Signs of life – The “Quiet Revival” in Boston

It was four, maybe five years ago when I heard from some fellow pastors of the “quiet revival” in Boston.  “Revival” can have all sorts of connotations but I had never heard it paired with “quiet” and was particularly surprised that it was in Boston.  The following definition is from the Emmanuel Gospel Center, a Christian organization engaged in applied research, consultation, and program development in the city

The Quiet Revival is an unprecedented and sustained period of Christian growth in the city of Boston beginning in 1965 and persisting for nearly five decades. The number of churches in Boston has doubled during this period, though the population is about the same now as then. Today, Boston’s Christian church community is characterized by a growing unity, increased prayer, maturing church systems, and a strong and trained leadership. The spiritual vitality of churches birthed during the Quiet Revival has spread, igniting additional church development and social ministries in the region and across the globe.

The above link has more detailed materials and you can find an article in Christianity Today on the same topic.  This revival is “quite” in a few ways:

First, it is primarily occurring among and driven by minorities.  In general it is not the large historic church with the steeple led by a highly educated and professional WASP man but the store front church who’s sign is in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, or is in English with clear ethnic ties.  Second, there is not a personality, denomination, or organization that is sponsoring, organizing, or providing the driving force to this work of God.  Third, it has happened gradually and like most gradual changes it is easy to overlook.  If you’re going by impressions versus data, have a narrow time frame for analysis, or lack continuity of contacts over the years.  Fourth, the establishment of new congregations has played a major role in this movement.  These congregations can easily exist under the radar as the outward evidences of a church may not be so clear (building, meeting on Sunday morning etc).  Consider this next quote from Emmanuel Gospel Center

The pervasive mental model of what the Church in Boston looked like, at least from the perspective of white Evangelicals, needed major revision. To open our arms wide to the people of God, to embrace the whole Body of Christ, all of us, black and white, needed to repent of our prejudices and look for the places where God, through his Holy Spirit, was at work in our city. We learned to define “church” to include all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ, who have a high view of Scripture, and who wholeheartedly agree to the historic creeds, regardless of doctrinal distinctives, denomination, language, race, ethnicity, age, or neighborhood.

This quiet revival has impacted us in a couple different ways:
First, it is an encouragement that God is able and willing to work in places that others consider spiritually cold or dead.  Ministry in New England has significant challenges and looking at God’s work in Boston over the past fifty years helps me to stick it out when I feel discouraged.  I am pushed to grow in expectancy and ask for God to do great things in Worcester.
Second, I directly benefit from the quiet revival as I meet monthly with a group of church planters from my denomination who are serving in Boston and connect with other believers in the city.  At one of the meetings a seasoned pastor who has been in the city for a number of years said, “guys, these are exciting times to be involved in ministry here.  God is doing something and we are going to look back and realize that in some small way we were part of it.”  I can learn from and in some way, soak in what is happening in Boston.
Third, when we were considering Worcester as the place where God might call us to begin new church, I spent time talking with clergy in the city.  When these different ministers spoke of the spiritual climate of Worcester and what God was doing, particularly among minorities, there were echoes of what has been seen in Boston.  This was a significant factor in bringing us to Worcester, as we had been asking God to bring us to a place where he was already at work.  As we’ve been here now five months I, along with others, see more indications that God is doing something in Worcester that is similar to what has been happening in Boston.
Fourth, the dynamics of the quiet revival encourage me to form partnerships with ministers and churches of different ethnic backgrounds.  This should happen anyway as Jesus is the one who reconciles diverse people to God and thus to each others. Even more though I am reminded of my need for the larger body of Christ.  I need to learn from these brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to be more more aligned with what God is doing.  I don’t want to overlook or miss out joining in a movement of God in the city because I am unwilling to look and connect to those different than me.


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