When Revival Comes
As of the writing of this article, it was just a few weeks ago that God came and granted the deepest moving of His Spirit in revival that we have ever experienced in the history of our church. The purpose of this article is to tell some of the testimonies of what happened to give you a sense of the depth of God’s work, what we did to prepare ourselves for revival, and the major lesson learned for any person or church seeking God for revival so that you may experience God do the same in your midst.
On the second day God began moving. A sense of His presence pervaded the service that evening, but I knew God was up to something special when I heard the report of one young man going home, gathering up his multi thousand dollar hobby to place on his burn pile because it had become an idol of his heart. God continued the next day with deep public confessions of sin, relationships being reconciled, whole families being transformed and services that went on for hours. One young man became transparent about pornography, another young woman confessed and sought forgiveness for lesbianism, and a host of other people fell under deep conviction of sin. After what was supposed to be the concluding service Sunday morning our speaker, Laine Johnson, had left early Sunday afternoon for an eight hour trek back to Michigan. About 9:30 or 10:00 that night after the evening service, we called him and asked him to return and extend services, which he graciously did. God continued to move creating a ripple effect in our community.
How can I, in this short article, possibly communicate to you what it was like? How can I describe to you that the conviction of sin we felt was not merely an admission that we needed to repent, but rather a deep grief, a profound brokenness, a personalizing of offending our God. As one church member said recently, “So many of our revival services before were good, and they touched us, and we felt the need to do better and serve God more, and we wanted to do that – but this was different. Those revivals affected us more outside in. This revival affected us inside out. “
WHAT WE DID TO PREPARE
I had a friendship with James Pool of LifeAction Ministries. God had stirred his heart with a unique vision about how a church could seek God for revival. I sensed it was of the Lord, so I proposed to my church leadership that we be a pilot location to test this new model of seeking God for revival. They agreed. (Before I go any further, I want to make absolutely clear that God grants revival. It does not come because of our planning or strategies or a new model. I cannot say this enough. However, we do know principles by which God works. What I am about to write are principles that are Biblically and historically present when God has sent revival). Below were three basic principles and practical actions we took.
To my knowledge there has never been a significant movement of God in revival that was not preceded by prayer. If you are reading this article as a part of the Acts 6:4 Fellowship I assume you know that, but it bears saying again anyway. So we formed a prayer team that led our church in prayer preceding the revival. We had special times of prayer by our deacons and two special days of prayer for our entire congregation. We signed people up to pray for a specific pew. We created prayer bookmarks, prayer refrigerator magnets, and church posters with three specific prayer requests that we asked our people to pray. Additionally, James used the LifeAction OneCry prayer network of around 9,000 people to pray that our church and area would experience revival.
In order to further prepare the hearts of our church we utilized two more means. First, I began preaching almost 3 months of sermons on revival and important points about it. I spoke on what revival is Biblically; I told testimonies from revivals in history, and I highlighted certain expectations necessary to meet God, such as prayer, confession of sin, readiness to immediately obey God, etc.
Second, we distributed a 30 day devotional on revival called Asleep in the Land of Nod by Dave Butts. This devotional educates, challenges, and provides prayer points to pray for revival. We asked our people to start reading it daily one month out.
I mentioned earlier that we extended services after God moved, but originally the weekend was designed to be made up of preaching from a speaker acquainted with gifted in the area of revival, and lay volunteers who has personally experienced revival who gave testimonies and facilitated small group processing based on what the speaker presented. There were to be five times of preaching, testimonies and small groups.
THE MAJOR LESSON LEARNED
I have desired revival for some time, and since 1997 had spoken nationally about it, written about it, and produced a DVD on it. However, I always sensed there was something missing in my understanding. Through watching God work in my church and through the preaching of Laine Johnson, the light bulb went on about where God begins when He brings an individual, a church or a nation back to Himself. In all revivals God convicts of sin, but I learned in this revival that God does not begin with sin in general, but with one sin in particular.
The context of James 4:1-10 is a church that has departed from God (“you adulterous people” vs. 4), and stands in need of revival. In verse 6 James urges them to humble themselves before God, saying, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This raised a question for me, “If God opposes every proud person and gives grace to every humble person, what does that look like practically? What does it look like when God is opposing me, another Christian, my church, or my country?” That answer is very broad and will have varying degrees of intensity, but let me give you a few examples. He will withdraw the experience of His presence. I will be in need of wisdom and receive no guidance. I will be in conflict in my relationships with no resolution. My son or daughter will be wayward and He will not respond to my cry. There is carnage at the base of my family tree. I will be turned over to strongholds of sin (Romans 1:18ff). My church will have a form of godliness, but no power. It certain instances it may even grow as bad as 1 Cor. 11:30 where we become weak, ill, or die. You have heard that you can stand on the promises of God? Well here is one of the promises – every time my heart is exalted, God opposes me.
However, the converse is also true. Every time I humble myself, God gives me grace. The Biblical definition of grace is God’s provision for my need in whatever that is at the moment. So what would that look like? Well, the opposite of what is above. When I need wisdom a Scripture will come to mind, a friend will appear, or I will be enlightened in prayer. God will pursue my wayward son or daughter. His presence and power are manifested in my church to set people free, to deliver them from strongholds and addictions. Relationships are reconciled. My family tree is transformed.
If you receive nothing else from this article, know this: God’s grace began to be poured out after we humbled themselves before God AND one another. The repentance that happened was NOT behavioral at first. It was a heart attitude of submitting to Him, of humbling ourselves, confessing our sins and transgressions to one another so that we were healed. In other words, the clog in the spiritual pipeline does not become unstuck just because you pray. It becomes unstuck when you humble yourself and pray. This is why Christians have been praying for revival for years in our churches and nation, yet God has not only failed to grant it, but has increasingly opposed us as evidenced by turning us over to skyrocketing sin and gross immorality.
What we discovered in our church was that we were a proud people and we didn’t even know it because we had adopted cultural standards by which to judge ourselves. When people humbled themselves before God and one another, God’s grace and power began to flow in profound transformation. Let me urge you the reader, as you seek God’s revival for your life and church to begin by studying what it biblically means to humble yourself. The lesson I learned is that pride/humility is the gateway through which all the blessings of God’s working flows.
©2014 John Franklin. Dr. John Franklin currently serves as the Sr. Pastor of Post Oak Baptist Church in Russellville, KY. Well studied in the topic of revival, John has authored several books and other resources on the history of revival and the need for it today. For more information on John and his ministry please visit, www.johnfranklinministries.org.