Revival is a term that Pentecostals talk a lot about, sing about and preach about. However, what exactly is revival and what is not? That’s an important question to ask.
Revival is a season of a visitation of God that is marked by deep working of repentance, calls to intense holy living and marked by dramatic conversions, creative healings and undeniable deliverance from sin and demonic activity. If any of these factors are missing, the question of is it a revival must remain.
Having church growth or even a gospel crusade does not equal to revival. We have all heard of ministries saying they are in revival because they are seeing an increase in attendance or people healed. While should be standard, it is not what should be understood as a revival of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, revival will also include evangelism but evangelism does not always become a revival. This is a common misunderstanding. I have seen some amazing soul winning churches that did not walk out deeper levels of holiness and miracles becoming the norm.
However, here is some of the things needed to consider if it should be a deemed what church historians call revival. One of that historical nature only comes normally once a generation. It was in my teenager years that I got swept into the Kingdom during the Pensacola Outpouring at the Brownsville Assembly of God.
The message of revival
There is something that all revivals have in common: hard preaching on holiness and consecration. The heartbeat of a move of God is to call men to repentance. That means how people think about God, sin and themselves. It is to see the reality of one’s sinfulness and turn from it with disdain for transgression. Any preaching at a revival will be focused on Jesus and our depravity as humans. We are morally and spiritually corrupt and as a result, we are enemies of God’s holiness and righteousness.
Paul was writing to the believers in Corinth that they should no longer live for themselves but for Christ who died for them. (2 Cor. 5:15) As new creation, they no longer lives for their wants and desires. That man that wanted to be amazing and have “greatness” was dead. Any revival that focuses on how amazing you are despite your sinfulness is not a revival of any biblical reality. It is a false fire, a false revival.
Having read the sermons of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, William Seymour, T.L. Leonard and David Wilkerson; I can tell you one thing they have in common: hard hitting messages of repentance. They preached much like John the Baptist, “repent or perish!” (Luke 13:5)
True revivalists preach for people’s souls, not for big crowds and offerings. This is a major test of revival to see if it authentic or not. Anyone can have church every night and give TED talks with some bible verses out of context. The difference is the message and if it is under the anointing.
Transformed at the altar
What happens at the altar for the people is where the rubber meet the road. Do people get up more in love with Jesus, their family and purity than ever? That is the ultimate goal of any time spend at the altar. People filling the altar but leaving with just “goose bumps” does nothing for them, the church or their eternity. They will just go to hell talking about an emotional high they got at a Pentecostal church.
The primary focus of any encounter is first and foremost spiritual. Without that, it is all temporal. With that said, miracles happen in the place of outpouring. Seeing people healed from disease and demons come off people should be normality in revival. If this is not the case, I believe there needs to be some questions asked.
A major focus of any move of God is the preaching of the gospel. The word of God tells us that casting out of devils, speaking in tongues, supernatural protection and divine healing will be the confirmation of the message of Jesus saves, heals and delivers. (Mark 16:15-20) The emphasis is not on the miracles but on the message of the Miracle Worker!
The reason this matters is there are many good orators in our churches. Some of them can reach people at a emotional level and fill the altars of people having a response but there is nothing happening in the spiritual areas of their lives. The ability to influence someone’s emotions does not equate a move of God.
Revival is congregational
If you have been around Pentecostals as long as I have, you have heard about how some conference will bring a nation shaking awakening. The problem is we know this is all hype. This is said for marketing purposes and does not work….biblically or philosophically.
History shows us that every revival was based in the local congregation. The reality is that a move of God needs the foundation of leadership and fellowship to sustain. God does this through an established fellowship that has elders and regional leadership. The two greatest outpouring of the last century: Azusa Street and Brownsville both happened in the context of established community.
As lives are changed, they will need spiritual fathers and mothers to come into their lives. In order for that to happen, they have to have a family of believers that existed prior to the influx of new believers when the Spirit pours out. An evangelist having a conference at a hotel can’t deal with child molesters, murderers, drug dealers and prostitutes coming to Jesus and wanting to change their lives. It will take day in and day out mentorship. That can only happen in a context of local assembly.
This is not to say there is not a place for conferences. It is just to say that a move of the Spirit, a mighty manifestation of outpouring, a national revival will not come from it. It did not happen in the bible and it has not happened in 2,000 years of church history.
Revival is our eschatology. Embrace it.