After nearly 111 years since revival on the shores of Britain, there is an understandable appetite for revival these days.
It comes from people who have never seen or experienced it but have read about it and seen photos of the past.
There are some interesting things to consider about revival and some even more important questions that need to be answered.
The 1904–1905 Welsh Revival was the largest Christian revival in Wales during the 20th century. While by no means the best known of revivals, it was one of the most dramatic in terms of its effect on the population and triggered revivals in several other countries. The movement kept the churches of Wales filled for many years to come, seats being placed in the aisles in Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea for twenty years or so, for example. Meanwhile, the Awakening swept the rest of Britain, Scandinavia, parts of Europe, North America, the mission fields of India and the Orient, Africa and Latin America.
We have encountered outpourings of the Spirit that have invigorated and refreshed the Church in the last 50 years but nothing of significance has come that would seem to be an encore of God’s great work in revival. i
Is revival something that God has promised to us? The Bible has a lot to say about some of the effects and outworking of revival but does not promise us directly such amazing things. But it is implied if you are looking for it.
Certainly for Whitfield and Wesley, revival was not something that they distinctly were looking for, but was an event that happened to them. The issue at the heart of the revival was repentance that came, in response to the gospel. People gathered by their thousands to hear the gospel proclaimed.
It is interesting that none of the Church Fathers tasked themselves with writing a biblical theology on revival. Neither do we find Augustine, Luther or Calvin giving themselves and their energy to proposing a reformed doctrine of revival. Revival was simply not the focus of their ministry, but Christ was – and the atoning work of Christ is totally sufficient for the needs of mankind.
We always need what we term revival, but the truth is that it is never our great hope. The gospel alone is power of God unto salvation. The bible commends us to tell other generations of the goodness of God and His great and marvellous deeds, encouraging our hearts together in God. The glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, but that is not talking of revival! That great historical promise in 2 Chron 7:14 was of great encouragement to Israel, and some of it although out of context for us, still encourages us to pray and seek God for an intervention in our lives and nations.
That is where revival comes into its own. The stronghold of revival is prayer. Revival calls people back to intimate relationship with the God who has saved them and reconciled them to himself. Any work of the Spirit is always a consecrating work, drawing us to Himself in a life of purity, holiness and passion for the glory of Christ. Such works of the Spirit stir up a magnificent obsession for the Lord. What we are told to long for is the return of Christ, not revival!
So what of revival? There is a lot of talk about revival in these days, I do hope we see one this year. We need that encouragement from heaven.
In this dark, desperate, sin-filled world we need to see God breaking in, setting captives free to serve the living God. And that is something we have always needed, even in the days of the early Church. And the gospel is sufficient to the need of the day. It always has been. The Church is not on its last legs about to fade away from the pages of history unless revival comes. It is rooted in Christ. In His supremacy over all things, and as Head of the Church, building it and empowering it, God sends the Church to the nations with the glorious message of Christ. Every so often he accompanies that message with audacious, astonishing signs and wonders and miraculous, amazing exploits.
I think that is what the Church is looking for. I was asked by a Muslim lady over a meal recently, “What happened to all those wonderful miracles that Jesus used to do? Why don’t we see them today?” It is something when a Muslim is asking to see the power of the risen Christ being demonstrated in miracles and healings!
I think we are ready for revival. I think we are ready for thousands to come to Christ, with great healings, signs and wonders.
- God did remarkable things during the awakenings of 1727, 1792, 1830, 1857 and 1882. More recent revivals in the twentieth century include those of the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival, 1906 (Azusa Street Revival), 1930s (Balokole), 1970s (Jesus people) and 1909 Chile Revival which spread in the Americas, Africa, and Asia among Protestants and Catholics. (back)