What is Revival? What does it look like? Would we recognize it if it happened? Dr. Barry Chant, a well-known Australian Pentecostal leader, author, and teacher has written a very insightful book entitled This is Revival:A Fresh Look at Revival – Reliving the New Testament in the 21st Century.
He begins by asking the question, ‘What is Revival?’ As he points out, “Some see revival in terms of emotional excitement and extravagant behavior. Others see it expressed through the widespread conviction of sin and shining holiness. Others believe revival is the exception, not the norm. Others live in constant hope and anticipation of a revival to come. So, what is revival? Are we truly living in a time of revival? How do we know when a revival is occurring? How do we recognize a visitation from God?”
As Barry Chant points out, there are almost as many definitions of revival as there are writers on the subject of revival. The word revival is made of ‘re’ meaning again and ‘vival’ meaning life i.e. Restoring to life that which was dying, as in the case of a drowning victim.
Dr. Chant suggests four categories of thought on the subject of revival:
A sovereign, often unpredictable act of God, a visitation from on high. He quotes Martin Lloyd Jones, ‘You cannot stop a revival anymore than you can start it. It is altogether in the hands of God.’ John 3:8 reminds us that the Holy Spirit moves like the wind ‘where is wishes and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.’ This does not eliminate man’s part in it as indeed it requires yielded vessels to be used in the midst of it all. So, people would look at the Azusa Street Revival and many others as an example of God visiting His people in unusual and even unexpected ways.
As Dr. Chant points out, “A second school of thought sees revival quite differently. For its exponents, such utter dependence on God’s sovereign act is unrealistic. Revival is not so capricious and unpredictable. Like many aspects of Christian life, it can be planned and brought about by the adoption of correct principles and practices.” He uses the Methodist Arminianism as an example of this understanding of revival. In more recent times people would point to modern day examples such as what has taken place in Korea. In his book Prayer is the Key to Revival, Cho argues that if people dedicate themselves to prayer, revival is possible. He attributes the success of this remarkable ministry to prayer and claims that “prayer has been the key to every revival in the history of Christianity” (Dr. Chant himself disputes this on the basis of the examination of history) A further example of this school of thought is Charles Finney, who declared, “I have said that a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means.”
3. The Fullness of Time – This one is in some ways a blend of the two previous views. “This view sees revival as a sovereign act of God, but sees that sovereignty expressed through the events and circumstances of history.” Chant points out this view is less popular because it seems less spiritual. The concept here is “the spread of revival depends on networks of communication.” For example, the spread of news about the Toronto Revival or the Pensacola Outpouring drew countless throngs of people to those cities fostering ongoing revival services. Barry Chant’s brother Ken asserts, “Revivals seldom occur apart from a social, religious, cultural or economic setting that creates an environment conductive to effective proclamation of the gospel. Without such an environment, the most fervent and persistent prayers will probably remain ineffective.” The rise of the Jesus Movement of the late 1960’s would be an example of this.
4. Reliving the New Testament – Back in 1866, an article in the Australian Christian Advocate declared, “The church of Christ ought not to need what are usually called revivals for she ought always to be full of life. That which needs reviving is dead or nearly so. He who is alive no more needs reviving than he who is well needs curing.” In other words, revival should be a normal part of the life of a normal Christian church. “Revival should be the perpetual enjoyment of every assembly (congregation).” Chant gives his own personal example in Australia of Leo Harris the founder of the Christian Revival Crusade who declared, “The spiritual revival for which God’s people everywhere are praying may be produced or prevented by the conditions prevailing in the local church itself.” One could point to the church in Redding, California, led for many years by Bill Johnson, as an example of this view of revival in America.
Dr. Chant declares, “I believe the truth of the matter is that (these) nine ingredients together pretty much comprise genuine revival – for they amount to re-living the New Testament today.”
- Sound leadership
- Preaching the Word
- Consistent prayer
- A passion for holiness
- Personal and social transformation
- Gifts of the Holy Spirit
- Fruit of the Holy Spirit
- Music and worship
- Suffering and persecution
Dr. Chant writes, “So we need to ask the question, ‘Is revival only a sovereign act of God or is it the result of careful prayerful preparation or of appropriate social and economic conditions or of dedicated preaching of the word of God?'” He goes on to add, ‘It is probably not unreasonable to suggest that it is all of these.’
What do you say? I would be interested to hear from you as to what you think revival is.