Earlier this month more than 75 church leaders from around the country gathered in Chicago to discuss revival and pray for God to send it. Just two years ago the same call for such a gathering fell on largely deaf ears. Organized by the National Revival Network and held at Moody Church in Chicago, the meeting pulled together a diverse group—young and old, North and South, Arminian and Calvinist—committed to the common pursuit of asking God to revive his church.
“Despite our philosophical distinctives there was a palpable shared urgency for genuine wide-scale revival and spiritual awakening—for the church to ‘come fully alive to the glory of Christ’—that was heightened by this remarkable gathering of leaders,” says organizer Byron Paulus, executive director of Life Action Ministries in Buchanan, Michigan. For more about the vision behind this unique event, check out “An Urgent Appeal.”
Echoing these leaders sense’ that the church needs spiritual awakening, I asked several others to explain why they ask God to send revival.
Harry Reeder, senior pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama; Council member of The Gospel Coalition; and author of From Embers to Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church:
Because we desperately need it. The Scripture is clear, men cannot bring revival, and revivals certainly do not arrive from cosmetic manipulations but are the work of God alone. The Scriptures affirm this in many texts such as Habbakuk 3:2: “O Lord I have heard the report of you and your work O Lord do I fear. In the midst of the years revive your work and make it known. In wrath remember mercy.” Yet it is also clear that God’s work of revival comes through the divinely appointed ordinary means of grace. Therefore, while we cannot bring a revival we certainly can preach for revival, pray for revival, and seek revival in our own hearts so that a heaven-sent revival would begin with us and then overflow from us.
Why do I long for revival? I live in a nation in desperate need of a gospel awakening that will only come from a revived church. Revived churches come from revived leadership resulting from an unalterable commitment to being Christ-centered, gospel-driven and Spirit-filled. Revival from the Lord brings not only the breadth of influential impact but also the depth of divine intimacy. True revival transforms lives, transforming families, then communities, and finally nations. The revived church that throbs with divine passion will be marked by authentic God-centered worship and an intentional and unstoppable commitment to the Great Commission. One of the founding fathers of the United States in observation of the 18th century Great Awakening said “it seemed as if the whole world was going to church.” The reason that phenomena was observed so poignantly is because the whole church was going into the world. My prayer is not only that such a phenomena would occur again but that it would begin in me.
We don’t love one another, nor do we love the lost as we ought, because we don’t know the love of Christ as we ought. Divine-sent revival brings the preeminence of Christ in the lives of redeemed men and women transforming the landscape of society. Or as a frustrated pagan in Europe once said according to Acts 17:6, “these people have turned the world upside-down.”
Revival, simply put, is ordinary people doing extraordinary things in ordinary places bringing many to Christ and giving glory to God alone. “Will you not revive us again that your people will rejoice in you” (Psalm 85:6).
Scotty Smith, founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition :
Because of our condition. Until the day Jesus returns, our natural drift as the people of God will always be toward spiritual atrophy, not spiritual entropy; toward self-serving idolatry, not God-centered worship; towards using God, not serving God; toward salvation by us, not salvation by grace; toward being coddled, not being changed; toward church as an ingrown club, not church as a missional community; toward the protection of “our tribe,” not the welcoming of the nations; toward hair-splitting factionalism and ugly schisms, not diligence in preserving the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. In short, I ask God for revival because only the power of Jesus’ resurrection is sufficient to keep sinner-saints like us from contradicting the gospel even more than we do.
Because of God’s promises. I also ask God to bring revival because of the many promises he has made to renew, refresh, and revive his people, even before the return of Jesus—promises God has been faithful to honor at various places and times in the history of redemption. Why not us and why not now? Since God has called the church to be a first-fruits-of-the-resurrection people; a preview of coming attractions in the new heaven and new earth; a “city set on a hill” as a down payment of the ultimate New City; most assuredly, he will resource us by the Holy Spirit for such a privileged and important calling. There is no other way, none. Our Father will not give us snakes, scorpions, or stones, but more of his Sprit. Let’s ask, believe, and expect. Again, why not us and why not now?
Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana:
Few subjects captivate my heart more than the historical reality and the future hope of seeing the church saturated by the manifest presence of Jesus through revival. But I don’t love revival alone; it is my love for other things that compels me to long for, pray for and seek true, biblical revival:
1. I love the gospel. In true revival the gospel is preached with renewed passion, boldness, and effectiveness such that conversions—inside and outside the church—explode upon the scene of normalized Christianity. And when this happens, the church recaptures its love for the Good News.
2. I love the lordship of Jesus. In true revival Jesus is fully understood for who he is in all of his glory, power, and majesty. The effect is a transformation of the person, the family, the church, and the culture. And when this happens, Jesus is clearly presented as the powerful Lord that he really is.
3. I love the church. In true revival the body of Christ is spiritually awakened, unified, and full of the God-centered, Bible-saturated, Spirit-filled life for which Jesus died. And when this happens, the bride of Christ is restored to her God-ordained role on earth.
4. I love radical life change. In true revival the thin veneer of cultural Christianity is torn back as sin is confessed, repentance is embraced, and restoration is pursued. And when this happens, Christianity floods the world with what it so desperately needs: hope.
This is what revival brings. I love it, and that is why I pray for revival.
Jared Wilson, pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont; author of Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior:
1. Because a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in my ministry context (Vermont) would lift up the hearts of the dry and weary church here and unify us in worship and mission.
2. Because the historic revivals of New England (and beyond) seem far-flung and far-fetched to many. We have heard of God’s deeds, and in many ways stand in curiosity (rarely awe) of his work in this area in the past. But we ought to be hungry to see them renewed in our day and known in our time. I believe the church in this neck of the woods really needs a contemporary reminder of the surprising power of the gospel.
3. Because revival is something only God can do. Everything else “spiritual” can be faked or self-maintained in varying degrees. If God sent revival, we’d get a firsthand lesson in his passion for his own glory.
Del Fehnsenfeld, senior editor of Revive magazine, published by Life Action Ministries in Buchanan, Michigan:
Prayer for revival is a natural overflow of resurrection hope. The logic goes like this: the Bible is the story of how God is working in history to make everything new. Jesus is the central figure in the story. He dealt decisively with what is wrong with us and with the world on the cross, and proved it by rising from the dead and then pouring out his Spirit. And since the story ends with everything being put right or “summed up” in Jesus (Eph. 1:9-10), we know that God’s plan is to move history forward from where things are to that final climax. Thus God is always working by his Spirit to manifest and extend Jesus’ presence, honor, and authority.
But that process is not always incremental. We learn from both the Bible and church history that there are seasons when God’s Spirit works with extraordinary and undeniable power to rapidly move individuals, communities and even nations toward Jesus. This is revival. Knowing God’s final agenda helps me pray with confidence for the intensification, acceleration, and multiplication of the work of the Spirit right now!