In my years as pastor I’ve had people say… “Let’s have a revival!” Each time I refrained from saying what I wanted to because I knew my reply wouldn’t fit what they were thinking. What they were really saying was… “We need a fresh encounter with God. We need to get back to where we need to be with the Lord. We want God to save people!” and I agreed with that! I refrained from saying what I wanted to because my understanding on revival was different from what they were saying.
There is a difference between a Revival and Revival-ism. Revival is a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit upon His people where the result is a renewed dedication to God and the Spiritual disciplines of Worship, Prayer, Bible Study, Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry. Revival-ism is when men do things in hopes of people having a religious experience. Revival and revival-ism can look the same from the outside, but in reality they are not related in any way.
Revival versus Revival-ism. The first is rare… the second is yearly. The first is God sent… the second is man driven. The first comes when God decides… the second is put on a calendar by men. The first changes lives… the second is pretty much uneventful. The first is bathed in prayer for months to years… the second is prayed about for a short time. The first results in permanently changed lives… the second temporarily changes people.
Revival-ism has a special preacher or evangelist to preach (With a music evangelist too)… revival takes place as a result of faithful ministry over time. Revival has God’s presence manifested by brokenness over sin… revival-ism has long invitations where evangelists manipulate people to make a decision (“Every head bowed… every eye closed… if you’re not sure you’re saved, raise your hand… if you raised your hand, pray this prayer… if you prayed that prayer, come down front…” etc. THAT is spiritual manipulation!). Revival has God honoring, Christ exalting worship… revival-ism primarily has music that is emotional and sentimental. Revival results in an increased devotion to God… revival-ism leaves people unchanged after a short time. Revival is needed… revivalism is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs!
Revival is an important part of the Christian experience. Being an Evangelist is a special gift from God. The most significant times in American history are couched in the First and Second Great Awakenings. Revival and awakening is needed in every church and in our nation. But it is not something human beings can make happen or bring about! I want revival and have been asking the churches I’ve served to pray for God to send revival.
Revival cannot be manufactured. Revival-ism is as easy as putting on a play at the local theater. Just because there is “good” preaching doesn’t mean there’s been a revival. Just because people came to the front of the church doesn’t mean there’s been a revival. Just because people say, “This is a revival!” does not mean they are right. All you have to do is examine what people are writing about so called revivals. Click here to read what Lee Grady wrote about the Lakeland Revival in Charisma magazine. Then read John Piper’s take on the Lakeland Revival.
Personally… I want revival! I need revival myself. I want to be present when God sends a revival! I want the people I serve to have revival! I want our nation to be revived! But I want it to be GOD’S revival… GOD’S way… in GOD’S time… according to GOD’S will.