Revive us again… oh, Lord, revive us again! Those words should remind you of songs that you sang at certain points in your walk with the Lord. Whether they be from an old church hymnal or a fragment from a contemporary Christian CD, surely something comes to mind. The question really is… have you ever experienced true revival, and what is it?
I’m writing this because of the current outbreak of revival that started in the chapel at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. It seems that more colleges and universities are experiencing similar outpourings of the Spirit of the True and Living God. If you are not following this situation, you should. Here are some links to help get you up to speed:
Considering the warped culture that we live in today and the oft reported spiritual decline on many college campuses, there seems to be some skepticism about the realness of the Asbury outpouring. I suppose that is warranted in for a moment, given that we mostly see depictions of college students these days who are trumpeting all the social warrior nonsense surrounding transgenderism and homosexuality. Where do we see it? Well, if you watch conservative news outlets as I do, they show much more coverage of the knot-heads than they do of the traditional Christian leaning youth of the land. Right? However, in the core of the nation, I DO believe – and I think many of you as well – there are many more traditional Americans than there are radical anarchists.
So, where am I heading with this? Keep the faith my brother… my sister, God is still in control. He is not disengaged from America, nor anywhere else, for that matter. It is way too easy to get jaded if you focus on perceived large church corporate environments or denominational degradation or governmental interference. Trust me, I am reminding myself of these truths as much as I am presenting them to you. I have personally worked in small church settings and in major international ministries, so I have seen pretty much everything in church / religious work.
What does scripture say about the thing we call revival? Doing a quick word study in the King James Version, there are no direct references to the word revival. Neither does it appear in the English Standard Version or New International Version. The New King James Version has it listed once in Ezra 9:8 NKJV.
However, the word revive does show up 8 times in the KJV, 11 times in the ESV, 5 times in the NIV, and 20 times in the NKJV. Generally, the word revive carries with it the idea of being brought back to life, being restored, or reestablished through God’s intervention. I especially like Psalm 85:6, the whole song actually, as it depicts how God’s people should beseech Him for what we would call revival.
Personal Experience with Revival
May I share two quick stories with you from my past? When I was a younger believer, around the age of 21, I had my first taste of a local revival within the church I was attending at that time. This was at Avondale Baptist Church in my hometown. I vividly remember this. Dawn and I had just gotten married a few weeks prior, and we were visiting churches in the area. I worked at Fred’s Dollar Store and one of the cashiers was a member of Avondale. She invited me to visit her church, so I did. It was a Wednesday evening service, and I recall walking in after work to see a completely full sanctuary. Dawn wasn’t with me on this first visit. The only chairs available were a couple of metal folding chairs against the wall, near the piano. I was amazed at the church being so packed for a mid-week service.
Avondale was not an affluent church. They were mainly composed of working class people and retirees. Yet, it was obvious, no matter the class of people or their status in the community, God was doing something special there. After the preacher preached, he offered an alter-call and the altar was filled with people, weeping for their lost friends and troubled family members. This moved me greatly and I felt the Spirit of God in a surprising new way. This next part is a bit comical. That same cashier made a point to corner me at Fred’s after that wonderful Wednesday service and told me that “people don’t usually get that emotional at church… I hope that didn’t scare you!” I just smiled at her and said… “don’t EVER apologize for people being drawn to the altar by God’s Spirit. It’s a special thing.“
Soon after, Dawn and I started attending all regular services at Avondale and ultimately joined. While we were there, we witnessed the church undergo two building programs and the membership got larger and more engaged in Kingdom work. After a few years, I was ordained as a deacon and we experienced many many blessings. This was a local season of revival in my opinion.
The second story happened while I was at Chapel Hill Baptist Church in the Milan / Medina area. This happened in the mid-80’s, if memory serves me well. I was on staff at Chapel Hill as their part-time choir director. God was moving within the church and our membership grew from around 45 people to about 125 in just a few short months. The pastor at that time was Dale Denning. He and I were friends as well as fellow ministers. I can say that we were not the reason that Chapel Hill started coming alive, revived in the Kingdom. We were just part of a special recipe that God was cooking up at that time. God was at work in an unusual way. I also vividly recall the following, specific, event.
The leadership of the church struggled to keep up with the growth of the church. This is not a criticism, just a fact. We ran out of room for our worship services, so we decided to build wings onto the existing structure of the sanctuary. I recall talking to one specific gentleman who was involved with this expansion. I implored him to consider taking a bigger step to accommodate more people. However, the idea of going into too much debt was scary to the leadership, and I understand the pressure they were under. So, we moved forward with the “wings.”
On the Sunday before the annual revival, plastic was still up and separated the new wings from the existing sanctuary. The old existing structure would accommodate around 150 people comfortably if you employ the typical 80% max seating concept. The new wings, I think, would add seating for around 100 more people. That week, we started a series of revival services with a powerful evangelist by the name of Dr. Harold Hunter. In that revival, people were flooding the altar most nights with God’s Spirit moving mightily. We had lots of visitors and many who were coming casually, suddenly stuck. They started coming consistently, and our attendance went from around 125 to a bit over 200 from one Sunday to the next! That next Sunday, with the plastic down, we were practically maxing out the 80% rule again – in one week. I recall getting ready for the services that morning and bumping into the same fellow that couldn’t dream of building more space for the future. As our eyes met, he dropped his head, knowing that we were already facing a seating deficit if the church continued to grow. I am not telling you this to gloat, not at all. I love that fellow, and he was only trying to do what he felt was best at that time.
I’m not sure about you, but I say that was revival. From that moment on, the average attendance never fell below 200 and as the years progressed, we started seeing averages of 600, then 700. We worked through three additional building / expansion projects. During those years, I witnessed an extended season of revival. I am thankful that I was a part of it. I experienced so many spiritual blessings over those years and through these experiences, I ultimately surrendered to serve in full-time missions with IMB… and now, CEF.
There you have it, my two examples of revivals that I have witnessed and been a part of. I pray that you too have some stories to tell, about the goodness of God and the supernatural moving of His Spirit.
PS: the photo used in the header was taken by my friends, Steven and Leann Dillard as they made a trip to Asbury University to experience the revival there, firsthand.