By Mathew Backholer

Jesus said, “…I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b).

Revival is essential for the life and well-being of the Church. Revival is not evangelism and evangelism is not revival. Revival glorifies God, vindicates His name, exalts Jesus Christ and gives the Holy Spirit His rightful place in the Church. It also raises the high and holy standard of the body of Christ (reviving the brethren so that the subnormal Church can become normal) and saves sinners who become part of the Church.

J. Edwin Orr, twentieth century evangelist, revivalist and world renowned revival historian said, “In times of evangelism, the evangelist seeks the sinner, in times of revival the sinner comes chasing after the Lord.” 

Selwyn Hughes, founder of Crusade for World Revival (CWR) wrote: ‘Evangelism is the expression of the Church; revival is an experience of the Church. Evangelism is the work we do for God; revival is the work God does for us.’

‘For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring’ (Isaiah 44:3).

‘O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for Thy name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against Thee’ (Jeremiah 14:7)

The way of revival is costly and humiliating. It includes dear and costly repentance, often with its exacting demands of open confession (Mark 1:4-5) and restitution (Luke 19:5-10). Leaders above all must not shrink back from paying the price. Leaders can help promote a revival, hinder one, as well as quench it. There is also the dangers of preconceptions – what God can do or cannot do, will do or will not do. Let God be God; He knows best.

‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:7).

A leader can help prepare for revival by preaching the truths of God’s Word (the whole counsel of God), living what they preach and praying for God to rend the heavens and pour out His Spirit. The preaching of God’s Word may not necessarily be what the people want to hear but it is what they NEED to hear under the direction and unction of the Holy Spirit. Preaching must be focused on Jesus Christ, the cross, full surrender and total consecration to Christ; as we are called to walk in the Spirit, be led of the Spirit and obey the Spirit. We are also called to take up our cross and follow the Master; and to put away all sin. Congregations need to work with their leader, not against them. To get right with God and with one another, because where there is unity, God commands the blessing (Psalm 133).

‘Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation’ (Joel 1:3).

Leaders can also share about revivals from history, from those in the Holy Bible right up to the present. Men and women of God such as: Richard Baxter, the Wesley’s, Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Howell Harris, William Grimshaw (of Haworth), William C. Burns, General Booth, Katie Booth (daughter), William Seymour, Evan Roberts, Marie Monsen (China), Mary Morrison (North Uist), Duncan Campbell and hundreds of others, all of whom had the same Holy Bible as us and preached the Word of God, prayed for the blessing and saw the fruit; and opposition, just like the apostles in the book of Acts.  

Revival rocks the boat and often upsets it, but vain is the lifeboat, which is filled with the seas of worldliness. Any unworthy boat or ship that is unable to contain the precious holy cargo will sink.

‘O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid, O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy’ (Habakkuk 3:2).

The most probable reason why any revival will cease is when those involved become complacent and prideful in action and attitude and thus take the revival for granted. Leaders should never take a revival for granted and should remind their congregations of this; it is the grace and mercy of God. Never be foolish enough to boast and brag about the sparks that you have kindled, and walk in the light of your own fire (Isaiah 50:11). If you neglect the One who is a Consuming Fire then the work of God will soon fizzle out, because the Spirit will be grieved. Never trust in your own works rather than the Spirit of Grace and Supplication, the Baptiser in fire!

‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of the Lord’ (1 Peter 4:17a).

‘Gird yourselves and lament ye priests; howl ye ministers of the altar, come lie all night in sackcloth ye ministers of my God.’ (Joel 1:13).

‘Turn ye even to Me with all your heart and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil’ (Joel 2:12-13).

Leaders will have to lovingly rebuke Christians who act in the flesh (trying to imitate the things of God or who openly sin), and on occasions those who oppose the things of God. There is a big difference with a new believer who sins (who may not know any better) and one who is mature in the faith (and should know better). We can also be in the flesh by resisting what the Holy Spirit is doing; rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). Do not quench, resist or grieve the Holy Spirit; openly, or in your heart.

God said, “If My people which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Mathew Backholer is a revival historian, broadcaster and author. Mathew works with ByFaith Media researching and developing new Christian books, writing for the ByFaith website and preparing for new TV projects. His great passion is revival. His various books and websites can be found at the following site.