Since finishing Iain Murray’s superb biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones last week, I’ve been pondering the topic of revival. The life and ministry of the Welsh pastor leaves me no option. As Murray, who also authored Revival and Revivalism, observes: “True zeal for revival is nothing other than zeal for the glory of God in the conversion of many.” Or, as Tim Keller explained at TGC13, revivals are “seasons in which the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit are intensified.” (For more on gospel revival, see chapters 4 and 6 in Center Church or A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge.)
While such statements may sound harmless enough, are they true? Some evangelicals today are certainly uneasy with revival talk. Revival is God’s concern, they insist, not ours. Are they wrong?
TGC Council members Kevin DeYoung, Bryan Chapell, and Richard Phillips recently sat down to tackle this knotty topic. “In a true revival, you’re not adding human manipulative techniques to a biblical ministry,” Phillips explains. Rather, you’re “doing biblical ministry, fortified by prayer, and the Holy Spirit is giving you a great harvest.”
Moreover, Chapell points out, “True revival is often very disruptive to the traditional church.” As a result, many churches “want revival until it comes.” On the other hand, DeYoung adds, some don’t desire to see revival unless it occurs in their church.
To be sure, the history of revivalism is shot through with examples of well-meaning people seeking to engineer what only God can do. As Lloyd-Jones warned:
Pray for revival? Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it; it is only given by Christ himself. The last church to be visited by a revival is the church trying to make it.
Watch the full eight-minute video to hear these pastors discuss the temptation to manufacture, the danger of giving up, the problem with measuring success in revival terms, and more.