Revivalism

Who Needs Revival?

Some years ago, I was visiting a small rural church in Michigan where a preacher delivered a message on revival. His text was Genesis 26:18.

And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham.

He argued passionately that what we need more than anything else in these times is revival. In fact, revival would solve every significant problem that exists in our nation, our churches, and in the lives of God’s people everywhere. Near the end of his message, he summarized with these words. “Our nation needs revival, God’s people need revival, we here—we all need revival… I need revival.”

The message illustrates a widespread way of thinking about revival and a common pattern in pulpit use of the term. But three problems with this usage call for our attention.

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Revival and Revivalism (Part 2)

(From Think on These Things. Read Part 1.)

Biblical Basis for Revival

If the Scriptures do not encourage us to seek revival, what does it say on the subject? In the Old Testament we find several references to being revived. The word that is sometimes translated “revive” or “revived” is found two hundred thirty-four times in the Old Testament and it means to give life, make alive, and give new life, depending upon the context.

In Psalm 119 we find this word for “revive” used several times in the context of spiritual renewal. On at least twelve occasions the psalmist prays to be revived. That is, an invitation to renew or make alive the spiritual passions and desires of a believer. By studying these examples we can find the biblical marks or characteristics of a spiritually alive person:

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Revival and Revivalism (Part 1)

(Originally published at Think on These Things, January 2001)

Revival is hot right now. If you read any Christian literature, especially magazines, listen to Christian radio or watch Christian TV, you know this is a subject that is on the front burner of evangelicalism.

In doing research on this topic I turned to the web site of Christian Book Distributors to run down a couple of books on the subject that I had been wanting to purchase. I was a bit surprised to discover that CBD listed 156 books on revival. These are books that are currently in print, and are being sold by this one outlet. This does not include many books that they do not carry nor the many hundreds that are out of print.

Revival is hot and it is easy. Who could say a word against fit? It is like putting down motherhood. Go into any Christian circle and declare that we need revival and you will get a hardy “Amen.” Tell people that you are praying for revival and expect a lot of admiration.

But what exactly is revival? Do people know what they are praying for? Would we know revival if it came, and would we like it? Should we even desire revival?

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