Thoughts on RevivalLet me start by reading a quote by Shelton Smith: "We need a sweeping revival where people confess their sins and get right with God, where folks turn out in bigger crowds at the church house than they do at the ball game, and where the old-time religion still gets top priority!"
There are as many opinions and theories about revivals as there are car brands on the market. These opinions are largely influenced by our denominational backgrounds and denominational culture, our worldview, our knowledge or lack of knowledge of past revivals and our own personalities. But what is certain is that there are a growing urgency and desperation that God will do something extraordinary, and widespread in our lifetime. More and more people are seeking the presence of God and for longer periods. These include lay people as well as Church and marketplace leaders all across our nation, Africa and the rest of the world. What we don’t have is a frame offense, as most stories about revivals are in the history books and here and there one could find a remnant on YouTube that could testify to the powerful outpouring of God’s Spirit at a certain time in history. Certain churches do experience revivals, also in our community but it is localized, and very much confined to that particular church's boundaries. So it leaves us with a lot of guesswork.
Keeping the background of what happened in the book of Acts in mind, when people were daily added to the church, let us for a moment consider a "worst case" scenario, should God decide to pour out His spirit. When revival comes there is a strong possibility that the churchwarden will soon hand in his resignation. Churches' toilets will be constantly a complete mess and toilet paper will suddenly become one of the biggest expenses on a church budget. Church Wardens do not sign up for this kind of job descriptions. Visitors will most probably camp overnight on the doorsteps of churches. They will mess on the carpets and dirty whatever they can lay their hands on, or step on. It might not only be the churchwarden that will resign but also the Sunday school teachers that suddenly have to deal with hordes of children that have never seen the inside of a church before. Church leadership will suddenly be confronted by a changing liturgy and time frame for services that might not fit into their frame of reference very well. Church Members might resign or move to other churches as suddenly they are joined in the pews by people that look like the world, smell like the world and act like the world. It may well be the car guards who irritate the life out of us on a daily basis, it may well be the thieves who stole our taps and copper pipes or the washing from the washline. It may also be the beggars, drunkards and drug addicts who come to our front door or stop us in the street. It will most probably also be people of a different color and the demographics of churches might change overnight.
Prayer meetings will be open-ended and church services more frequent and much longer than usual. Church leaders, Christian workers and lay people helping out will be constantly overworked. The demands of so many people will far outweigh the available resources. When the presence of God suddenly fills a place visitors do not ask a lot of questions. They press in as they are weighed down by their conviction of sin that they don't care less what happens around them. Demons can manifest in numbers. It might be very chaotic.
The following is an abstract from the history of Brownsville Assemblies of God Church found on their website. It illustrates very well a "worst case" scenario. "The following months featured service followed by service, attendees leaving in the wee hours to glean a little sleep, work a few hours, then return to this powerful deposit of God’s presence. Nightly, Rev. Hill shared fresh, anointed messages and cast his nets, drawing in souls touched by God’s convicting power as Charity James sang with the urgent appeal summons, Mercy Seat. Word spread, beckoning the hungry and the desperate from nearby communities, then surrounding states, the nation, and finally the world. Worshipers from nearly every continent flocked to the West Pensacola suburb of Brownsville to receive a touch from the Father.
Rocked by the sudden visitor inflow and awed by this Holy Visitation, Pastor Kilpatrick, Rev. Hill, Pastor’s assistant, Rose Compton, and church leaders strategized to accommodate the sudden response. Leadership scheduled four weekly revival services. Brownsville Prayer, Usher, and Personal Ministry teams, supported by other community churches, mobilized to host the guests. For more than eight years, visitors arrived, hungry, to leave powerfully changed. Over ten years later, God continues to meet visitors from the nations. Millions have come, hungry to hear from God. Hundreds of thousands have responded to His call to salvation and a commitment to holiness, and a fresh charge has issued throughout the world for holiness and fresh intimacy with God.
History has shown that past revivals were always seasonal, it carried on for a couple of weeks, months and maybe a few years but in general never longer than that like the Brownsville revival. Revivals like the one at HernHutt, that carried on for almost a century are the exceptions. Regardless of the duration, revivals demand, as we can see, a huge sacrifice and a serious analysis of it's consequences. My first question therefore this morning is are you willing to face and prepare for the "worst case" scenario? Do you believe it is possible that revival will come to your doorstep? Does the thought of it leave you with fear in your heart, or a sense of excitement or both? For more than hundred years God, through various Church Leaders, prophets, evangelists and visitors to our country confirmed that a great revival will come forth from the southern tip of the continent and spread like fire through the rest of the world. It promised not to be confined to a particular church or denomination, culture or group. The wave of prayer at present is not only born out of fear for the future of our country but also from a growing hunger and a desire to experience God's tangible presence for the lost. My last question therefore is, is your church, school or ministry part of the groundswell of prayer that is gaining momentum in our country? I want to urge everyone of us to step up our prayer efforts, and to be instrumental in ushering in the presence of God. I do not have any doubt in my heart that it will come to pass.
I want to conclude with this quote. Henry Blackaby said: "When Holy God draws near in true revival, people come under terrible conviction of sin. The outstanding feature of spiritual awakening has been the profound consciousness of the Presence and holiness of God" and A.T. Pierson once said: "There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer."
Pierre van Wyk
(At the Uitenhage Ministers Fraternal 29 May 2018)