We need revival
A vital part of the call of any preacher is to proclaim the Gospel to any seeking the truth. We should also encourage church members to reach out to unbelievers in appropriate ways.
However, we need more than evangelism. There are millions of people out there who do not know Jesus and do not have eternal life. We desperately need special divine intervention to draw them to faith.
There is widespread ignorance of the Christian faith. The church is generally seen as irrelevant. In addition, the church’s reputation is seriously tarnished with the reports of child abuse.
There are good churches with uplifting worship, sound biblical teaching, extensive intercession, loving fellowship and effective outreach and evangelism. But, sadly, many churches are failing – uninspiring, inward-looking, lacking in commitment, compromising biblical truth, relying on committees rather than corporate intercession. Christians may tolerate this but Jesus doesn’t. He says to ‘lukewarm’ churches “I am about to spit (literally ‘vomit’) you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:16).
How do we respond to such failing churches and individual Christians – just ignore them as irrelevant? We need to be more loving than that and to pray that they will experience a mighty intervention of God in revival. In our preaching we need to urge people to pray for such revival.
In America the term “revival” is often used to describe an evangelistic mission. But the deeper meaning is as follows:
“Revival is a supernatural event in the church and society. It is a work of the Holy Spirit which brings: an overpowering sense of God’s presence leading to uplifting, inspired worship; an awesome sense of God’s holiness leading to a deep conviction of sin, even amongst those outside the church; a supernatural drawing of people together and an outpouring of love for one another, all of which leads to a huge number coming to faith. People’s lives and whole communities are transformed.”
The last example of such an event in Britain was in the Hebrides 1949-1952. There was a revival in Wales in 1904 and The Great Outpouring here and in the US in 1859.
I firmly believe that is what God wants to do in this country. For all the compromise and apathy of much of the church he has not given up on it. He wants to restore it in his mercy and love. For all the godless and immoral paganism of our nation, God has not given up on it. He wants to intervene in his saving power.
Reasons for revival
So far, I have only concentrated on one side of the motives for urging prayer for revival – the serious and urgent needs of people in the church and society. But there is another side. We need to pray for revival for God’s sake.
God is love and, although he is not bound by emotions, he does allow himself to experience emotions. So the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph 4:30). God loves every human being with a depth far exceeding our human love. How grieved he must be, therefore, over the millions of human beings who are on the broad road leading to destruction (Matt 7:13). His grief is beyond our understanding. How grieved he must be over the many Christians who are half-hearted in their love and commitment for him. How grieved he must be that the blood of his beloved Son is being treated with deep disrespect by such people! In our preaching we need to encourage people to enter into the grief of God over these issues. We need to urge people to pray for revival for the sake of God’s love.
Then there is the holiness of God. The church bears the name of God. When it fails, it dishonours his name. Yes, churches failing over issues like sexual abuse dishonour his name. But churches which are uninspiring, inward-looking, lacking in commitment, compromising biblical truth, relying on committees rather than corporate intercession profoundly dishonour him too. Individual Christians who are half-hearted in discipleship and adopting worldly standards also dishonour him. We need to urge people to pray for revival for the sake of God’s honour.
Responding to revival
However, before we preach about these things, we must ask God to work in us personally. We need to have a deep concern for the love and honour of God. We need to have a deep concern for God’s church in its serious failings. We need to have a deep concern for all those on the broad road leading to destruction. We need to have a deep desire for revival. God can bring this about if we do not already experience it. To help inform your prayer and preaching read books on revival, of which there are many.
We also need to go much deeper in personal holiness and prayer. How can we preach about God being grieved and dishonoured, if we personally do not fully love him and honour him?
Let’s make a new commitment and rededication to the Lord, entering into his grief at the failings of the church and society. Let’s deal with anything dishonouring in our lives. Let’s start to pray more extensively and regularly for revival, taking all the above motives seriously. Let’s commit ourselves to praying and preparing for revival (including urging others to do the same) so that we might see God bring an extensive restoration of the church and a widespread transformation of society.
Tony Higton is a retired Church of England Vicar who led his church in Essex through a powerful experience of change and growth. He now conducts a teaching and encouragement ministry focused on revival. If you want more information about revival, and praying and preparing for God to come in revival, see his “Network for Revival” website https://networkforrevival.co.uk