How many times have we heard of a church, “holding a revival”? A church in our area held annual revival meetings for at least several years. Is a revival something we can put on a calendar and make it part of our schedule? Or, is it more like what I’ve heard of other congregations and ministries, where revival, “broke out”? Well, what is revival, anyway? According to Merriam Webster…
Will the Real Revival Please Stand Up?
2: restoration of force, validity, or effect (as to a contract)
The root word, revive, is…re, the prefix which means again; and vive, the suffx which means live. So, what revive means, essentially, is to live again – or, to bring back to life. A revival is the motion, act or occurrence of life being brought back to someone or something. We have used this word, interchanging it with words like re-awakening, renewal, re-dedication, etc.
For some churches or ministries, a revival is more like what we see in part 2 of definition 1. It is often scheduled, planned for and expected to be exuberant, loud and emotionally driven. It is an attempt to get people emotionally charged – basically a focus on self. It becomes how I felt, how the Lord blessed me, how I praised God, etc. Others are more like spectators, who live vicariously through what others appear to be experiencing (yes, those who are spectators and live vicariously show up just about anywhere). People involved are all charged up during the meeting and may go home all aglow from the excitement, but their lives are little or no different from before the meeting. I have trouble believing these are real revivals.
Other revivals may include such excitement, but are not scheduled or planned. They simply are driven by God’s Spirit. God heals and moves on people’s lives. People rededicate their lives to Christ, or renew their lives from a state of being spiritually stagnant (returning to their ‘first love’, as per the church mentioned in Revelation). Others may make a decision to follow Him, becoming born again. Could these be real revivals?
The great revivals we have seen in history went beyond the meeting places. While people were being changed at the meeting places, others were praying. While this was going on, people outside the meeting place were being changed…they were being touched by the Holy Spirit, Who was revealing Himself to them (there was the Lumberjack Revival during Finney’s ministry, where lumberjacks who had no idea about these meetings were being convicted of their sin and turning to the Lord, out in the middle of the woods!). Such revivals were led by men like Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, Wesley and others. Are these real revivals?
According to an answer on Got Questions.org, “The evidence of revival, a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers, is changed lives. Great movements toward righteousness, evangelism, and social justice occur. Believers are once again spending time in prayer and reading and obeying God’s Word. Believers begin to powerfully use their spiritual gifts. There is confession of sin and repentance.”
I believe that if there is any criteria of what a “real” revival is, it would be…changed lives. God changes people from the heart out. Revival can be a mass experience, but it is also and individual experience . It is not how much energy with which we sing and praise or preach and shout that can show or bring revival. Only God’s Spirit can bring revival, because only He can reveal our hearts and lead us to redemption which is only found through Jesus Christ. It is by God’s Spirit that we are drawn to pray for and love others. It is by His leading that we are changed. Let God call the meetings, whether scheduled or an impromptu move of His Spirit. The evidence will remain long after the meetings are over.
You may have guessed, I do not put a lot of stock in revival meetings. But, I do believe in revival. I think the greatest revivals don’t take place in meetings, but in the private, secluded place of the heart, where the Holy Spirit speaks to an individual, showing him or her those places that need to be changed in order for more room for an intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe and a more abundant life. After all, Jesus came to bring new life and He left His Spirit to continue what He has begun in us.
In a word, revival.