Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ Revival

ALL¬†prayed up, I walked into the glass pyramid on the Cleveland shores of Lake Erie to embark on a six-hour tour of one of the most dominant forces in our culture: rock and roll. An unexpected discovery awaited me, however. I became aware of the flawed underside of “pseudorevival.”

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all the icons of rock are worshiped: Berry, Holly, Joplin, Hendrix, Turner, Presley, and more. Bands that have defined worldviews for whole generations are enshrined: the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles. Pseudorevivalists, one and all!

My introduction to the building was a 12-minute video in which the narrator said that, from its inception in the early 1950s, R&R was a blend of blues, country, folk, and gospel. But the soul of R&R fed on the passionate expressions of praise that surged out of spiritually awakened Christian congregations! Throughout my tour of interactive exhibits, videos, original recordings, and wax museum-style models of rock’s demigods, pseudorevival images hit me from all sides. What I saw were counterfeits and parodies of what I’d call revival of the spirit. As Bruce Springstein admits: “My music is a confluence of sexual, social, and spiritual themes.” What I really saw on that tour was revival of another spirit.

Like a Rock Concert

Have you ever been to a rock concert? What words might describe it? Perhaps exuberance. Camaraderie. Charged atmosphere. Personal transformation. Unity Celebration. Passion. Surrender. Heightened awareness. Triumph. Conviction. Confession. Liberation. Joy Rock concerts are almost always stadium or arena events, and they are driven by personalities, a theme or cause, and stagy displays. Essentially, a rock concert is an event-centered, communal mobilization of an audience that rejuvenates it for an evening and then sustains the experience by following up with the products and accessories of a multi-billion-dollar record and music video industry.

Now tell me honestly: Does any of this sound familiar? As I left the Hall of Fame that day, I found myself wondering how much the rock and roll mentality has infiltrated our expectations for revival.

On May 31, 1999, a two-page report in TIME entitled “A Surge of Teen Spirit?” explored a “revival among many evangelical teens.” The article reported that “thousands of Bible and prayer clubs have whooshed into [existence] …. Teen evangelicals have their own rock concert circuit, complete with stage diving; their own clothing lines, like Witness Wear; and, in the omnipresent WWJD bracelet, their own breakthrough accessory.”

Now please don’t get me wrong. I am utterly convinced that a genuine, God-given revival is overtaking many of our youth. But if it only looked like what TIME reported, I’m not sure any of us would be content that our prayers were being answered.

My experience at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gave me a new burden, which took shape in the following prayer. I believe that anything less than this runs the risk of morphing into pseudorevival.

Oh, Father, please don’t let our youth- don’t let any of us-fall prey to “rock and roll revival.” Don’t let us settle for a parody-for a personality-driven, experience driven, event-driven, phenomena-driven ideological blowout that ultimately counterfeits the work of Your Spirit. Save us from being deceived, disillusioned, inoculated, and dead to Your truth. Father, give us a Christ-driven revival, in which Your Son has exclusive billing and by which He wins increasing, sustained preeminence over the powers of darkness. May the focus of the coming revival be on Him alone. May the exuberance, passion, joy, unity, transformation, and triumph we experience flow undeniably from His fullness. May it all wonderfully fulfill His purposes through us. Build a “Revival Hall of Fame” for Your Son out of Your church in the 21st century.

Pink Floyd is one of the premier rock bands of our time, though its music is often dark, foreboding, and nihilistic. In 1995, its founder and lead singer, Roger Waters, who had quit the group a decade earlier, reflected, “Success overtook us… I found myself increasingly alienated in that atmosphere. . . . I was faced with a choice. To deny my addiction and embrace that ‘comfortably numb’ but ‘magic-less’ existence; or accept the burden of insight, take the road less traveled and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit.”

That’s my attitude about revival. To paraphrase Waters, I want to escape every comfortably numb substitute for biblical revival. Accepting the burden that comes with this insight, I long to do whatever it takes to discover what true revival is and where Christ wants me to fit in all of it.

Should not all of us who pray and prepare for God-given awakening be committed to the painful and less traveled-but more authentic-road in our pursuit of revival? Are we willing to jettison all counterfeits and stay the course, until we reach, at any cost, a Christ-driven and Christ-centered epoch that can truly rock and roll the next generation?