This article is an edited version of two articles by Keith Drury, “The Holiness Movement Is Dead,” and “Hope for the Holiness Movement”) -editor, Dennis Bratcher
The Holiness Movement is Dead
I owe a lot to the holiness movement. In 1905 I believe it was, or 1906, my grandfather, an immigrant coal miner, came from England to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania. His wife, Emmaline saw at the Five and Dime store, a woman who seemed different. The lady asked my grandmother, “Would you like to come to a cottage prayer meeting?” She had attended the Church of England all her life but since coming to America was not attending a church anywhere. She said, “Why, sure!”
And my grandmother, Emmaline Drury, got into a small cottage prayer meeting of the holiness movement. In it she found the Lord—she got “saved.” She didn’t even know what saved meant, but she got it.
She came home to my grandfather, Walter Drury and told him, “Walter, I got saved tonight.” My grandfather said, “Well, that’s fine Emmaline,” but inside he said, “We’ll see.” He always had come home from the mine and gone into the basement of that home in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and taken his coal-dust clothes off. The very next day when he came home from the mine he walked up the basement steps, right into her kitchen, upstairs to the bedroom and took all his filthy, coal-black mining clothes off and plopped them on the bed. Emmaline followed him upstairs and without a word, cleaned it all up, cleaned up the bed, took everything outside and shook it out.
He did this everyday for two weeks! She smiled and with a sweetness of spirit, never said a word, and cleaned up after him every day. This was salvation folks, not sanctification! He was so attracted to her life that he went with her to the cottage prayer meeting. He too was saved—in a holiness meeting in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
So, I owe a lot to the holiness movement. My grandparents raised my father who became a holiness preacher, and now I follow in that path.
However, what I have to say today is not a collection of bright and cheery thoughts. It is this: We need to admit to each other that the holiness movement is dead. We have never had a funeral. And we still have the body upstairs in bed. In fact, we still keep it dressed up and still even talk about the movement as if it were alive. But the holiness movement—as a movement—is dead. Yes, I recognize that there are many wonderful holiness people around. And people are still getting entirely sanctified here and there. But as a movement, I think we need to admit we are dead. The sooner we admit it, the better off we’ll be.
We have a holiness heritage. We have holiness denominations. We have holiness organizations. We have holiness doctrines. We even have holiness colleges, but we no longer have a holiness movement. I, for one, lament the death of the holiness movement. But pretending we are alive as a movement will not make it so. In fact, it may be the greatest barrier to the emergence of a new holiness movement.
What happened to the holiness movement? How did the movement die? Who killed it? Was it a slow death, or did we die suddenly? Was it murder? Suicide? Why did the movement die? What caused its death? I wish to suggest eight factors, which contributed to the death of the holiness movement.
1. We wanted to be respectable.
Holiness people got tired of being different and looked on as “holy rollers.” Somewhere along the line we decided we didn’t want to be weird. We no longer wanted to be thought of as a “sect” or a fringe group. Instead, we wanted to be accepted as normal, regular Christians. We shuddered at the thought of being a “peculiar people.” We determined to fit in.
Pastors in holiness churches now tell visiting speakers, “My people here are quality people.” What they mean by “quality people” is that their church is populated with sharp, up-scale, white-collar professionals. “Quality people.” Respectable people. And we have become respectable. There is not a whole lot of difference now. Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans move into our churches from their former denominations with ease. They don’t see that much difference, because there isn’t much difference. We have succeeded in becoming average Christians.
But in our quest for respectability, we lost something. We lost our willingness to be “different.” Not just different from the world—but different from average Christianity. We left the fringe. We became respectable. And somewhere along the line, we lost the movement. It is hard to be a holiness movement when we don’t want to be different than the average Christian.
2. We have plunged into the evangelical mainstream.
Over time we quit calling ourselves “holiness people” or “holiness churches” or “holiness colleges” or “holiness denominations,” (except, of course, to each other). We began to introduce ourselves as “Evangelicals.” We started becoming more at home with NAE (National Association of Evangelicals) than CHA (Christian Holiness Association). Local churches repositioned themselves as “evangelical” in their communities. We built respectable churches on busy highways. We quit painting “Holiness unto the Lord” on the front wall. And gradually were assimilated into the evangelical mainstream.
All this, of course, was quite easy for us. Mainstream evangelical media kings like James Dobson, Charles Colson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Robert Schuller and Bill Hybels melted away our differences. Few holiness kingpins are to be found. And even those who have a holiness background are not known as holiness leaders, so much as evangelical leaders. The influencers of our pastors are evangelicals, not holiness leaders. Gradually the theology among our people became the same generic evangelical soup served at any other evangelical church. “Holiness people” became “evangelical people.” It’s hard to have a holiness movement when our people are really a part of the evangelical movement, not the holiness movement.
3. We failed to convince the younger generation.
We must admit to each other that we have generally failed to convince the generation in their 40s and 30s of the importance of entire sanctification. A few preach it regularly. But many preach it only occasionally, and even then with little urgency or passion. It is not the “primary issue” for boomer and buster preachers. At best, holiness is preached as an attractive accessory, not as an essential necessity. This generation (my own) made it through the ordination hoops, then put holiness on the back burner.
Many grass-roots people like to blame the educational institutions for this, of course. But all of us must shoulder the blame. We need to face the music. Many holiness pastors have opted for the much more appealing notion of optional or progressive sanctification than for such a notion as “instantaneous,” and/or “entire” sanctification. It’s hard to be a holiness movement when many of the aggressive boomer and buster pastors do not preach holiness, and if they do, it is with little passion or insistence.
4. We quit making holiness the main issue.
In the movement stage “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” When the holiness movement was a movement, holiness was the main thing. Holiness was all ten of the top ten priorities. Everything else was brought into line behind holiness.
Other movements illustrate this. Consider the anti-abortion movement. There is little room for anything else. Fighting abortion is the main thing. All actions are brought under this issue. All judgments of people and organizations are made through the glasses of the “main thing.” Or consider the church-growth movement. Here, growth is the main thing. Will it help us grow? Will it hinder growth? These are the questions when a movement is a movement. The dominating priority relegates all other matters to secondary priorities. This is one of the excesses of a movement. The term “balanced movement” is an oxymoron. Movements are radical by nature.
There aren’t a lot of excesses in the holiness movement today. We’re pretty safe. Holiness is our stated belief. But in most places we don’t make it the main thing. Preachers in the old holiness movement used to say, “Preach holiness and everything else will take care of itself.” Who says this today? Today’s trend is uplifting, cheery, help-for-Monday sermons, not holiness sermons. Where holiness is not the main thing there will be no holiness movement. Just as wherever abortion is not the main thing, there will be no anti-abortion movement. It’s hard to have a holiness movement when holiness is no longer the main thing.
5. We lost the lay people.
A real movement is not made up of professionals but is lay-dominated. While holiness preachers and writers ignited and led the laymen in the old holiness movement, the laymen provided the real dynamic. But over the years, gatherings of the holiness movement like the Christian Holiness Association have become fellowships of ministers on expense accounts, not a crowd of laymen with a personal passion for holiness. In fact, one wonders how many meetings we would have if all those who attended were paying their own way.
We no longer have a force of lay foot soldiers. We have generals without armies. Strategy, but no soldiers. It’s hard to have a holiness movement without the laymen.
6. We over-reacted against the abuses of the past.
I am not yearning for the past. I believe the holiness movement, in many cases, had an abusive past. But in trying to correct these abuses, we overreacted.
Some (perhaps most) in the old holiness movement were legalistic and judgmental. So we became behavioral libertarians. Some were so ingrown as to never touch the world. So we became assimilated into the world and seldom touched God. Some were radically emotional, running the aisles, shouting, and “getting blessed.” So we became orderly and respectable, and we labeled all such emotion as “leaning charismatic.” Some were judgmental and rejecting of anyone who got divorced or had marriage problems. We became so accepting of divorce that it is quickly becoming a non-issue for all but the clergy—and even that is eroding. They preached a fearsome, vengeful God. Now we have a soft, easygoing Mister Rogers in the sky, “who loves you just the way you are.”
While the abuses of the old holiness movement were glaring (and perhaps responsible in part for our own overreaction), the abuses of our own generation have been no better. We have led many holiness folk far from essential holiness doctrine and experience. We now have holiness theologians and speakers (like myself) who are better at articulating what holiness is not, than what it is. It’s hard to have a holiness movement when much of what we are is merely a reaction against who we were.
7. We adopted church-growth thinking without theological thinking.
We discovered that in America, numerical success is the doorway to respect. We wanted to be accepted into the mainstream and we found that church growth gave us the chance. When the church-growth movement first came along, holiness people were wary. We were nervous about too much accommodation to the world in order to win the world. But evangelism has always been a twin passion with holiness. So many holiness churches—at least the growing ones—suppressed their natural reticence and adopted church-growth thinking in a wholesale way. Pastors became CEOs. Ministers became managers. Shepherds promoted themselves to ranchers. Sermons became talks. Sinners were renamed “seekers.” “Twelve steps” became the new way to get deliverance, instead of at the altar. Growth itself became the great tie-breaking issue. Everything else was made to serve growth.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with church growth. And if people are getting saved, there should be church growth. But is there anyone who would argue that the church-growth movement is in any sense a holiness movement? In fact, much of the movement is quite openly anti-holiness, instructing us that “perfecting the saints” is an unfinishable task which should be given secondary importance to the primary task of initial disciple-making. Most of us in the holiness movement (myself included) joined the church-growth movement with great gusto. And with little theological thought. (I might add that this transfer of loyalties from the holiness movement to the church-growth movement was encouraged by most holiness denominational leaders like myself. And we leaders restructured all the denominational reward and affirmation systems to encourage only two things: growth and “bigness.”) And we got what we rewarded—at least for awhile.
Holiness pastors became enthusiastic foot soldiers in the expanding church-growth movement—which was indeed a movement. They read church-growth books, attended church-growth conferences, subscribed to church-growth magazines, and networked with other like-minded church-growth pastors. This is the stuff of a “movement.” These holiness pastors had simply switched movements. They traded in the rusting, old holiness movement for a bright, shiny new church-growth movement.
(As a side point, one wonders, now that the church-growth movement is crumbling, where these pastors will go next. Presumably, the church-growth movement will continue to produce publications, hold conferences and grant “D. Min” degrees in church growth for many years. And I suppose that sooner or later someone in that movement will speak to a gathering of church-growth thinkers and pronounce the movement dead.)
Many holiness pastors just switched movements. They became members of a bigger, stronger, more popular and better financed movement. Can anyone deny this? In many holiness churches, growth is king, not holiness. Pastor and people are in the church-growth movement. And because of the radical nature of a true movement, it is difficult to ride two horses at once. So we ride the church-growth horse and have turned the holiness horse out to pasture. It’s hard to have a holiness movement when our hearts have already been given away to another lover . . . another movement . . . the church-growth movement.
8. We did not notice when the battle line moved.
Many of us believe we are in danger of losing the doctrine and experience of “second-blessing holiness”—an experience through the Holy Ghost which cleanses the heart of its inclination to rebel and enables the believer to live above intentional sin, producing a life in obedience to the known will of God.
We believe that we should stand our ground for the holiness message. That holiness is the “front line” of battle, if we use military terms. But while we have been meeting and talking to each other about holiness, and while we have been discussing doctrine in the Wesleyan Theological Society, and while we have been having our denominational conventions where we show each other our self-congratulatory videos, the battle line moved on us.
Many of our people do not need to be sanctified—they need to be saved! The doctrine at risk in many holiness churches is not entire sanctification but “transformational conversion.” We may need to stand at Luther’s side awhile before we can rejoin Wesley.
Few will admit it knowingly, but many of our churches have replaced “transformational conversion” with a softer, more user-friendly style of building the local church. “Membership assimilation” or “assimilation evangelism” or “faith development” models seem so much more attractive today than the old sin-repentance-conversion-restitution models of the past. The notion that people can repent of their sins in a single moment and be transformed instantaneously into new creatures with a radically changed lives, is increasingly at risk, even in holiness churches. Modernity teaches us that nothing can be done in less than twelve steps!
These popular assimilation models turn the gospel into something else. It is more sociology than theology. People ooze into churches without ever becoming saved. Repentance is replaced by “accepting Christ.” Christ is “added on” to achieve a balanced life. Sinner is traded in for “seeker,” absolutes for options, and theology for therapy.
And people do come into the church. And growth—even great growth—results from these “non-conversion” conversion models of church growth. But it is hard to have a holiness movement dedicated to the possibility of “instantaneous sanctification,” when many folk do not even have an experience of “instantaneous salvation.” It’s hard to have a holiness movement when many of our own church members are not even saved, let alone sanctified.
My sense is that we are dead, as a movement. And the sooner we admit it, the better off we’ll be. While the doctrine and experience of holiness still has more life than the movement, my sense is that these too will follow the movement in death. And, if I am correct—even half-correct—holiness people are at a critical point in their history.
But here is the irony in all this: There has seldom been a time when the church more desperately needs the holiness message. Spiritual shallowness is rampant. Sin among believers is commonplace. Christians boldly advertise on their bumper stickers, “I’m not perfect—just forgiven.” What was once an eroding morality in the world is now an eroding morality in the church. People like Peggy Campolo call themselves “evangelical,” yet they “enthusiastically endorse . . . monogamous, loving, intimate relationships between people of the same sex.” Evangelical?
The church watched Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith succeed in becoming crossover artists . . . and then followed them with our crossover worship services. We were delighted that our music, support groups and encouraging talks were popular with the world. We started to fit in. The world liked us! Christians are less and less different than their unsaved neighbors. They are out for the same thing. They lie, cheat and get divorced just like their unsaved neighbors. The old riddle was prophetic: What’s the difference between the church and the world? Answer: About ten years. Perhaps even less.
Evangelicals have accommodated to divorce. “Worldliness” is seldom mentioned, and even then only in jest. Evangelicals now attend the same movies as the world does. They rent the same videos. They watch the same TV shows. Evangelicals watch things on television which they would have called “pornography” twenty years ago. Christian families are falling apart. Even sets of board members get divorced and marry each others’ spouses—all while staying on the board! And evangelical churches are filling up with people who have never had a genuine experience of transformational conversion. They oozed in through the sociological assimilation process.
Isn’t it ironic, that just as the holiness movement enters its waning years, the church at large is in its greatest need for a holiness movement. What does God want? I believe He wants a holiness movement. A new holiness movement. – A movement that will preach boldly that God is holy and does not accept sin. – A movement that will have the integrity to tell some Christians they need to get saved. – A movement that will preach a second work of grace that God does in the life of a believer to cleanse and empower him or her, enabling an obedient life of devotion to God. – A movement that will call people to abandon worldliness even at the risk of losing some people to the positive, upbeat, cheery service offered down the street. – A movement that will adopt an external mission—to recruit, persuade and mobilize other evangelicals as aggressively as the church-growth movement or the anti-abortion movements have done—to recruit them to holiness. This is the holiness movement today’s church so desperately needs. A new holiness movement.
Is There Hope for the Holiness Movement?
So I am not essentially gloomy in my outlook. True, for the holiness movement of the past decade or two, I am gloomy. But for the new holiness movement of the next decade or two, I am quite optimistic. I believe we will see it! God will bring it!
The disturbing question is this: Will the old holiness movement be in the new holiness movement? Or will God go outside of our circle to raise up someone else to lead the new movement?
I think it would be wonderful if God would raise up a new holiness movement within the holiness movement. Maybe we will admit that the holiness movement is dead. And we will organize as a “remnant” within the holiness movement. We will become more like an underground movement than an official movement. A holiness movement within the holiness movement. Perhaps we could become the “holiness good news” movement within the holiness denominations. We could be it. But I fear it will not be. God is often forced to use new wineskins to carry His new wine. We may care more for our old wineskins—camp meeting, revival meetings, holiness conventions and the like—than we care for the new wine.
However, I may be totally wrong in my proposition. Maybe God will raise up the old holiness movement to be the new one. Perhaps I have painted too bleak a picture. Perhaps I am too much like one of the mourners at the funeral of Jairus’ daughter . . . I lament her obvious death. She’s pale. She is dead. She’s gone. But Jesus is standing nearby. And He will say, “She is not dead, but asleep.” I will laugh! But He will take our movement by the hand . . . and speak to us: “My child, GET UP!” And a new holiness movement will arise out of the old one. Whatever He does, by birth, renewal or resurrection, when the new holiness movement comes along . . . I want to be in that number!
So, what does the future hold for the Holiness Movement? Can it, indeed, be resurrected? Or do we start the funeral? I am gloomy regarding the holiness movement, as a movement. However, I am decidedly optimistic about the holiness message. I believe the future for the holiness message is bright, perhaps brighter than it has been for fifty years. The coming decade should be a time for hope, not despair, for those of us committed to the doctrine and experience of holiness. Why be encouraged?
There are four reasons why we should be encouraged.
1. We should be encouraged by the current ferment in the holiness churches.
All across the holiness churches there is a ferment about holiness. We are talking again . . . about holiness. Even arguing about it. Dutiful recitation of the old holiness shibboleths is being replaced by honest and open self-examination. We are beginning to admit we are no longer a holiness movement. Middle-aged Baby Boomers are now wondering if they have discarded too many treasures with the trash they tossed out so lightly in the last decade or two. Holiness colleges are holding conferences and lectures on holiness. There are serious discussions about the future of the movement among leaders, even in the Christian Holiness Association. Each of the holiness denominations is in the private off-the-record process of self-definition—asking themselves who they really are and what they will stand for. Progressive holiness church leaders and scholars are asking the difficult questions about the state of affairs in the old holiness movement.
All this ferment should encourage us. True change is rooted in honest confession. As long as the holiness denominations and educational institutions go on pretending things are just like they’ve always been, there will be little change. The open and honest examination of the “state of the holiness movement” is an encouraging first step toward renewal. We should be encouraged!
2. We should be encouraged because biblical truth always resurfaces.
I believe that the holiness movement—as a movement—is dead. However, the holiness message is not dead, it is suppressed. And I believe it is about to resurface. Why? Because holiness is a biblical truth. Biblical truth always resurfaces sooner or later.
Holiness is pervasive in the Bible. God called unto Himself a holy nation, set aside a holy priesthood, established a holy Sabbath, prescribed only holy sacrifices, to be done on a holy mount, in a holy Temple with a holy place—even a Holy of Holies. God himself is a holy God. And we are “called unto holiness.” Without holiness no one shall see the Lord. God says, “I am holy; be ye holy.” The Bible constantly and repeatedly calls for our total surrender to God in absolute consecration, for our complete submission to His will, for absolute obedience to His Word, and for separation from the defilement of sin of this world. Holiness is not only the essential characteristic of God’s nature, it is the central emphasis of His Word. God is holy—we are to be holy too.
Holiness is a Bible truth, not some denominational distinctive or pet doctrine of the Wesleyans, Nazarenes, or Free Methodists. It was not invented to provide differentiation in the church marketplace. Holiness is biblical. And as a biblical truth it is sure to resurface. The Holy Spirit leads his people into all truth. The Holy Spirit will lead the church back to this biblical truth. It may be a while yet. It might come in different formats, with a changed language, and under a different heading, but it will resurface we know. Suppressing a Bible truth is like hiding a cork under water. Sooner or later it pops to the surface.
Perhaps we are at the tail end of the “doctrinal-excesses cycle.” It is always darkest before dawn. Doctrines have a way of almost disappearing before being rediscovered again. The pattern seems so obvious when we look backwards.
First, a timeless truth is “discovered” and propagated. The truth soon spreads wildly as the solution to a present dilemma—in the case of holiness, sin-bent half-saved Christians. The doctrine and experience moves rapidly across denominational lines as the effective solution to the problem of carnal, immature, powerless Christians. But, sooner or later in the wildfire, excesses are introduced—if a little is good, more is better. In our case the excesses of emotionalism, non-biblical folk theology, and cold-hearted legalism emerged eventually. Finally, when the excesses are full grown, they ignite a reaction, especially in the next generation. In the reaction stage the new generation assents to the written doctrine, but internally rejects its premise. All they can see are the excesses. Their preaching and teaching on holiness is primarily about correcting the past excesses, not propagating the basic truth. Ironically, eventually the corrective becomes the doctrine! The doctrine itself is now shoved underwater. It is hidden, and we go on to other things.
But repressing a biblical doctrine will not last. It cannot last. All doctrines have consequences in daily living. Repressing any biblical truth has consequences for the church. In our case, ignoring the doctrine of holiness has, over time, produced an inadequate God concept, confusion about the judgment side of the gospel, an insufficient doctrine of conversion, and a strain of Christians who are worldly, half-committed, half-hearted . . . half-saved. Today’s problems in the church are the result of excesses again. But this time it is the excesses of the correction we tried to make to the original doctrine. Now we need the original doctrine to correct the excesses of our correction! Is this not where we are today? Are we not poised for another renewal of the message of holiness? I think we are ready for a rediscovery of the holiness message—as a solution to the most pressing problem faced by our churches. We are at the end of the cycle. It is time for a rediscovery! We should be encouraged . . .
3. We should be encouraged by the massive shift under way in American culture.
Truth stands apart from culture. Truth is not true because people believe it or it is popular. Truth stands alone, apart, whether the culture embraces it or not. However, culture influences the awareness of truth and the ease with which that truth spreads or is believed.
There is ample evidence that we are right smack in the middle of a massive cultural shift in America. Yesterday’s conservatives have become today’s moderates. Newt Gingrich has trouble reining in the freshman conservatives in the House. They treat him like a liberal compromiser. Jack Kemp drops out of the race for president. He is too liberal for many Republicans! Bill Bennett’s The Book of Virtues becomes a best-seller in secular America. Victimization is now out of style and responsibility is in. Now even the moguls of TV think Murphy Brown shouldn’t have a baby so flippantly. A completely secular campaign urges teens to “wait until marriage” and catches fire in the high schools. Television (of all things) begins to represent moral values as a “new experiment” and discovers differences between men and women. President Clinton starts sounding like a Southern Baptist preacher in his 1995 State of the Union address. Newsweek runs a cover story recommending the return of shame and guilt, and even recommends we again adopt the term sin!
What is happening here? America is fed up with its own excesses. People feel they are turning the corner, but they are not sure what is around that corner. Sure, some of it is political, and some of it is pandering to the religious right. But some of it is evidence of a significant shift in the American culture. A recovery is occurring, but no one is sure exactly what is being recovered.
What does all this have to do with encouraging holiness people? Because no longer does the church exist separate and apart from culture. It never did completely, but today it is even less separated. The evangelical church—even holiness people—are so much a part of the culture today that change in the church is unlikely without a coinciding broad cultural shift. In fact, we have become so assimilated by the culture that Jerry Springer, Oprah Winfrey, and Phil Donahue have as much influence on our thinking as do James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, or Charles Colson (let alone any holiness leaders). This absorption into the prevailing culture makes a shift in the church in general, and the holiness church in particular, unlikely apart from a broad cultural shift.
But the culture is shifting. Could it be that the Lord is moving the entire culture of America? (Is it God and not the Republicans?) Could God be providing the right conditions for His people to return to His basic truths of repentance, godliness, righteousness and holiness? Whatever He is up to, we who value the holiness message should be delighted at the massive cultural shifts under way, for they provide an ideal atmosphere for the growth and expansion of the holiness message. These broad cultural shifts are providing a hotbed for the holiness message like we have never seen in our lives before. That should encourage us! .
4. We should be encouraged by the back-to-basics move among Evangelicals.
While there is a shift in the general culture in America, there is also a major shift under way in the evangelical subculture as well. The church growth movement’s excesses have caused a reaction. A back-to-basics movement is gaining momentum quickly. Evangelicals are turning back to the Bible, doctrine, theology, church history. “How to” books are declining. Classics are gaining. The moral collapse of many evangelical leaders has had a sobering effect. Watch the terms in the evangelical world today and you will see words like “integrity,” “virtue,” “principles,” “accountability” and “character.” There is growing concern for the great host of church members who are not saved. Pastors are concerned at the alarming number of people totally unchanged by their “conversion.” There is a growing “remnant movement” led by home-schoolers, young families, and the Generation Xers. In fact, Generation Xers may be the Lord’s best hope for a holiness renewal. And the formerly hip Baby Boomers are in danger of becoming the very traditionalists they fought as they defend and protect their own innovations (which are rapidly becoming their own defended “traditions”).
There is hunger across the church for “authenticity” and “godliness.” Books on holiness now sell strongly outside of the holiness movement. Major evangelical publishers seek books on the deeper life, spiritual disciplines, and godliness. And by no means the least, a Christian men’s movement springs up based on propositions of obedience, accountability, sexual purity, and obeying the Great Commission and following the Great Commandment, all essentially holiness emphases of the past.
Is this not the work of God in creating a new holiness movement? Leading shifts in both the world and church to provide the restoration of this biblical truth? Are we not more like England in Wesley’s time than ever in our history? We holiness people are ready for such a renewal aren’t we? The Evangelicals are ready for it. Even the world would welcome it! This is why I believe we should be encouraged!
So, what should we do? Wait? Watch? I think not. If there is such an optimistic hope for the holiness message, we should fan the flames! We do not hold a patent on the holiness message. It is God’s truth and He will see that it resurfaces. We have a very important heritage, but defending that is not enough.
We must see where God is working to restore this message and help Him spread it. The atmospherics are right for the message to grow—we must spread the seed. We must do our part. We must start testifying to our own experience of heart holiness. We must fan the flames of the back-to-the Bible movement in our churches—for there will be no holiness message apart from the Word of God. And an emphasis on the Word will eventually produce an emphasis on holiness. We should be at the forefront of the movements for accountability, integrity, and character, not jealously inventing our own editions of these movements of God.
We must recruit men and women in their thirties and twenties to write books on holiness—for their generation, using their terms. We must pray for these early signs of a holiness revival—that God will bless them all and sweep us into the stream of His holiness revivals today. We must encourage new musicians to write fresh holiness music and help them publish it. We must again take up the old task of “spreading holiness throughout the land”—becoming persuasive, and convincing. We need to exchange our internal mission (getting our own people to believe it) for an external one (persuading all Christians to seek cleansing and empowerment). Perhaps in our efforts to persuade all Evangelicals to seek holiness, we will convince our own people.
But, most of all, we must reexamine our own heart. Are we a holy people? Is our own temple cleansed? Have we ourselves been filled with new wine? Do we live an obedient life? For, most of all, God needs real live models of godliness and holiness right on this earth—here and now. I want to be such a model. Don’t you?