It is common in the ecosystem of evangelical Christianity to hear pastors express a deep desire to experience revival in their churches. For instance, last Sunday I heard a youth pastor share her belief that revival will come through the youth. This made me curious about revival (church revival, not Creedence Clearwater Revival). I looked up the word “revival” in three common translations of the Bible, including the New International Version. I got zero (0) hits in each translation. Wow, the word “revival” is not mentioned in three common translations of the Bible. However, I did find a beautiful reference to the word “revive” in Psalm 85:5-6, which says:

 “Will you be angry with us forever?
 Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
 Will you not revive us again,
 that your people may rejoice in you?”

Of course revivals are real in the church. There are confirmed examples of revivals happening throughout church history. Some revivals are local, others impact entire nations.

Clergy and laity supplications for revival take different forms. Some ask for church revival directly from God. Some desire the Holy Spirit to inspire revival in the church through the manifestation of supernatural events. Some seek revival by prodding the congregation to get off their . . . pew and take action, usually in the form of repentance for sins, service to the poor and evangelism. I am sure there are other catalysts that I have overlooked.

If you look up the word revival in the dictionary you will see words and phrases like: rejuvenation, vigor, restoration, awakening, a new production of an old play, revitalization. Such words and phrases imply physical and mental action and energy. If you look at the calendars, schedules and programs of many modern Christian churches, they are already running at a frenetic pace. I wonder how the typical modern church would squeeze a revival into their weekly schedule. Are we capable of recognizing a revival if it happened in our midst? Are we so abuzz with ministry activities that God is not inclined to compete with us for glory? In other words, is the church too busy for revival to happen? On the other hand, would a God-inspired revival take over despite our busyness and accomplish God’s intentions in the church and surrounding community? I think so. But are we willing to let go of the reins to God?

We make a mistake if we think spiritual matters like revivals have jump-start formulas. I suspect that God likes to choose the time, place and manner of revival. It seems spiritually astute to also recognize that God may never choose to manifest an awe-inspiring revival in the place where we go to church. I know a pastor (we’ll call him Jim) who saw a miracle-producing revival happening in a large church in a nearby town. The effects of the revival spread throughout the community. People were experiencing miraculous healings for everything from colds to cancer. Jim had an intense desire for a revival to happen in his church so he set about making a lot of changes in the church, changes geared towards inspiring revival. Years passed with no revival. In the process, Jim nearly destroyed the church. Hundreds of people left and he had to step down from his position as senior pastor before the church was damaged beyond recovery.

John 3:8 says:

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This verse reminds me that we can’t pin the Holy Spirit down any more than we can pin down the wind. We simply don’t know when or how the Holy Spirit will alight in our midst in a supernatural way, including revival. I find this element of mystery in our faith to be cool. Besides, we don’t want a God we mortals can manipulate. We can pray for revival and prepare our hearts, but the final decision belongs to God.


Posted on January 5, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for a well-written post! However I do not agree completely. I guess it depends on whether one leans towards Calvinism or arminianism, but I think that the lack of revival in the West is explained in the lack of faith, passion and holiness among God’s people. Saying that it is up to God when revival comes is basics saying that there are periods when He wants no people come to believe in Him, no miracles to occur, no passion and zeal among His people etc. But in the Scriptures, revival is the norm – we have no other types of churches in Acts than revival churches!

    I also think our brothers and sisters in the global south can teach us about this. In China, they have experienced revival for so long that it is hard to speak of it as revival – it’s perfectly normal for them to lead millions to Christ and perform mighty signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit. We have to learn from them. I’ve written about this here:

    God bless you!

  2. Totally agree. We have forgotten that revival is the description of a season of restoration to biblical lifestyles and also includes judgement of some degree or other. Thanks for this perspective.

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