Revival. What a word! It means, to bring to life again. The church was brought to life on the day of Pentecost around 29 AD, but now it needs to be brought to life again; it needs revival. I say this for three main reasons.
Firstly, so many Christians, the living stones that make up the church, are practically indistinguishable from the rough rocks that constitute the ‘world’. George Barna has conducted surveys over the last few years that show that American Christians are little different to non-Christians. They may speak religious-speak, what I can ‘Christianees’, but they live no differently to their ‘pagan’ neighbours. And I am sure that this applies to other cultures as well… South African, for instance.
If we are no different to the ‘unsaved’ in values, priorities, and lifestyle, then why should they believe us when we say “You must be saved”? No wonder that so many people regard the church as a haven for the hypocritical! If we are to reach people with the Gospel then we must first be changed by that same Gospel. If we want to shed light into darkness then we must first be light - ‘For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). But for this to happen on a scale sufficient to change our societies we need… Revival!
The second reason I make the claim that the church needs to be brought to life again, is that the nations of the world are in deep trouble and only a revived church can heal them. There is a lovely song that goes, ‘heal our nation, pour out your Spirit on this land’. But how will God answer that cry of our hearts? He will answer by pouring out His Spirit on His church. Then we, Spirit filled, revived, disciples of the Lord Jesus will speak life, and perform life-giving acts, to the people of our nation.
The third reason for my claim is a sincere belief that without revival we just cannot reach enough people fast enough to heal our world of its sickness of soul. Not all churches are having slumber parties in the world’s darkest hour. Not all Christians are indistinguishable from their unsaved neighbours. Many churches, Christian organisations and individual Christians are joyfully serious about their mandate to breathe life into their worlds. The problem is that it’s mostly too little and too late. We need Revival!
In the years 1895 to 1910 revival fires sprang up all over the world…The Great Awakening, The Welsh Revival, Azusa Street, Wesley, Whitfield . Names that thrill us and fill us with a deep yearning to experience what the people of those days experienced. Millions, yes millions, of people were born again during those revival years. Church denominations doubled in size and thousands of new church fellowships sprang up all over the world. It was as though a fiery wind from heaven blew across the globe, and wherever it blew people, like dry tinder, caught fire and burned brightly for Jesus. North America, South America, the British Isles, Australia, China, India, and South Africa all experienced revival. People were healed, convicted, saved and changed. And the societies in which they lived were transformed in Jesus name!
Revival is not a reward for a church that is powerful and effective in the world. Revival is the divine prescription for an ailing church that just cannot be and do what God intended. Revival is not a mighty church saying “Look Oh Lord what we can do!” No, Revival is when the church hears God saying, “Step aside and see what I can do!”
My heart resonates with the words of the prophet Habakkuk; “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). These words have become my daily prayer, as has the prayer that the great Welsh revivalist Evan Roberts exhorted the people of his day to pray; “Oh Holy Spirit, send us Revival!”