpose and power of the Holy Spirit that the bible actually speaks of gets pushed off to a corner somewhere and some of the more sensational manifestations get placed front and center.

    But I think that is just human nature. We have a tendency to gravitate to the extremities. We go through phases where we tire of one extreme, so we swing on the pendulum to the opposite extreme. From my experience, I see the church going from being all about revival – seeking the sensational, face in the carpet, all about us and our relationship with God – and ignoring what He told us to be doing (GO-ing to a hurting world that needs to see and know His love), to being all about meeting the physical needs of the hurting around us and ignoring our own need to spend time with God on a personal level, never recognizing He does offer us times of refreshing and restoration because we are so busy doing.

    I don’t believe God intends for us to be all about either extreme. As you stated, the “all about us” revivalism is unhealthy on many levels. It creates “fat baby” christians who are incapable of producing much in the way of fruit. On the other extreme, a social gospel runs the risk of emphasizing so much meeting the physical needs of the people around us that we some times forget that the greatest thing we have to offer the poor and hurting is an introduction to our Savior. Without offering them practical help, we have no right to expect them to listen to us tell them of God’s love, but if all we offer them is practical help, we become nothing more than a social service. We have to offer more.

    This is why I believe God desires for us to have times of refreshing and revival – times set aside to experience His presence and His power in ways that are out of the ordinary. These times should not be about manifestations, but about truly experiencing the power of God. I know my batteries run low and I get so caught up in the ordinary every day stuff that I need to have God show me again what He can do, show me that I don’t know everything I thought I knew about Him and His ways and, I think, just mess with my head a little about how He chooses to do things. Those times keep a sense of awe and amazement in my walk with Him – and though they are not to be the focus of our relationship, they do provide great “stories” for me to tell and re-tell myself when I need a reminder.

    Although I believe we should have a way of life that lives in the middle of the extremes – in every area of our lives – I don’t believe God intends that we never go to the extremes. There are times when we need to drop all of the spirituality and roll up our sleeves and get physically busy. And there are times when we need to pull away from the noise, get alone with God and let Him do whatever He wants to do to get our attention and leave us speachless. I think we need both.

  2. Brian Dolleman

    I do agree with you Bryan. The parable of the growing seed is a great picture of the “both” concept – both effort and rest, both the mysterious and the known, both the working and the waiting.

    There are definitely swings of the pendulum – seems like this is human nature. It may also be the hand of God, leading us as His church – where He wants us at various seasons.

  3. Bryan Stanton

    To clarify, when I speak of the church, I am referencing the christian church in general, not a specific local church, or even denomination.

  4. My folks who raised me AG used to call what you described as WILDFIRE. Thanks for you wisdom and making sense of how we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us as He wills……not as we will it to be……

  5. My favorite part of this was Bryan’s point about having very stable people around his life that were a steady anchor that gave practicality to the experience. That’s totally true for me too. I always wanted to be willing for God to do things in a new way- and to live surrendered to whatever he was up to. When I saw others experience God different than me- I was either scared or in awe, but really tried not to be scared. I’m thankful for those years of meaningful encounters with God. And also really love the slow steady work of God that continues. Thanks for the post Brian!

  6. I’ll just add my two-cent’s worth: Brian and Bryan, between the two of you, you have rounded out the (good) tension of the Christian walk. What came to mind was what we read about Jesus’ time here in His ministry–the intensity of teaching, feeding, and countless other acts that could be categorized as “social gospel”, meeting people’s practical needs. And times he took off to pray alone, and even included some of the disciples in a mind-blowing/impacting spiritual high in the transfiguration. He modeled the need for both for us. He knows what we are made of and when we need reminders of His power. He also knows when it is best for us to plod along by faith, knowing the love, presence and power are still with us. The best wood is from a slow-growing tree, but it needs those downpours sometimes.

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