Suddenly. It was in that one word that Frank Thomas, pastor of Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn., expressed his hope that Disciples seek a 21st century revival. Thomas preached at the Saturday evening worship service and repeatedly referenced moments in Scripture when unexpected, but positive changes happened in people’s lives… suddenly.
“I went to the dictionary and found that suddenly means happening without warning or in a short space of time….happening unexpectedly without warning or preparation,” said Thomas to the crowd of about 6,000 people.
“Moses is a shepherd tending his father in law’s sheep, when suddenly he hears from God through a burning bush,” Thomas said, by way of one illustration. “The Jews are backed up to the sea and wondered how long it will take for God or Moses to deliver them. Then, suddenly, the waters part.”
Thomas, who preached from the books of Acts 2:1-4, said he hoped that even in ordinary circumstance, such as during a General Assembly business meeting, a meal, or while a resolution was being discussed, somebody would look up and say “suddenly.” That one word might go a long way toward having a heightened expectation of being re-born and renewed by the power of God’s spirit.
Thomas brought the crowd to its feet with his call for a revival in today’s world. He noted that Pentecost was the first great revival – when tongues of fire descended in the Acts text. The second great revival was the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle. Luther began the Protestant Reformation afterwards that separated forever Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church.
Thomas noted other revivals in Europe and America, including The First Great Awakening from 1727-1750 that so impacted the church that the movement simply became known as the Great Awakening. He pointed also to The Second Great Awakening from 1780-1810 and later the Azusa Street Revival, which ran from 1906 to 1915 and spread Pentecostalism in the 20th century.
“But has anyone heard of a 21st century revival?” asked Thomas. “Well if not now, then when? — If not us then who? I want it to be revival. I want revival to break out…. suddenly.”
Prior to Thomas’ sermon, the 13th Check Offering was taken. The biennial offering is taken at each General Assembly. It is used by the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to assist retirees of the Church whose salaries while working were inadequate to provide for a reasonable standard of living upon retirement.
Earlier in the program, a litany of ministry was provided by Linda McKiernan-Allen, intentional interim pastor at West Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tipton, Ind., followed by music and dance, including the Assembly Youth Choir and the All-Assembly Choir.
General Minister and President Sharon Watkins, along with the moderators, closed out the service by calling forward all clergy who are retiring and all new clergy who have been ordained in the last biennium and asking a prayer and blessing on the clergy and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
By: Wanda Bryant Wills