The idea of revival is for our purposes, revitalization can be reduced to a series of inevitably successful principles or techniques is still alive today. All you have to do is Google something like (ten easy steps to church renewal) and you’ll get an amazing mixture of practical advice.
It’s true that every church revitalization situation is unique, with its own set of challenges. Yet in every case, true revitalization comes not with man-developed techniques, but with a firm reliance on the sufficiency of the Word of God to transform human hearts.
In the twenty-first century, man-centered revitalization techniques focus on other ways to tickle the sensibilities of seekers, attendees, and church members.
These techniques aren’t much different than the approach of the medieval Roman Catholic Church or Charles Finney and other preachers of the Second Great Awakening.
Appealing to the five senses in the Middle Ages gave us cathedrals with soaring architecture, stunning stained glass windows, magnificent sculptures, the majestic tones of pipe organs, and the “smells and bells” of the Latin mass. In Finney’s era, these appeals to the senses centered on high-energy preaching with theatrical presentations of biblical themes, the psychological pressure made by the “anxious bench” (later developed into the techniques of the “invitation” and the “altar call”), and the use of culturally pleasing frontier music.
Today, our techniques might include a sleek-looking building designed to look like a country club, state-of-the-art electronics, cutting-edge worship music that stays current with popular tastes, the use of handheld smartphones and Twitter accounts to enable an interactive connection with the preacher and the audience, and “relevant” sermons that immediately address felt needs of the hearers and mostly stay away from deep theology. The employment of such human-centered techniques will never produce a genuine transformation of the human heart and, therefore, will never produce genuine revitalization.