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June 29, 2021

Revival, Reformation Are Preceded by a Return to God 

By Chuck Hetzler

“We need to admit that there’s a problem,” said Matt Bennett as he addressed the need for widespread repentance to Christian Union Cornerstone Partners in a Zoom meeting, Monday evening, June 7, 2021.

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The Christian Union founder and CEO pointed to yet another saddening statistic in American Christianity’s decline – the deterioration of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2019, the SBC saw their biggest downgrade, losing more than 287,000 members. Sadly, 2020 far surpassed 2019’s historic slump; the US’s largest Protestant denomination shedded over 450,000 members. Even though Bennett and CU have no affiliation with the SBC, all American Christians should grieve at such atrophy and have no question that the country’s spiritual problems are real, and increasing. 


What is Bennett’s proposed solution? Repentance. Hence, the virtual prayer gathering entitled, “Repent America.” CU Cornerstone Partners from across the nation joined the conference call with one thing in common: their sense of calling to assist CU’s various ministries in developing Christian leaders to promote revival and reformation.


Bennett voiced regret at the way that many American Christian leaders respond to the dramatic Christian decline in America, wanting to “look on the bright side of things” instead of facing the facts. Instead of a false optimism, the Bible’s solution is a sober assessment followed by a whole-hearted return to the Lord. Christian Union’s CEO read from Zechariah 1:3, “Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.” 


This theme of returning to God and His reciprocal response runs throughout Scripture, said Bennett, even into the New Testament. James 4:1-10 holds the same concept for Christians, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. … Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:8, 10). 


Bennett clarified common misconceptions, stating that the Cross does not remove Christians’ responsibility to repent; rather, it intensifies it. Christians can expect even greater spiritual blessings from God when we return to Him. The Holy Spirit works in far greater ways under the New Covenant than the Old, when we are not grieving Him. 


Where is the locus of the spiritual problem? Like James, Bennett points to the church, specifically leadership with the Christian community. 


Vocational Christian leaders need to be the ones calling for and setting the example of returning to God. Bennett went further to say that this is not a time for measured actions. Minor course corrections have not stopped the spiritual slide; drastic measures are needed. Again, one thinks of James’ advice to the church, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:8-9).


What can we do? Bennett urged Cornerstone Partners to keep both morning and evening daily devotions personally and together with other Christians. He encouraged all Christians to take days at a time to seek the Lord, mourn, weep, and cry out to God. Christians throughout the ages have had such a practice, but it’s been forgotten among us today. 


CU NY recently began hosting CU Fire weekend retreats to seek God in small groups for 17-31 hours over 1.5 to 2.5 days respectively. In the fall of 2021, CU Day and Night will be testing CU Fires nationally in a multi-site model. 


Bennett himself hosted multi-day retreats for vocational Christian leaders to seek God together in prayer, fasting, repentance, and Scripture. CU’s Day and Night ministry plans to expand this ministry to vocational Christian leaders nation-wide. 


Following Bennett’s message, CU associates and Cornerstone Partners gathered in breakout rooms to pray, repenting personally and asking God to grant repentance broadly and specifically through CU’s three primary branches of ministry: CU Universities, CU New York, and CU Day and Night. Future CU Cornerstone Partner prayer events are publicized to CU’s email lists and online at christianunion.org.


Dr. Chuck Hetzler is the executive director of Christian Union Day and Night, a ministry that promotes spiritual strengthening in Christians across America, helping them thrive in order to make an impact in an increasingly secular culture by covenanting together for successive spiritual initiatives.

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