Reviving the Doctrine of Revival
- Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Several weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the National Revival Network's national "conversation" on the state of the Church in America and its great need for true, biblical revival.
This seemingly "old fashioned" word conjures up numerous definitions, some of which have little to do with authentic revival, or "times of refreshing" sent from the Lord as described in Scripture. To aid in defining what I mean when I say "true, biblical revival" I want to draw from one of the most important modern documents written on the subject, An Urgent Appeal - To Christian Leaders in America for Consensus and Collaboration on the Biblical Nature and Hope of Corporate Revival.
The Appeal was drafted in 2003 with input from nearly 100 national Christian leaders who joined together for one purpose: "To urge all churches and all Christians of America to unite in seeking the face of God through prayer and fasting, persistently asking our Father to send revival to the church and spiritual awakening to our nation, so that Christ's Great Commission might be fulfilled worldwide in our generation."
Included in the Appeal is the following definition by J. Edwin Orr that, I think, captures the biblical meaning of revival quite well:
An Evangelical Awakening is a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and in its related community. Such an awakening may change in a significant way an individual; or it may affect a larger group of believers; or it may move a congregation or the churches in the city or district, or the body of believers throughout a country or continent; or indeed the larger body of believers throughout the world. The outpouring of the Spirit affects the reviving of the church, the awakening of the masses, and the movement of uninstructed peoples toward the Christian faith; the revived Church, by many or by few, is moved to engage in evangelism, in teaching, and in social action.
As stated in the Appeal, "...all true revival is about God bringing glory back to His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Church. ...In fact, corporate revival necessitates Trinitarian activity: Father-initiated, Spirit-driven, Son-centered. ...biblical revival is supremely Son-centered - it is utterly Christ-dominated. ...Any spiritual experience, whether called revival or something else, that diminishes Christ, bypasses Him, or actually leads away from Him, is not of God and holds no hope for any generation."
The Appeal continues, "Fundamentally, revival is an awakening to all that Christ already is for us. ...in revival God does not make new things. Rather, He makes things new. He does this by reintroducing us to Christ who stands at the epicenter of His renewing purpose among the nations. ...in revival God accelerates, intensifies, deepens, and extends the newness that Christ secured for us."
There have been three Great Awakenings in this nation's history that profoundly affected the Church and surrounding culture, so much so that history could not ignore these spontaneous movements of God and their dramatic effects. The first occurred in New England during the 1730s and 1740s when God used men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. The nation, which was in a grave state morally and spiritually, was utterly transformed in the wake of the Great Awakening. As Dr. John Armstrong points out in his wonderful book, True Revival:
Before this season of awakening, the American colonies stood at a very low ebb morally and spiritually. Family life was breaking down at alarming rates. Drunkenness and drug abuse were at an all-time high and sex outside of marriage was considered acceptable by alarming numbers of people. After the season of revival things changed dramatically.
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