One of the most important things I learned from my former mentor, Jim Herrington, is how to lead a conversation that allows people with different opinions to understand each other. I often watched him lead conversations with pastors that allowed them to agree or disagree with one another but in a way that ultimately united them, because the aim of the conversation was to foster understanding not agreement.
I’ve since tried to develop this skill and to employ the same tactics in conversations that I lead with campus ministers and students. One of the ways I like to do so is to draw a pendulum that has opposing views on each side and then ask the ministers to write their name on the pendulum where the “land” and then describe what beliefs and experiences inform their understanding. A pendulum I often use is one I call the “Revival Pendulum.”
Revival Will Come Only If We Do A,B, and C
On one extreme, there are Christians who believe that God will not bring revival until His people follow certain steps. Some go as far as to list measurable prerequisites such as “we need 100,000 people to fill the football stadium for three nights of prayer.” Most in this camp simply believe there are general prerequisites for revival: prayer, repentance, humility, and unity.
If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin, and heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14
Believers on this side of the pendulum emphasize prayer and repentance. On the positive side, they rightly discern the ways the church mixes with the world and they call the church to holiness. On the negative side, they tend to disengage the culture and the lost, merely separating themselves into their churches and prayer meetings while asking God to revive their land.
God Will Bring Revival Whenever He Wants
On the other extreme, there are Christians who believe that there is nothing that they can do to instigate revival. God will bring it whenever He wants. Some go so far as to not even pray for revival. Most in this camp simply believe that even if believers do begin to do some of the “prerequisites” that even that is the work of God, not of man.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:4-7
Believers on this side of the pendulum emphasize God’s sovereign work even in the midst spiritual condition of the land. On the positive side, they engage lost people and the culture evangelistically. On the negative side, they tend to be oblivious to the spiritual warfare that is taking place and do not see the way the culture is shaping the church in a negative way.
Where Are You On The Pendulum?
Obviously I have painted a very general stereotype of each side of the pendulum. That’s the point though: Paint the extremes of each side and then let each person identify where they identify themselves along the pendulum. Listen to understand each other, not to debate. If you listen well, you will at least better understand the other side. Who knows? You may even find yourself moving more toward their side. Personally, my position has really changed over the last five to ten years. I find myself moving more toward one direction than ever before, but that does not make me right.
Here’s a crazy thought: Maybe somehow they are both true and both sides need each other.
Which side to you learn toward and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts/feelings about this important topic.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.