Lessons and Implications
from Pan Borneo/Kalimantan
April 1-4, 1997
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"
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
c. Signs and Wonders Important for
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
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
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,
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
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
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,