“I’m tired of church… I’m tired of doing church.” My friends and I nodded, understanding the sentiment, but clarification was needed nonetheless. Mark has pastored his church in Newton, North Carolina for sixteen years and by most people’s definition it is a great church: people are coming to Christ regularly, marriages are being transformed, the building is expanding. We had just spent time discussing how he could add 200 more seats in the sanctuary. The church has prospered under Mark’s leadership. I was excited for what God was doing, and honestly, a little jealous. So when Mark said he was tired of church, I had to ask for clarification.
His response, “I want to move the needle.” Now it was becoming clearer, and he was voicing what so many pastors and me are feeling.
Creating efficient systems, starting new programs, developing leaders, drawing crowds, creative worship, and installing lights make the church more engaging for the ones who attend, but if we are honest, the church is making less of an impact today than ever in America. We have become irrelevant to our communities. Sure, we know how to entertain, inspire, and give great tips for daily life, but life transformation doesn’t make it outside the doors of the building.
As seven of us pastors rode in the car, we began to rehearse historical revivals and how they shaped and transformed whole towns. The presence of God was overwhelming, to the point where people would fall on their knees in repentance. Factories would shut down so “people could tend to their souls.” Today, our communities barely notice the church and secular voices dominate and dictate what morality is.
Days later, Mark sent us a message further clarifying the metaphor, a reference to the old analog vu meter used in audio recording. VU stood for Volume Units. When recording, some audio sources were not even loud enough to make the needle move off the bottom- in other words it was too faint to be of much use to record. So saying that something is moving the needle means that it is enough to register or make a difference to the user- enough for the user to take note of.
Mark was expressing what we each wanted: A spiritual awakening that moved the needle; meaning transformed lives which changes people, families, and cities.
The evangelical world has historically called this experience revival. Although the word “revival” is not found in the New Testament, it expresses a renewed emphasis on spiritual matters that change behavior. It is the extraordinary activity of the Holy Spirit that leads the people of God to extraordinary commitment to the work of God. It is a spiritual realignment of our hearts and lives to the will of God, and a deep longing to know God and to make Him known.
Many books have been written over the years on revival with incredible stories, and they all seem to come down to a few ingredients: corporate prayer, repentance, and a bold voice which is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God that leads to salvation.
The most prominent scriptures quoted in reference to revival comes from 2 Chronicles 7:13–16 and Revelation 2:4-5:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
It would be wise for those of us looking to “move the needle,” look into our own hearts first and allow the Holy Spirit to search and reveal the areas of our lives we need to address. We often want God to bring revival to our church, or country, and miss what God wants to do in us personally. Out of the inner longing of wanting to know Christ above all things, we turn our attention to wanting to make Him known to others.
My prayer is that the church of Jesus begins to move the needle. Lord, start the work in me.