I spent this term at Trinity College studying Christian revival. Edwards, Finney, Dow, Booth, Roberts, Wigglesworth & Wimber were some of the colourful characters that we looked at.
It was stunning to read of times when literally thousands of people decided to follow Jesus, churches exploded and multiplied and sometimes nations were changed.
Some of the key questions around revivals include: Can humans make revival happen? What do genuine revivals do? How should leaders respond in times of revival? What is left behind after genuine revival in the Church and society?
Here are six observations that I made this term:
Revivals grow out of a mysterious interplay between the initiative of God and the responsiveness of people.
Jesus taught ‘the wind blows where it wishes.’ God’s work cannot be predicted or organised. At the same time, he called his disciples to ‘go and make disciples’ and gave them authority to really do stuff. Revival is a tune, written by God, that sounds both of these notes.
Revivals make much of Jesus.
Jesus said the work of the Spirit is to ‘bear witness to me’. Jesus, not the Holy Spirit is the hero of Christian revival. This is what the Spirit loves to do. Although always messy and therefore not always immediately clear, this is where genuine revivals are always going.
Revivals require more than, but not less than, Bible teaching and prayer.
God loves to use ‘the age old’ means of ministry. He also blesses other activity around organisation, communications and contextualisation. However, the way in which these things are done is very important to be done within ‘the spirit of the gospel’ less the latter can undermine the former.
Revivals change people.
An outpouring of blessing may be witnessed but it is the growth of fruit in the coming seasons that evidences its value. Love for Jesus and love for neighbours is changed in an irreversible way during revival and people begin the long, messy and beautiful journey.
Revivals grow the church rapidly.
Churches have experienced 1,400% in ten years. The Wesleyan revival saw 100,000 people come to faith, the Welsh estimate 162,000 people coming to faith and Finney testifies to seeing 250,000 people coming to faith. Numbers by themselves are meaningless, but large numbers of people do indicate that something special might have happened.
Revivals renew the world.
Anti slavery activity, educational reform, empowerment of women, promotion of peace and trade unionism as well as striking reductions in crime and alcohol consumption are associated with revival. Revivals seek ‘the complete renovation of the world’ and all of society benefits.
On a personal level I have been inspired, challenged, humbled and reminded how big God is and what He is capable of. I have found myself feeling much smaller and yet at the same time more motivated to attempt more. We may only have a few loaves and a couple of fish but He is at work and He is calling us to join in!