“To revival
Or not to revival?”

That is the question.

If you’ve grown up in evangelicalism, especially in a Pentecostal or Charismatic Church, you’ve heard sermons about revival. The longing for revival is likely born out of an awareness of historical awakenings where people experienced  God in powerful and personal ways. This is one of the main ways American Christians have experienced Christianity. No incense. No statues. No liturgical calendar. Just Jesus, worship, sermons, and revival.

Today many long for a revival that (1) restores fiery faith to the lukewarm, (2) saves the sinner from sin, (3) cleanses the Bride of Christ, and (4) hastens the return of Jesus. This is revival. It is amazing when it comes. It is an experience of God’s power. But how does revival come?

Some say it comes through prayer, fasting, and seeking God’s face for years, if that’s how long it takes. Others say that revival is a sovereign move of God, that isn’t dependent on our desires, requests, or actions. Neither extreme can be exclusively true.

I’ve heard family members and ministers comment on the Brownsville Revival. Some have said it was a sovereign act of God that began in Pensacola, Florida on Father’s Day, June 18th, 1995. The revival went on for six years with people from all over the world experiencing it. Because of its dramatic beginning and end, many have surmised that it must have occurred only as a sovereign act of God. But Pastor John Kilpatrick, who led the church during the revival, has also attested that years of prayer preceded the awakening.

I’m not certain why God brings that kind of awakening to one church, while other churches seem to pray with similar consistency, passion, and longing, but fail to see a revival of that scope and scale.

The question I want to present in this post is, can human beings live in a constant state of revival? Can we exist in a continual state of dramatic, authentic, overwhelming, divine encounter?

Anyone who has allowed the Spirit of God to touch him or her in a deep way will testify that it’s joy beyond words. Honestly, I would love to live in a state of divine encounter. I remember having experienced the Lord in my early teens and praying for quite some time to experience God the same way every day. My request wasn’t granted, but my relationship with God continued to grow.

Revival is critical for the church. But what do we do next? After the revival? Does there have to be an “after”?

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t live in a state of constant overwhelming encounters with God when He was on earth, even though He literally was God. He wasn’t so overwhelmed by the Spirit that He couldn’t function. Even though He said He didn’t do anything without the Father’s leadership and guidance (John 5:19).

Just before His arrest, Jesus prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Jesus willingly laid down the glory of God, the divine expression of unlimited ecstasy, joy, and peace, that He shared with God the Father, to become fully human, while still being fully God (Philippians 2:7).

Isaiah 53:3 declares that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief …” Jesus even reminded us that in this world we would have trouble or tribulation (John 16:33).

What does this mean? At the very least it means that if Jesus willingly laid down the glory He had with the Father before the world began to come and not be served, but to serve others and give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45), there may be a need for us to willingly lay down opportunities to experience His glory so we can selflessly serve others, as well.

One of Paul’s main messages to the “Charismatic church” at Corinth was that they stop seeking experiences meant to bless themselves alone and start deploying the gifts of the Holy Spirit to bless and lift others.

Perhaps God’s heart for the church is that believers use the fire of revival to cultivate a “long-term burn” in our lives that will transform our marriages, families, churches, and communities.

Maybe God wants us to create a culture that stewards the love He pours into our hearts and shares it with others, instead of creating a culture that only seeks an experience without any responsibility for “bearing fruit” in our world.

Maybe the big issue with the way we define revival in 2024 isn’t that God doesn’t want us to experience one, but that He is asking us what we will do with that experience. Will we cultivate a “long-term burn” and become proactive in reaching, loving, and ministering to others, or are we content to have an experience while the world around us needs a church empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the hope of the Gospel with them?

To learn more about revival and how to create a culture of revival, check out the ISOW Course, “Equipping the Church for Revival” and “Why We Worship” by Lindell Cooley from the Brownsville Revival.

To view courses in Spanish, click here.

—Matthew Foley, Staff Writer