Revival Lessons and Implications

from Pan Borneo/Kalimantan Conference
April 1-4, 1997


This is a good abstract and lesson on what revival is in general...

The term revival is not found in the Bible, although it is easy to defend it as a biblical concept. The term is made up of two parts, "re" and "vival". The first part means simply "again", the second comes from a verb meaning to give life. So the term implies that something has died and is brought back to life. The verb revive is explained as "come back to life after apparent death; be renewed or refreshed" (Webster).

The word revival has been used in different ways in Christian literature. I will not take time to discuss this in this workshop, but rather try to point to some biblical terms for the reality I think constitutes biblical revival and then try to illustrate this by a few examples from revival literature. Just now I think it is enough to say that most writers on the subject will agree that revival is a revitalization of spiritual life.

Biblical Terms: What is Revival?

A. A Sovereign Act of God
Some Western Christians seem to think that man can plan and arrange revival. They even advertize revival in their papers. I tend to agree with Michael L. Brown who says, "You see, revival is not something you 'hold' anymore than you 'hold' a hurricane, nor is it something you 'schedule' anymore than you 'schedule' an earthquake. Perish the thought! And revival is not something that man works up; rather, revival is something that God sends down. We pray, we believe, we cooperate with the Lord, but in the end, only He can send the rain. We are utterly dependent on Him."

    Revival is God's gift. Man can neither command it nor make God grant it: God sovereignly gives revival when and where He wills. It "breaks out," "strikes," "quickens the church," "comes with the suddenness of a summer storm," "makes its appearance," "inaugurates a work of grace," and "blesses His people." (McGavran, 1980, p. 189).

Yes, real revival is a sovereign act of God. No man can produce it. God chooses in his wisdom and power to reveal himself in a special way. One of the biblical terms for it can be found in Luke 19:44.

B. "A Time of Visitation" - God's kairos - Luke 19:44
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem "because you did not know the time of your visitation". It seems clear that during the earthly ministry of Jesus, God visited the people of the old covenant in a special way. Of course, God was always present. But not always in the same way. There are times and seasons in God's plans for his people and I think for all the people groups of the world. And these times of visitation are golden opportunities. When God visits, you better welcome him. God chooses sovereignly the time. But man can refuse to welcome him.

Again, as Brown says, you cannot schedule a revival. As Jesus said, "It is not for you to know times and seasons which the Father has put on His own authority" (Acts 1,7). "Seasons" - kairos in Greek - is an interesting word. In the Bible it is a term for a specially qualified time, a time of a special divinely decided content, something very close to a time of visitation.

C. "Times of Refreshing" - Acts 3:19
As Peter preached to the crowd after the healing of a cripple at the temple of Jerusalem, he said, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of God." Again, God was certainly near, to which they all were witnesses, since the formerly crippled man was rejoicing in their midst. But Peter promises time of another quality, does he not? This term too seems to point to special times with a quality different from the usual.

D. The Manifest Presence of God
Almost all reports from revivals have at least one common trait. They speak of an overwhelming sense of and experience of the presence of God. Suddenly he is in their midst in such a convincing way that they can feel it, many times even in a psychical way.

God never left our world. Paul, even when speaking to pagans in Athens, proclaims that "He is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:27-28). In the church Jesus is present every time we gather in his name. He promised, "For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Mat 18,20). He is present when the church move out in missions. "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat 28:20).

Still the whole Bible shows us that there are times and seasons when God is present in a special way. Theologians speak of God's manifest presence. Let me just remind you of what happened at the dedication of Solomon's temple. "When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house" (2 Chron 7:1-2).

Isaiah longed for and prayed for the manifest presence of God. "Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence--As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil--To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence!" (Isaiah 64:1-2).

This reminds me of something an East-African evangelist, Geoffrey Rubusisi, told me. He said the reason the revival there continued for such a long time was their faithful PhD's. Their were not Doctors of Philosophy, but people that PHD--Prayed Heaven Down.

The church in Jerusalem certainly experienced God's manifest presence from the day of Pentecost on. But still they longed for an even stronger presence. So they prayed, "Now Lord, look on their threats"--that is all they need when they think of their persecutors--"and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30).

I will come back to this passage later. But read the next paragraphs and see how God answered their prayers by his manifest presence.

So then, what is revival? It is God's chosen time, his time of visitation for a people, for a district, for a nation, when the ever present God manifests his presence on earth. As Brian Mills says, "The overwhelming sense of the presence of God, which we sometimes experience in large, spiritually- and emotionally-charged meetings, is now experienced by individuals who may have no thought or desire for spiritual things. God's glory comes down!" (1990, p. 22). R.E. Davies says, "Those present at the times of revival testify to an unusual sense of God's presence, which at times pervades a whole community" (1992, p. 224).

II. Revival or Awakening

In light of Luke's reports in Acts it seems possible to argue for two different forms of revival, although with a lot of similarities. I see the last part of Acts 4 and Acts 5 as a description of the first revival after Pentecost. It is a real re-vival because it revives the pentecostal experience. At Pentecost Luke tells that "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (2:4). In Acts 4 he repeats the exact words: "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (4:31).

Some people call the account of Philip's ministry in Samaria in Acts 8:4-25 the first revival outside the Jewish community. In the strict meaning of the word revival, this is not a re-vival since there is nothing to revive. Philip and later Peter and John minister to people who did not know Jesus before Philip arrived to their city. Some would prefer to call this an awakening instead of a revival.

Revival then is something beginning in groups of people with a former knowledge of Christian faith; awakening is for people without this former knowledge. Revival is then the need of churches that have lost their "first love"; awakening is for un-evangelized people. Both in the Bible and in church history there is a close relation between the two as revival often leads to awakening.

A good illustration of this is found in Christopher Choo's thesis on the Ba Kelalan revival. Choo tells of a remarkable move of God among the Lun Bawangs in the late 30's. It transformed a tribe on the brink of dying out. Choo calls it "a miraculous turnabout" (p. 17). It was a Philip-Samaria situation, an awakening if you like.

But the main theme of the thesis is about the move of God in 1984-1985, a revival in the same group of people, the Lun Bawangs. At that time there certainly was something to re-vive. They were not un-evangelized in the strict meaning of the word although there certainly were people that did not know the Lord.

I am not sure we have to draw the line too rigidly between revival and awakening. As Choo does, we can chose to call both forms revival, "It would appear that the Holy Spirit blessed the Lun Bawang tribe with two revivals."

    First comes the revival of Christians--a return to prayer, a renewed sincerity in holy living, an appetite for God's word and a hunger for his work. This may find expression in times of prolonged calling upon God in prayer and fasting.

    Then comes a visitation from on high. God intervenes! That is where the element of surprise begins. It may start in a single meeting; it may happen simultaneously in several places. It may spread through the sole influence of the Holy Spirit, or by those who have been affected themselves preaching to others. It may strike the non-Christian community with awesome power, so that hundreds and thousands seek God as if driven by an invisible force. (Mills, 1990, pp. 49-50).

III. Signs of Revival

Many people have tried to map the signs accompanying revival. And there certainly is a set of common denominators, although every revival is different. If we make a list of signs and use it to observe a certain revival some of the signs will lack, but most of them will often be found. I have tried to group the signs.

A. Before Breakthrough
1. In the Surrounding Society

As we look back to former revivals we will often find certain signs in the society prior to or at the first stage of a major breakthrough from God.

a. Social Change
Rapid social change tends to "pull the rug out from under people's feet", and make them more open to change in spiritual matters too. Christian missions have for many years been far more successful in winning animists for Christ than followers of the major religions of the world. It seems, at least in Africa that animists are caught in the modernizing process and find that their old beliefs are inadequate for the new situation. Some of the greatest revivals are taking place on that background. The sobering fact is that they are open to change and that the change will be decided by who is the first to reach them: the muslims or the Christian witnesses.

From a spiritual point of view, we have to consider this situation as the God of history preparing a people for a visitation. Can the social changes following the abolition of head hunting in the early 1900's have been part of the preparation for the first revival in Ba Kelalan?

b. Decay, Injustice, Violence
Many students of church history agree that very often revival breaks out when the society is close to breakdown because of the decline of public morals, decay and corruption of traditional institutions, injustice and rampant violence.

If this is so many Western societies ought to be close to revival today.

2. In the Church
The church itself often mirrors the surrounding society. But the signs in the church are twofold.

a. Nominalism, Rationalism
Richard M. Riss, one of the experts on revival history says, "Prior to revivals and awakenings, there is usually a backdrop of very serious spiritual and moral decline or a time of intense spiritual dryness." Very often we find that a church that has not experienced revival for a long time is marked by high percentage of nominal members, people with no personal relationship with God.

A lack of vital spiritual life often leads to theology marked by rationalism. Theologians who have not seen any supernatural interventions will tend to explain away even the wonders and signs described in the Bible and certainly the possibility of supernatural signs in our age.

b. A Hungry, Desperate Minority
Let me quote Riss again. After describing the spiritual and moral decline and dryness, he continues, "In response to these conditions, many will come together for intense prayer. Very often people make serious agreements with one another to pray together regularly for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit. This engenders an exhilarating sense of expectancy that God will move in a miraculous manner. Then suddenly the power of God falls."

What I designated as the first revival after Pentecost in Jerusalem was preceded by the church raising "their voice to God with one accord" (Acts 4:24), just as Pentecost itself was preceded by the 120 who "all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14).

Says Choo, "The example of the Ba Kelalan revival shows a common trait among revivals - that prayer and revival always go together, and are inseparably linked. The prayer warriors at Ba Kelalan - mainly a group of womenfolk among the Lun Bawangs - were partly responsible for revival through their constant intercession at their prayer hill meetings" (p. 7).

I do not think you can study any known revival without finding this close connection between prayer and revival. Some will say that the revival is the result of the prayers. Others will see the intense prayers as the first sign that God already has started his new move. Only God himself can make people enter into that kind of time-consuming and extended fasting and praying. Rick Joyner asks, "Did the intercession bring forth the revival or did the impending revival bring forth the intercession? In other words; does the travail cause the baby or does the baby cause the travail? Obviuously it is the latter" (Joyner, 1993, p. 100).

The least we can say is that prayer and revival are inseparably linked together.

    In hundreds of instances, prayer has brought revival. The pattern is the same: first intense prayer, often long continued, then revival. ... Revival is God's gift. ... But God responds to sincere continued prayer. Prayer is what God wants His people to offer. "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." (McGavran, 1980, pp. 188-190).

    Of all the characteristics of revival, the most important and universally prominent must surely be prayer. In every revival, whether in history or in the recent past, prayer has gone before it, prayer has been a feature of it, and prayer has continued as long as the revival has continued. (Mills, 1990, p. 109).

Riss says that the intense prayer "engenders an exhilarating sense of expectancy that God will move in a miraculous manner". This expectancy is created partly by a growing confidence in the promises in the Bible, and often partly by a new and growing ability to hear the voice of God. The hunger for a new move of God is fertile ground for the prophetic giftings. "Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets," says Amos (3:7). Prayer promotes prophecy, and prophecy promotes prayer. Praying believers hear the voice of the Lord promising revival; prophets give words and visions from God and send the people back to prayer with a new and heightened expectancy.

I think I can safely say that we never have seen such a vast number of people praying for revival as we have in the world right now. In the Western world we look to what God is doing already in many other parts of the world and cry out asking him to pour out his love and power in the same manner on our spiritually dry and barren nations. God has promised, "I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh" (Acts 2:17). This certainly includes Asian flesh, and we rejoice in seeing him do it in many parts of Asia. But does it not include European flesh too? Our part of the world needs a major outpouring from heaven. When you pray, please pray for us too.

B. Double Breakthrough
Even with the intensified prayer and the renewed ability to hear the voice of God it always surprise people when God intervenes in a new and powerful way. And very often it seems that we can talk of a double breakthrough.

1. Suddenly
I will quote Richard Riss again, "Then suddenly the power of God falls; very often there's a specific point in time at the outset of an awakening when God's presence is immediately recognized by the people."

Yes, it happens suddenly. "The Lord whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple" (Mal 3:1). Yes, "God's presence is immediately recognized by the people". But this is not the whole picture. The tragedy is that many people, even praying Christians, do not recognize God when he moves in a new way. Our God is a God of surprises. "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord" (Isa 55:8). It is part of God's unchanging nature to do a new thing. "Behold, I will do a new thing" (Isa 43:19).

Time and time again in the history of revival we see how God intervenes in what some people think is the wrong place at the wrong time and in a wrong way. He starts his new move in the wrong group of Christians with a theology that is not as sound and solid as ours. As Rick Joyner says, "He is still born in stables."

    That the Lord of Glory would choose such a place to make His entry into this world is one of the profound revelations of His message to man. We would do well not to miss His point as He has not stopped using such places to make His appearances. Just as the Lord chose Wales, the least of the principalities of the British Isles, He later chose the tiny little Azusa Street Mission and three humble, but courageous black pastors to change the face of modern Christianity. (Joyner, 1993, pp. 78-79).

The leaders of Israel were longing for the coming of the Messiah and had their own set of expectations on how this was to be, and when he came they did not recognize him and embrace him. Says Michael Brown who is ministering in the midst of the outpouring that just now sweeps thousands into the Kingdom in Pensacola, Florida in United States, "Of course -- how pathetic! -- the critics continue to raise their voices and attack those things of which they are ignorant. But what would revival be like without the critics? (That's similar to asking what the Gospels would be like without the Pharisees)."

Pride and an often hidden attitude of being the group that is really at the cutting edge of what God is doing today, can hinder us from seeing what he really is doing and leave us out of the coming revival. "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble," says Peter (1 Pet 5:5).

    It has been almost universal that those who are mightily used by God begin to feel at least a subtle pride in it. Therefore, many of those who were mightily used by Him in the past are actually being resisted by Him when the time for the next movement begins. (Joyner, 1993, p. 89).

2. First: the Church
Even with a God that does a new thing, we can detect certain traits typical for his renewing and reviving work. Again we will go back to Acts 4 and 5 and to church history to try to detect some of them.

As we have seen, the first revival after Pentecost in Jerusalem started with a prayer meeting. God answered their prayer in a mighty way. Reading the description Luke gives, we can safely conclude that the revival started out in the church. The believers were assembled. They prayed. "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4,31). The rest of chapter 4 and the first eleven verses of chapter 5 are devoted to describe the effects of this new outpouring on the church. Then follow the effects on the surrounding society.

This is typical of many revivals. We can discuss, as many have done, if this is renewal or revival. But the fact is that God often begins his new move by pouring out his Spirit on the church or parts of the church or sometimes even a few individuals. It may be that he does this to prepare his church to be an instrument in the coming harvest. The time span for this first stage may vary greatly. But even in the first stage we often see the church harvesting a small first-fruit of new converts, small compared to the coming harvest, but significant compared to what used to normal.

One example is the Pentecostal movement which started in Los Angeles at the beginning of this century. During several years in the beginning the ingathering of new converts was rather small. But since that time it has grown to be the greatest revival of all times.

    I think many people would be very surprised if they studied the primary sources associated with the Great Awakening in America, for example, or even the Pentecostal revival. The primary sources often record very small numbers of conversions during those awakenings, but they do so very excitedly, referring such events as miraculous, and "surprising." The numbers are very small by today's standards, which have been influenced by the advent of certain techniques of mass evangelism which did not exist until more recently. Nevertheless, I think what you will find is that the number of people who remain Christians as a result of an awakening is significantly higher porportionately (by a different order of magnitude) than the numbers who are converted as a result of the modern methods of mass evangelism. (Riss, 1996).

Most of the signs I will comment on in the following are typical not only for this first stage, but for the next stage as well.

a. New Boldness
The first result Luke mentions after the new outpouring in Jerusalem was a new boldness in speaking the word of God. "They spoke the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4,31). Since the preaching by the apostles is mentioned later, I tend to understand this as a description of all: "All were filled ... and they spoke."

The word used for "speak" here is not the word usually used for preaching or teaching. Some have said that the Holy Spirit made all the believers bold "gossipers of the Gospel". They became active witnesses sharing the good news with their fellow men.

This is a common trait when we study revivals. Suddenly formerly silent people start to talk about the truths of the Gospel and the virtues of their beautiful Lord and Savior. We find a remarkable upsurge of spontaneous evangelism.

b. New Unity
"Now the multitudes of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common" (Acts 4,32). Shortly, a new unity is an important part of the outpouring. It goes deep: "one heart and one soul", and it is practical, "they distributed to each as anyone had need" (4,35).

In almost every report from revivals in newer times we see that former dividing lines, theological, denominational, even ethnic, becomes less important than they used to be. Christians that used to be concerned only about their little parcel of the Lord's vineyard suddenly become Kingdom people.

At the same time we cannot hide that revival always creates new dividing lines as I already have mentioned.

c. Forceful Preaching
"With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (4,33). The preaching in revival times seems to be marked by both a new power and a new urgency. I do not speak of humanly forceful preaching, but preaching with an inner strength and leading to deep conviction. Both heaven and hell become more than concepts. Never was Jesus painted more beautifully than during such days. Never was sin more awful. "Great emphasis is placed on the Bible and its teachings. Stress is usually laid upon the suffering, cross, blood, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ," says Richard Riss.

The new spiritual power takes the word of God directly to the hearts of men. It leads to conversion of the already converted. The lukewarm is called back to his first love.

    Powerful, urgent, relevant, Christ-centred communication of the gospel, emphasising the holiness and grace of God and the need for personal response is the kind of proclamation that has normally been a feature in revivals. (Davies, 1992, p. 222).

    Much of the preaching, teaching, counselling, and music during a revival seems to have an unusual ability to penetrate the hearts of the hearers. There is usually a deep thirst for the word of God, and people hang upon every word that is preached. The Bible takes on new and immediate relevance, and there are phenomenal increases in the sales of New Testaments and Bibles, hymnbooks, and Christian literature. Evangelists usually receive far more calls to preach than they can ever answer, and they are often harried mercilessly. (Riss, 1996).

d. New Joy
"And great grace was upon them all" (4:33). Many are busy telling us about the sadness in connection with revival. There is a time for mourning. But I think an even more characteristic feature is joy, many times overwhelming joy. Who can linger in sadness when great grace is upon the church?

This belongs to the next stage, but let mention it now. When Philip preached the gospel in Samaria, "there was a great joy in that city," according to Luke (Acts 8:8). The joy is evident in both stages.

"Those involved feel refreshed; there is a new lilt in everyone's steps. This feeling of freedom in the Spirit ordinarily gives rise to heartfelt praise to God," writes Richard Riss.

e. Sacrificial lifestyle
Acts 4:34-37 tells of the people who sold their belongings and brought them to the feet of the apostles. This too may be typical for many revivals, not always in the literal sense of selling possessions, but the whole sacrificial lifestyle this indicates. "Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own" (4:32). The need of the fellowship is more important than my personal need.

f. Revelatory Giftings
I will not take time to read the whole passage about Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). But it illustrates clearly the upsurge of revelatory gifts operating in an environment of revival. The manifestations of the Spirit are increasing. Words of wisdom, words of knowledge, prophecy, tongues, and interpretations of tongues (I Cor 12:7-11) are not exceptions, but rather the rule both in the church and outside.

g. Revelation of God's Holiness
The same passage shows us an overwhelming revelation of God's holiness, the God that hates sin and deceit. The fate of Ananias and Sapphira is a dramatic warning about the dangers of hidden sin. The more we experience God's manifest presence, the more dangerous it becomes. Revival history shows that their fate has been repeated; although most of the time the outcome is not so dramatic.

h. Fear of God
"So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things" (Acts 5:11). When God reveals more and more of his glory and power and love and his burning jealousy, the obvious result is fear of God. This is more than respect, it is an overwhelming sense of the greatness and holiness of the true, living God. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is coming. "A lion has roared! Who will not fear?" (Amos 3:8).

    In a revival, people receive an immediate revelation of God's glory and of their own sinfulness and inadequacy before him. Many become deeply distressed over their own wickedness, and an awesome fear of God and his judgment comes upon them. They recognize that they are worthy of nothing but death and divine retribution, and many of them cry out in anguish, begging God for forgiveness for their waywardness and seeking to know what they must do to be saved. (Riss, 1996).

3. Then: the world
At some point the church enters into the next stage of revival, what some will call the real revival. The revival starts to affect the environment around the church in an often unprecedented way.

It seems that all of the characteristic signs of the first stage are not just as evident now; they even seem to increase in strength. But now something is added. What believers more than anything else have longed for and prayed for is happening. It is harvest time.

a. Signs and Wonders
Sometimes, often in the early church, this stage starts with signs and wonders, very often healings. The church prayed that God would stretch out his "hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of" Jesus (Acts 4:30). And as soon as he has finished his report from the first stage, Luke tells, "And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people" (Acts 5:12). A little later he tells more about the healing ministry of Peter (Acts 5:15-16).

As far as I can see it is possible to find revivals where signs and wonders have been a minor feature or where they even may be lacking. But I think you will find these phenomena in almost every major revival.

b. Multitudes Added
"And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women" (Acts 5:14). As I said earlier the time lapse between the first outpouring on the church and the time for harvesting may vary. But still this is the final goal, I think, the final goal of revival for God. Yes, he wants to purify the church and prepare it for the great wedding fiesta for his beloved Son. But he still is the God "who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth" (1 Tim 2:4). He cares for the individual person, but he still want multitudes of men and women. If this is so, revival must be on God's agenda.

    Multitudes become new believers, while those who are already Christians enter more deeply into the fullness of the faith. Backsliders are reclaimed, and many skeptics and curiosity seekers become believers. There are even conversions of ministers and members of the clergy, who may claim that they knew nothing of the power of God until they encountered him in the midst of these circumstances. (Riss, 1996).

c. Signs and Wonders Important for Ingathering?
Some evangelicals have argued that signs and wonders are incidental for evangelism and the salvation of lost people. They contend that the important factor is the preaching of the gospel. None I know of will doubt that people have to hear the gospel to be converted and saved.

But as far as I can see this rather negative attitude to signs and wonders becomes almost impossible to uphold faced with the texts of both the gospels and Acts. The healing of the lame beggar at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem opened a door for the gospel into the hearts of many, and the end result was that "many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand" (Acts 4:4). The same happened in Samaria. "And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did" (Acts 8:6). Peter in Lydda raised a paralyzed man, and "all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:35). Peter raised Dorcas from the dead, and "many believed in the Lord" (Acts 9:42).

d. Contagious
It is impossible in this short workshop to cover all of the signs characteristic of revival. So I will just mention some briefly. Revival seems to be contagious. It spreads from place to place, sometimes very rapidly. The means for this are many, but it almost always involves personal contact in some form or other. Sometimes someone from the area affected travels to an other place and brings the revival fire along. Sometimes people from an unaffected place visit the revival and take the fire back home.

    A true revival cannot be kept local. Revival is like fire that is carried by the wind--its sparks will ignite the dry wood and grass en every direction that it blows. Sparks can be carried by letters, phone calls or newspapers--but most of all they are carried by people. Localities that were far removed from the center of the Welsh Revival, broke out into revival just at the news of what was happening in Wales. In many of these places the awakening seemed just as intense as what was going on in Wales, but it is probable that the spiritual temperature of the entire world was raised a few degrees by this great outpouring of the Spirit. (Joyner, 1993, pp. 77-78).

C. After the Breakthrough
A genuine revival has the potential for affecting the whole society. From European history we know something about the effects of the Wesleyan revival and in the beginning of this century of the Welsh revival. Time does not permit me to expand on this important theme. I just want to point again to Choo's study of the Ba Kelalan revival. A tribe on the brink of extinction became a healthy people able to both thrive and influence other tribes for good.

    A remarkable transformation had happened. Their long houses were no longer dirty or dilapidated. They were cleansed of filth and stench. They themselves gave up their addiction to rice wine. ... One would not have expected such a miraculous turnabout. (Choo, p. 17).

IV. Hindrances for continuing revival

My last point is important. Sometimes God intervenes in a very powerful way, but it lasts only for a short time. In other places, like in East Africa the revival continues for decades. My theory is that although God alone in his sovereignty can create revival, man can stop it. Different students of revival have come to different conclusions when they try to explain the reasons why some revivals had such a short lifetime.

A. Lack of Biblical Teaching
Several authors have analyzed the Welsh revival, a revival that spread as a wildfire and totally turned Wales upside-down, and died out after just a few years. Both Mark Stibbe and several others have concluded that the lack of biblical preaching and teaching must be recognized as a main factor. They find the same lack in other important and short-lived revivals.

    At times of spiritual awakening there is a paramount need for sound teaching and instruction. When those who are revived are themselves soundly taught in the truth of God's Word, they can properly interpret their own experience, adequately proclaim the truth to others, and also correctly instruct new converts. When this is not the case, or when they fail to properly instruct converts of the revival, there is a strong possibility that there will be dangerous extremes of belief and practice, and that the whole movement of awakening and revival will not produce lasting fruit. In the case of the 1904 Welsh Revival, many believe that Evan Roberts' neglect of preaching and instruction was the cause of the awakening's failure to achieve its full potential. (Davies, 1992, p. 223).

    Previous revivals should alert us to the truth made popular in many sermons, that

      The Word without the Spirit, and you'll slow up.
      The Spirit without the Word, and you'll blow up.
      But Word and Spirit together, and you'll grow up.

    The dangers of the Spirit without the Word are particularly visible from the great revival centered upon 312 Asuza Street, Los Angeles, from 1906 onwards. God did many astonishing things amongst the first Pentecostals there. But reading the narratives of those involved in the leadership of that work reveals that the same neglect of Biblical theology which became true for the Welsh Revival in 1904 soon appeared in Los Angeles. ....
    Where the Welsh revival went wrong, and Asuza Street too, was in its repudiation of sound and dynamic instruction from the Word of God. In their worship of spontaneity, and in their outright hatred for any hint of organization, the leaders of these two revivals revealed the very same carnality which they strove so hard to avoid. That is a mistake which we cannot afford to make again. (Stibbe, 1995, pp.xvi-xviii).

B. Spirit of Competition
Others have analyzed other revivals and found that as soon a spirit of competition crept in among the leaders, the revival started to die.

C. Pride - "Ownership"
Closely related to the spirit of competition is pride and a sense of "ownership" for the revival. As soon as leaders think that their group in a way is the main instrument for God's reviving work and perhaps try to control others to keep it within their boundaries, God will either move on to another group or let the revival die out.


Genuine revival is a sovereign move of God. But by his grace he calls his servants into his work.

I will sum up by quoting from a book that just now is being used by God to call numerous believers to fast and pray for revival: The Coming Revival by Bill Bright:

    Who is responsible for revival? God, or man? Do you work a revival up or do you pray a revival down? He rules in the affairs of men and nations. Everything in creation is under His control. He has chosen, however, to give to His children the privilege of working together with Him to take the "Good News" of His love and forgiveness in Christ to the world. In like manner, He has entrusted to man a vitally important role in preparing the way for revival. Whatever God tells you to do, He will give you the power and ability to do. (1995, pp. 15-16).