There is a popular phrase in many churches of Revival is family. In my best understanding, it comes from what is called the Luke 18 Project that is based at the International House of Prayer. Does this work out theologically or historically?
Thai Lam is the founder of the Luke 18 project and lives close to me but I have never met him or spoke with him so I don’t know for sure the message behind it. However, from what I am told and the vision of the ministry, it seems that he believes that community becomes revival.
The website is full of Christianese but what exactly is meant by “culture of prayer” is unknown. It seems to be a catch phrase around IHOPKC that means ten different things to ten different people. In my view, we are not called to develop our culture but rather reach the secular culture in our midst.
I do find it interesting that there is hardly any mention of the Holy Spirit in their theology statement but a whole paragraph about eschatology. It is more important when the rapture of the Church is than the Holy Spirit healing the sick and raising the dead to Luke 18 Project. This is a common challenge I have with IHOPKC related ministries.
What is revival?
The first thing we need to do is establish what is revival. There seems to be a few different ideas on this. The working definition at Open Heaven for revival is as follows,
Revival is a season of a visitation of God that is marked by deep working of repentance, calls to intense holy living and marked by dramatic conversions, creative healings and undeniable deliverance from sin and demonic activity.
Revival is focused on the person and within the congregation. It is a image of a group of people being transformed by the power of the Spirit. By default, there is no such ability to have personal revival or a “family revival.” It flows at the congregational level.
When we say “Revival is family” we are defining revival as such. However, biblically and historically there is no examples of this and in some cases, community is a revival killer. The purpose of revival is not to make us better people but to make us dead men walking. Dead to sin. Dead to self. Dead to religion.
While there can be community developed in the midst of revival, we can not say that the totality of outpouring is community, fellowship or family. This is making a part of something its whole and that never works out theologically.
Therefore, we are left with believing that the phrase is more hype than truth. This is not uncommon in charismatic circles. Many come and gather around ideas than biblical reality. It is great marketing that draws people, not the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The importance of the presence becomes secondary to truth. It also is the eschatology that informs the belief, not spiritually totality.
Community, fellowship and family
These are terms that we often here passed around but what do they mean what is the difference between them. Community is not a word found in the New Testament and was not even a word until the 1300’s. It was formed by the Catholic Church, not the apostolic witness. It is simply a group of people with a shared interest or vision.
Fellowship is the biblical word, κοινωνία which is the language of intimacy. In its original understanding, it was fellowship with others by the Holy Spirit. The key to fellowship was being led by the Spirit. Fellowship with each other flowed out of fellowship with the Spirit. Related to κοινωνία is κοινός that means to have all things that hinder intimacy stripped away.
Community is something you choose. Fellowship is something you inherit by being a believer. Family is something chosen by you. Who your parents are is not your choice. You are related to them on purpose. Many have a family but do not have fellowship with the family by design.
In other words, you can have family and not have community. Many have community but never have fellowship. These terms are things that people use interchangeable but they really have three different expression of truth.
In my view, fellowship should be the aim of the believer; not family or community. It is more important to have intimacy through the Holy Spirit in all we do in relationship with others. This is rare but should be the goal.
Lesson from Azusa Street
Shortly after the death of William Seymour, a man named Ruthford Griffith. He started with some preaching and then wanted to become the new pastor. His concern was there was no “fellowship of the Brethren” and Seymour’s widow was too focus on intercession and revival.
It ended up with Griffith trying to lead the church into community and Seymour trying to lead it to prayer. The result: a good ole fashion hymnal fight. Each group was throwing the hymnals at each other! All in all, this was the final night that the Azusa Street Mission existed.
People trying to bring the “revival is family” emphasis to the greatest revival on American soil has destroyed the revival. They ended up going back to the house at Bonnie Brae St where it all started for them. They returned to intercession and revival after the damage the community emphasis did to the mission!
Being at IHOP, I am seeing the same thing happen. People are preaching the community, fellowship and family rhetoric and it is destroying the move of the Spirit. Intercession has been replaced with fellowship groups. Worship has been replaced with music. Revival is a thing of the past these days.
Sadly, we will not learn from the past and what happened to the Azusa Steet Mission. It does not matter as the vision of the ministry is focused on what benefits the people, not the desire of the Spirit.
We need revival. True Holy Ghost revival.