November 9th, 2010 at 2:26 pm
MCALLEN – According to reports from around the world, people are coming to Christ at an amazing rate. For Jim Denison, this is proof that the Fifth Great Awakening is underway.
Denison, theologian-in-residence for Texas Baptists and president of the Center for Informed Faith, believes that the world is becoming more and more Christian on a daily basis. Estimates peg the growth at 82,000 believers per day, which Denison said is the largest number in 20 centuries. He noted movements in Australia – remarkably the worship movement called Hillsong – and in Central and South America, where Pentecostal/charismatic movements are springing up regularly, as more proof. Cuba has seen 1 million new Christians over the past 10 years, and God is working among Muslims in great ways, particularly through dreams and visions of Jesus.
Denison said while the movements are different in some aspects, one thing is constant in the swell of enthusiasm for the gospel: it’s not happening in the United States.
“God is on the march. The Holy Spirit is on the move. We’re in what I believe is the Fifth Great Awakening in the world, but we’re not seeing it here,” said Denison, addressing a workshop session held during the annual Texas Baptists convention in McAllen. Titled “God is not a hobby,” the workshop addressed key elements of the great awakening occurring around the world and Denison’s view on how it came to be.
Denison believes the Fifth Great Awakening can be traced to South Korea in 1958, when the great devastation to the nation moved a pastor named Cho to start a church in a home. From that first gathering of seven, the church now has 1.2 million members, the largest evangelical church in history. South Korea now boasts five of the 10 largest churches in the world and sends more missionaries out than America. Denison noted that a tailor in his Dallas neighborhood moved to the U.S. to open her business and minister to customers through prayer, Bible verse cards and evangelism specifically.
While the statistics are exciting to hear on one front, they can be disturbing on the home front. Denison said there are four times as many Muslim churches in America as Christian churches. Only 23 percent of Americans are in church on Sundays, and the fastest growing religious demographic is the one that claims “no religion.” The shift, he said, comes from the way Americans live.
“We live compartmentalized lives, with our spiritual life separate from our secular life. It’s like transactional religion; you do your part and God does His part,” he said. “Biblical Christianity is all in, 24-7.”
With the demographic shift in Texas, Denison said churches have a unique opportunity to respond to a culture that embraces family, faith and connectedness if they will just do it. And while the state of America may look bleak, Denison said there is a solution.
“We most need to make God our king, not our hobby. It’s like golf on Sunday; it’s OK if you like it but it doesn’t mean I have to like it,” he said. “He is our king to the degree that your obeying His will. Wherever He is king, the awakening is happening.”
Denison said kingship occurs when people first make Jesus their Lord and Savior, then admit that they need His power to accomplish anything. When people submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading on a daily basis and keep in conversation with God, He truly is king of their lives and they are able to live out the words of Acts 1:8, the theme verse for the convention.
“You will only make God your king when you realize you need a king,” Denison said. “We will never experience the Fifth Great Awakening in America until we pray, turn from our wicked ways and seek His face. When we do these things, we will… see the same things happening in South Korea, China, Africa and the rest of the world.”
Story by Teresa Young, Wayland Baptist University
Photo by Robert Rogers
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