Revival is Part of the Retirement Reformation

John Wesley said: "Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world."

Changed thinking about priorities, a new understanding of longevity, and a reformulated view of life are all characteristics of the Retirement Reformation. Any movement starts with individual people. It doesn't originate with group think but starts with an individual realizing that there needs to be change in their life. When the realization hits that a future lifestyle or an existing one is distant from God, the reformation begins. Another way to think about reformation is a revival.

Revival starts in the heart, moves to the mind, and explodes with action.

There is the story of a man praying for something meaningful and new in his life. He went to a wise Christian friend who gave him the advice he needed. Here is the plan he suggested:

  1. Go with God into your room

  2. Sit in the middle of the room and draw a circle around you with chalk

  3. Pray and ask God to enter the circle with you

  4. Keep praying

  5. When he enters, listen to what he says

  6. Then, do what He says

  7. Revival is beginning

We are never the same after we meet with God. He always leaves an impression that leads to change - positive change, important change, powerful change.

The essence of revival is a personal conviction that some part of our thinking about life needs to change. We are complex and God made us that way. We have the uncanny ability to compartmentalize our lives putting it into different little boxes and not connecting the dots between them. Some of those connections, or lack thereof, are obvious. A situational alcoholic is a classic example. Most of the time they function somewhat normally and then they are set off by a specific situation and drinking is the only salve. The disconnect from God is real. The results are too. It may not be alcohol but there are many salves that keep us from feeling the pain of learning, growing, stretching, and moving towards a life as Jesus lived.

There is a part of each of us that, when dragged out into the sunlight of Jesus, needs to be addressed. The way many Christians deal with retirement is one of those. It needs sunlight badly.

We are drugged into the belief that because we've worked for 30 or 40 years, we are owed a life of leisure. We envision the good life living as leisure. We envision traveling as leisure. We envision golfing and exercising as leisure. And then we make the big jump to a conclusion that leisure has meaning and purpose. We even develop a belief that leisure is God-honoring and His way of blessing us for a life well lived. And it all evolves from the convincing messages whispered by the "evil one" that we deserve this reward called leisure.

As people being prepared by God to play a specific role in building His Earthly Kingdom, we need to be reformed and revived.

Before reformation or revival can take place we must understand how wrong our thinking is. We understand conversion as turning around, facing a different direction and then moving in that new direction.

I was walking down the streets of Ankara, Turkey. All of a sudden I heard a loud voice from a small boy behind me, "Mister, stop walking, turn around, I have something for you!" I stopped and turned around, looking for the source of the command. Spotting the voice, he looked up at me and said, "Follow me, I have something important to show you."

He led me to his uncles' carpet shop. He proceeded to get us some tea and we looked at rugs for the next hour. Amazing. We were not intending to stop, look at rugs, or drink tea with anyone. As you can tell, we were impacted by new information, a powerful command, and wonderful cross-cultural experience.

Revival plays a big part in American history and the development of our country. In the periods just before and right after the Civil War, the influence of revivals was a critical part of our culture. Everything from camp meetings and the baseball player Billy Sunday, to the tent revivals and huge city-wide meetings in stadiums, the direction of the country was impacted by revivals. Many people realizing new needs in their life whether it be coming to Jesus or figuring out better ways to live. After the mid-1800s, the impact of revivals began to wane. We have wonderful examples of the ministry of Billy Graham stretching through the 21st century, yet none of those revivals changed the direction of the country although they brought many into the kingdom.

We are at a time of our country's history where there is both a need for revival and a new understanding of our cultures move away from God. Where is it most likely that revival and reformation will break out and take place? I believe it is among the retiring generations -  those over 60 and still alive at 90. An estimated 30+ years of retirement is a long time. 

The reason for revival is because the retired population, Christian and otherwise, are symbolized by a commitment to nothing. And, "nothing" is not sustainable.

We cannot be empowered by "nothing." We are not joyful about "nothing." We are not inspired by "nothing." Finally, serving God and building His Kingdom with nothing is neither satisfying, rewarding, or God-honoring. In order to live, we need a reason coupled with meaning and purpose. Focusing on nothing or leisure leads to none of those desired characteristics.

A new examination of our 21st-century circumstance, the reality of longevity and God's call to service with meaning and purpose all point to revival. We cannot live in the dynamic tension between God's call and nothing. We will respond when we hear the call, "Hey mister, stop, turn around and follow Me."

Bruce Bruinsma