It is difficult to define revival, and to attempt to do so must be done circumspectly. When we refer to ‘revival’, we refer not only to a series of revival services, campaigns or gatherings but also to the sovereign, spontaneous, inexplicable outpouring and working of the Holy Spirit, which can never be organised or planned.
‘…a people saturated with God.’
Revival is more than successful evangelisation, and more than miracles, signs, wonders and healings. Revival has a godly element that cannot be explained in human terms. It is a divine intervention because it brings a deep, and usually, unnerving conviction of sin. There is an inexplicable presence of God. Ultimately, revival brings exceptional joy and the absolute certainty of one’s salvation. Scottish preacher and revivalist, Duncan Campbell, describes revival as ‘a people saturated with God.’
Duncan Campbell also said, “When I speak about revival, I do not mean a time of religious entertainment, with crowds gathering to hear and enjoy an evening of bright gospel singing; I do not mean a well-organised evangelistic crusade with ever-so-many converts. Revival is rather a going of God among the people, an awareness of His presence, His holiness, His fear, and awareness of the need to walk softly before God, lest I grieve Him.” This is perhaps the closest description of revival we can make.
…something supernatural happens in people’s hearts.
During revival, something supernatural happens in people’s hearts, often in the blink of an eye, although sometimes more gradually. There is a new connection with God, an absolute surrender, a radical obedience, and a fervent love for God and all humanity. People start worshipping God in spirit and truth instantly. God’s presence is experienced in a way that cannot be described in words. This experience is found in nearly every revival, whilst simultaneously, there is brokenness before God, and a fearlessness to follow Him without compromise. God is at the centre – not people, or their gifts, preaching or eloquence.
There is always a remarkable and inexplicable increase in prayer during times of revival. People do not have to be encouraged to attend prayer meetings. This is accompanied by a heavy burden for the unsaved and the unreached. Sometimes, more people attend prayer meetings than they do church services!
Perhaps the best way is to tell what people experienced during a revival to try to find a definition of revival and realise it is impossible to give a definition of revival.
The following is such an account of a “non-Christian.” The following insert comes from the book The World Aflame by Rick Joyner. William Stead, the editor of the famous Paul Mall Gazette was thought by some people to be the most powerful man in Britain at the time. He made a personal visit to the revival and the London Methodist Times recorded the following interview with him on his return. (The interview was published in The Great Revival in Wales, Shaw, p.56).
“Well Mr Stead, you’ve been to the revival. What do you think of it?”
“Sir”, Mr Stead replied, “the question is not what I think of it, but what it thinks of me, of you, and all the rest of us. For it is a very real thing, this revival, a live thing which seems to have a power and a grip which may get hold of a good many of us at present are mere spectators”
“Do you think it is on the march then?”
“A revival is something like a revolution. It is apt to be wonderfully catching.”
“You speak as if you dreaded the revival coming your way.”
“NO, that is not so. Dread is not the right word. Awe expresses my sentiment better. For you are in the presence of the better. You have read ghost stories and can imagine what you would feel if you were alone at midnight in a haunted chamber of some old castle and you heard the slow and stealthy step stealing along the corridor where the visitor from another world was said to walk. If you go to South Wales and watch the revival you will feel pretty much just like that. There is something there from the other world. You cannot say whence it came or whither it is going, but it moves and lives and reaches for you all the time. You see men and women go down in sobbing, agony before your eyes as the invisible Hand clutches at their heart. And you shudder. It is pretty grim I tell you, if you are afraid of strong emotions, you better give revival a wide berth.”
“But is it all emotion? Is there no teaching?”
“Precious little. Do you think teaching is what people want in revival? These people, all the people in a land like ours are taught to death, preached to insensibility. They all know essential truths. They know they are not living as they ought to live, and no amount of teaching will add anything to that conviction.”
“Then I take it your net impressions have been favourable?”
“How could they be otherwise? Did I not feel the pull of the unseen Hand? Have I not heard the glad outburst of melody that hailed the confession of some who in a very truth had found salvation? Of course, it is all a very much like what I have seen in the Salvation Army. And I was delighted to see that at last the Welsh churches are recognising the equal ministry of men and women all, and so far its fruits have been good and only good.”
“Will it last?”
“Nothing lasts forever in the mutable world… But if the analogy of all previous revivals holds good, this religious awakening will be influencing for good the lives of numberless men and women who will be living and toiling and carrying on with this God’s world of ours long after you and I have been gathered to our fathers.”
Article taken from South African Revivals: 1786 – 2015 written by Bennie Mostert.