The word revival has been a buzzword in every church I’ve ever been in. I can’t have a series of unlearning my faith without evaluating something that has so clearly been a part of defining my Christian experience. However, the word “revival” is a bit aloof. It is used often and yet when we come down to talk of “what is revival” not everyone has a clear answer. Or rather it seems everyone has a slightly different definition for this word that is not found in the Bible.
When I was seven the church I grew up in had a truly unique experience. The power of God manifested with unmistakable power, an undeniable move of the Holy Spirit. In an age before the internet fully took over the world, news spread and suddenly people were lining up around the block to come and see what was going on. No. Literally. Around the block. They would start lining up as early as five in the morning and would stand there all day waiting to get in for the evening service.
Every day of the week.
Seeing as I was only seven when this started, I just kind of accepted that this is church now. It wasn’t until my high school years when my family moved that I began to fully realize my childhood experience was NOT the normative church experience. Still, it seems like every church I’ve been involved with since looks back, longing to again ignite the fires of revival.
In my later teenage years, people were constantly prophesying over our generation about the great things we were gonna do for God. Constantly putting before us the expectation of encounter. This revival produced some wonderful fruit and some not so good fruit. The tragic side of growing up in this culture is that I have seen many of my friends become disillusioned with the talk of all the great things we’re going to do and experience. For many of them, they just never saw it happen and they grew weary of hearing people say the same things.
Today, I still hear the word often, but I’m not always sure what someone means when they say they want or are praying for “revival”. Some seem to want God to replicate exactly what He did before. They want people to be drawn to the church. They want services that seem to never end. They want that electric atmosphere, flags waving, people shouting, souls weeping. Honestly, I would never be upset by a service like that. God is welcome to move on our hearts in such a way whenever He’d like, but is that revival?
What about when God is not moving in that way? There are certainly those who have made me feel like less of a “passionate Jesus follower” when I’m in a more contemplative worship mood, rather than my usual more exuberant expression of worship.
When I was younger I saw many “slain in the Spirit”. The presence of God was so strong on them, that they could not stand. They would fall to the ground and I’ve heard many amazing stories of the deep work God did. However, I can’t say I ever experienced this. I spent a lot of time thinking something was wrong with me because I didn’t share in the experience. In fact, there have been many such times when I felt like I wasn’t fully saved because I didn’t seem to feel God’s presence like every else. Do I desire a greater encounter with the presence of God? Yes. But I should not be made to feel like less of a Christian because my level of encounter is not what I had hoped? Absolutely not! My faith is not in today’s experience level, but in Jesus!
If I never “experience” His presence again until Heaven, guess what? I’m ok. I know that He is with me, fully present whether I “feel it” or not.
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
I love this scripture. In times where the Holy Spirit is evidently moving people love to say, “This is the fulfillment”. I grew up honestly thinking that the revival of my childhood was the fulfillment of that scripture. I didn’t realize that in Acts 2:16 Peter proclaimed to the people what was happening right then was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy. I bring it up simply to say this: sometimes I feel like we spend much time chasing after some hyper-spiritual experience when the truth is we are already living in it. We are in the season of fulfillment. On the day of Pentecost God poured out His Spirit and He has not taken it back! We have access to the gifts of the Spirit always!
So when we say we long for revival what are we saying? Is “revival” even for the church? Possibly? To be revived would indicate that we are dead or near dead. Is the church dead? Perhaps there are pockets where that is true, but I have to believe that the true church, the bride of Christ is not dead, but thriving. For the true follower of Christ to say we are in need of revival it shows we have a lack of understanding of the complete work God has done in us. We are not dead. Perhaps a better word would be an awakening. We need an awakening of revelation. An awakening of the power of God that dwells within us.
Revival is for the dead. Therefore I believe that the purpose of revival is to bring the spiritually dead back to life. Our nation truly does have a rich heritage of Christianity woven into its fabric. Even 100 years ago much of our nation would have professed to be Christian. I would contend that revival is NOT for the church, but rather for the NATION.
Yes, I believe there are special moments when God truly does something spectacular to get the attention of the world. I believe in the miraculous! I believe in signs and wonders, but I also believe what Jesus said in Mark 16. The signs are meant to confirm the Word of God is true.
Sometimes it seems like we want the manifestation of revival without the fruit of revival. A move of the spirit accomplishes the will of the Spirit. It is not for our own spiritual satisfaction. The fruit of revival is repentance. Hearts turning from sin and lives being transformed. Again, I’m all for a powerful service. We need those moments when God awakens our hearts anew to His passions, purposes, and plans. We need those moments when God calls us again to fully surrender. I do believe that our sin, our lack of full surrender prevents us from fulfilling all that God desires to do. What would it look like if we corporately fully repented and were fully surrendered? Laying down our sins, our expectations and our will, fully yielding to Him.
I believe every “revival” is ignited from the embers of prayers from fully repented hearts crying out for lost souls to come to Jesus.
Repentance is the spark of revival and the fruit of revival.
I love the Lord and I am so grateful for His presence. I do long to experience more of His presence, but more than that I long that people would be saved. Church, does your heart break for the lost? I believe it is the heart of God that none should perish, but all would have eternal life. For me, revival is not about powerful services, but people coming to Jesus!
So what does revival look like today? Will it look like it did in the past? I don’t think so. We have to acknowledge that our world has changed a LOT in the last ten years. The spiritual climate of our nation has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. If God were to do the exact same thing, I believe many people would be unimpressed. I’m convinced that the move God is wanting to do today is not centralized to one church building, but will take place simultaneously all over the world. In schools, office buildings, malls, movie theaters, wherever people are gathering. I am convinced that when we mobilize as the body of Christ and truly depend on the power of the Holy Spirit we will see a powerful move of God. It will look different than anything we’ve seen before, but that’s ok! People will come to Jesus.
It’s time to stop expecting people to flock to our buildings and for us to truly do what Jesus told us to do before He left the earth. It’s time for us to GO into our world, filled with the Holy Spirit and armed with the good news of Christ. It’s time for us to truly share God’s love with the world.
It’s time for revival.