The invisibility of Boston’s Quiet Revival is a phenomenon that never fails to intrigue and mystify me.
The faith has been growing in Boston for over four decades. Every time we survey churches, we find more than we found the last time. The growth rate is higher than the death rate, while the growth rate of churches also is clearly greater than the population growth. As shown in the diagram, the number of churches has doubled since the 1960s, from about 300 in 1969 to over 575 today. We also estimate that the percentage of people attending churches has increased from about 3% to around 14%. Further, the average size of churches is growing.
This Quiet Revival occurred without any organizational planning. Boston’s churches represent over a hundred national and ethnic groups and over a hundred denominations. In the early days of the Quiet Revival, churches were planted in the worst neighborhoods of the city and, over the decades, each of those communities has experienced social lift. So it is not just churches, but the whole city has changed!
And yet, over and over, I find that when people talk about serving God in our city, the Quiet Revival is disregarded. Why is this? I can think of a few reasons.
- Perhaps we only remember Boston’s reputation as the “graveyard of evangelists” or the “seedbed of liberalism.”
- Perhaps we tend to disregard what seems peripheral, the very ethnic groups and generations and neighborhoods that were so significant in its origins.
- Perhaps so many multiple causes contributed to the revival that no one group or person can take credit for it and, in our pride, we don’t want to be incidental in what God is doing.
- is it too large a picture to view from our limited perspective? Maybe we need to be like the astronauts in their spacecraft, who view the planet as a beautiful living system with no arbitrary state, country or city boundaries!
I think intelligent people realize intuitively that legitimizing the Quiet Revival and what it does bears huge implications that will challenge them. They realize that if they do recognize it as real, then too much of what gives meaning to them in their present life may appear as arbitrary and/or of little value or substance. Thus, they reject it intuitively. They never say the stats are wrong or that it isn’t true; they just don’t let it influence them at all. They ignore it or see it as a dream, something they see for a moment, which then disappears when they are fully awake.
Let’s pray we can see the whole picture of what God is doing in each of our cities! The Quiet Revivals of our world have huge implications for all of us, demonstrating that God is quietly but powerfully at work in our relational systems. Let us not reject the reality of these living systems, but accept and learn from them and let their vibrancy influence us!