What is revival? What are we expecting when we pray for revival? Should we even be praying for revival? I am sure you have heard many opinions, sermons, and prayers on this subject. I want to share my personal experience in revival, how we should seek God for it, and what I believe the coming move of God will look like in the next decade.
Do it Again, God!
I was on my face, under my desk in my office, weeping and crying out to God, “Touch me again, Lord, or I’ll die!” I had been watching old videos of revival services from Brownsville, and from Rodney Howard Browne meetings, and a familiar hunger began to stir in me. I ached to see those days again.
When I was seven years old, a revival hit my Church in the little town of Cheboygan, MI. My dad, the associate pastor, had seen the videos of Brownsville and heard about a move of God happening in Grand Rapids, MI. He had become so stirred in his spirit that he had to go to both. He went and came back ravenously hungry for God to move in our church. I remember him crying out in prayer “God, don’t pass us by! Send revival to me too!”
Before long, half the church would travel five hours from Cheboygan to Grand Rapids every Friday to be in the services for the weekend, then come back Saturday night in order to have services at our church on Sunday morning and Sunday night. You would think that would be exhausting, and you’d be right, but the presence of God was so wonderful, so sweet, and so awesome that we simply could not be away.
Finally, an evangelist named Paul Marcum came to our church and he brought the fire of God with him. When he spoke, and when he ministered around the altars, the Spirit of God would move, and no one wanted to leave. Weekend services turned into nightly services, which turned into three years of continual outpouring. I remember many nights not coming home until one or two in the morning because my dad was responsible for locking up the church. No one wanted to leave the glory of God.
Though I was only seven years old, I remember the electricity in the air, the heavy, thick presence of God, and the wonderful joy and anticipation that everyone felt. The church was filled every night and five hundred people came to Christ during the course of that move of God. In our little town, that was a multitude. We saw cancer healed, needle tracks from the arms of addicts vanish, and lives completely transformed by the move of God. I was young, but I knew that this was no longer church as usual, and I never wanted to go back to the way things were.
As I wept on the floor in my office, I cried out to God for His Presence again. I wanted to experience the weight of His glory. I wanted to see Heaven come down and transform my life, my community, and my ministry. I never wanted to go back to life as usual, but here I was, life had become routine.
When The Glory Lifted.
My dad and I often talk about what happened when the revival that seemed to sweep the world for several years began to lift. We debate why it lifted, and discuss our longing to see it again. We know that what we had experienced in those years was special, and while we get glimpses of that kind of move of God here and there, we have yet to see anything in our personal experience quite like what we saw during that special time of outpouring.
When the first service came and went without that sense of God’s glory, my dad went home heart-stricken. He wept and groaned in his study, crying out like a widow bereaved. He wept and pleaded for the weighty glory of God to come back, but to no avail. He told me that since the glory of God had listed, he could hardly bear to attend church any longer. It was too painful to come to a dead and dry service in the very place where the river of God had so freely flowed. The sermons fell flat, the worship lacked zeal, and it simply served as a hollow reminder of what had been so impossibly wonderful just months ago. My dad said, like a death in the family, he never quite got over it.
Why Did it Lift?
Some point to the sovereignty of God, and the fact that it seemed to lift everywhere simultaneously as evidence that God was simply done with that season of revival. “God has a season for everything and the season for revival was over, and it is now time for something else.” That’s how the argument often goes. I disagree. I believe there are at least three reasons this move of God lifted from our churches and they are:
- A Loss of Purpose
- Familiarity with God’s Glory
- An Unsustainable Pace
A Loss of Purpose
In Acts 1:8, Jesus said that He would pour out His Spirit upon us in order that we might be His witnesses. I have noticed that leading up to the lifting of God’s glory, there had been less of a passion for souls. We no longer saw people coming to Christ in droves, instead, we saw the same people every night coming to get their fill. It seemed we lost the purpose for the power.
The scriptures tell us that as we drink from the well that Christ offers us, “rivers of living water” will flow from us. (See John 7:37-39.) I believe that we stopped being conscious of the lost that God so deeply loves, we stopped allowing the river to flow from us, and became a stagnant pool that had water flowing in, but with no outlet with which to allow the Spirit of God to flow out of our lives and bring life to the world around us.
Familiarity with God’s Glory
When Jesus was ministering in His hometown, people began to be amazed at His teaching. They stood in awe of Him for a few moments until they realized that they knew the Jesus. They knew His mom and dad, His brothers and sisters, and where He grew up. They allowed unbelief to take root in their hearts and because of their familiarity, they exempted themselves from the blessing which God wanted to pour out on them. Jesus did not do any great work there except heal a few sick people. (See Matthew 13:54-58.)
We read many stories throughout scripture, of Hophni and Phinehas, (See 1 Samuel 2:12-17.) or Uzzah, (See 2 Samuel 6:7.) or Ananias and Sapphira (See Acts 5:1-11.) where familiarity with God’s holy presence led to disastrous consequences. Familiarity with the holy leads us to irreverence and sin. When we become overly familiar with the glory of God in revival and take for granted His precious glory, we miss out on His great blessings through unbelief, and through irreverence. It is a dangerous thing to treat God’s glory with an irreverent familiarity.
An Unsustainable Pace
If you have ever been in one revival service that went from seven to midnight or one, you will know they are absolutely exhausting. Imagine every weekend doing four services like that and another one on Wednesday night, and for the entire month of August doing services nightly, you can see why things began to dwindle after three years.
I think the thrill of revival, and perhaps the fear of losing it drove us to have so many services. That kind of pace cannot be kept up indefinitely, and I believe if we are to have lasting revival, it must be carried sustainably. More on that in a moment.
If God isn’t Moving, I’ll Move Him.
A legitimate critique can be made of those who pray for revival and spend their days pining after what God did in previous days. The criticism I often here is that instead of crying out for revival, we should recognize that the Holy Spirit has been placed within us, and become a revival. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. I believe that there is much more available to the believer than what we are currently using and that if we would simply believe God, and step out in faith we would see God move mightily.
Smith Wigglesworth is credited with making the bold proclamation that “If God isn’t moving, I’ll move Him.” This sounds like an arrogant statement, but those who know God, know that He quite enjoys bold faith. (See Matthew 8:5-13.) Wigglesworth made this statement, not because he was going to boss God around, or force Him to bend to the wishes of man, but because he knew God’s will, and he knew that if God wasn’t moving in power, it wasn’t because He didn’t want to, but because God was looking for someone who would have faith.
The argument made is that instead of praying for revival, we should simply act as though we are in revival. Pray, study, witness, worship, serve, as if the move of the spirit you longed for were already here. While I can empathize with this viewpoint, I have seen that it can lead very easily into striving. The thing about God is He doesn’t give things except by grace. If we believe we could earn a move of God by our behavior we will quickly become those who desperately attempt to earn by our own effort, that which can only be a gift of grace.
Another qualm I have about this attitude is that I have never seen those with such a cavalier attitude see quite what we saw during the outpourings of the mid-nineties. I often have a suspicion in the back of my mind that those who make glib comments about eschewing prayer for a move of God have never experienced what it was like to be in the middle of such a glorious outpouring of God’s glory. I believe they might have never experienced the awesome, life-changing, raw power of God, or the sudden awareness of God among those who were totally lost in the world that was on full display in some of the services in Toronto, Brownsville, or even in little Cheboygan. They never experienced the incredible fruit where souls just seemed to be saved in massive droves, sometimes just wandering in off the street under a compulsion they could not understand. That kind of outpouring from heaven should be sought with much prayer and fasting.
Christ commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 1:4.) It seems to me, He could have simply given them the baptism of the Holy Spirit immediately, but Jesus told them to wait, and when they were in prayer together the Spirit fell upon them in power. (See Acts 2:1-4.) On another occasion, these same believers cried out to God for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for boldness, and for God to perform mighty signs and wonders in order to glorify Jesus. These same believers were again filled with the Holy Spirit, and then went out and preached with great boldness. (See Acts 4:23-31.) In each of these cases, the believers sought God in prayer for a move of His Spirit, and then went and preached with great boldness. I believe that Christians ought to both seek God for a move of His Spirit in their lives, communities, and churches, and they ought to take action with bold faith that God will answer their prayers.
The Coming Move of God.
I believe God is going to move again in power in our generation, but there will be a few differences. I believe the way we do church in the west will change from a church model where the goal is to get everyone in the church building, to a house church model where the primary work of discipleship, prayer, worship, mission, and compassion are done in small communities that meet from house to house. These house churches will gather together for worship, prayer, edification, and fellowship in a traditional church service, but our focus will no longer be on crafting the perfect “worship experience”, or best stage design, or what kind of coffee we have in the lobby. Instead, we will return to a simple devotion to prayer, to solid teaching from the word, to worship, and to fellowship with one another. (See Acts 2:42-47.)
I believe the coming wave of revival will bring in more souls than can fit in our buildings, and there won’t be enough people to disciple them unless everyday believers who are filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit are empowered by their church to make disciples in their own homes. When the outpouring is not just in the church, but in the homes, it will establish a model for revival that will be sustainable, and will lead to maximum fruit. I pray and believe that this move of God will happen soon and that the billion soul harvest that has been prophesied by many credible prophets will come quickly.
I hope this stirs you to prayer and to action. I pray that you will receive the word and will be ready for when the next wave of revival comes.
May God bless you with His rich and glorious presence as you seek His Kingdom first.
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