Last summer, our congregation in Viimsi celebrated the completion of a seven year construction project. Church leaders from all over the area came to offer their blessings. Among the congratulations offered that day, a representative from a local Bible School encouraged us that we now had “everything we needed for a revival.”
While I’m sure he meant well, his comment left me puzzled. I sat in my seat wondering what things we had now that we didn’t have before that could possibly account for the presence or absence of revival. The implication seemed to be that the Holy Spirit has some sort of checklist of parts and materials required to set the stage for his performances. Would the Holy Spirit be more welcomed, or the people of God more effective in a freshly plastered, modern looking church building than in an wooden planked, one room, furnace heated country church? Until recently, those questions simply irked me. But last week, after attending Winter Camp at a small church in a farm town called Rakke, I realized I’ve made similar assumptions.
When I arrived with Heili and three girls from our Tere Club at the Rakke Church, I had an unexpected surprise. My romanticized picture of this place had been a spacious log cabin with a stone fireplace in the center and sleeping lofts. What I saw now was a large meeting room filled with hard wooden benches, peeling wallpaper and a tall, wood burning furnace in the far corner. I’d imagined a weekend of incredible worship lead by your typical guitar wielding Camp Director. Instead we worshipped to the sounds of a tiny Casio keyboard permanently set to “Mamba Beat” and “Chinese Xylophone”. My expectations for camp food were lower than usual of course (you’ve got to be realistic), but fried pasta, thick gravy and some sort of canned, greasy, shredded beef kept me guarding the bathroom door 24/7. In a town consisting of a school, gas station, small grocery store, and a gypsum factory, I found myself asking, “How in the world do people do ministry here?”
But in spite of my dependence upon the props of big city life, that weekend was a great success, simply. A number of kids responded to the Lord’s invitation and a handful of others recommitted to walking faithfully. Our Tere Club kids outgrew their bubble and got acquainted with other Christians their age in Estonia, building a foundation for more inter-church interactions in the future. We were even able to gain the trust of a few local boys and hopefully open them up more to what God is doing in their lives.
Would varnished wood paneling have made a difference? How about a Korg synthesizer and a drum set? Modern buildings, sound systems, and multimedia displays are not the essential fuel of the Great Commission. The message the Bible seems to offer is that the Holy Spirit is welcome in and the Kingdom is advanced by a faithful community, dedicated to the Cross and bent on deepening their love for God and each other by the grace of Christ.
I suppose the man who made that comment was partly right. The Viimsi Church, the Tere Club and the Church universal have all we need for revival, or whatever other form suits God’s desire to reveal his love for the world through us. But it may be that this important ‘thing’ we have now and didn’t have before is much more about the quality of our redeemed relationships and much less about the parts and materials that so easily command our attention.