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What is Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

By Jay Rogers
Published April 2008

I have been a student of revival and spiritual awakening since I was converted to Christ in 1985 as part of a church outreach ministry to young adults in Boston. Since that time, I have been in the middle of several movements that have been called “revivals” in Russia, Ukraine, Latin America and even parts of the United States. The Holy Spirit orchestrated these movements, but there was also something lacking. While the Great Awakening of the 18th century transformed America’s cultural landscape, recent “revivals,” such as those during the time of D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday, have been deficient in this quality.

We can always be hopeful for another Great Awakening because God himself has promised that these events will always occur in human history. God is taking us toward a time “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” (Amos 9:13). In other words, there will one day be a time of universal revival. In fact, the Bible is rife with prophecies stating that someday there will be a revival that never needs to be revived.

A common misrepresentation of the word, “revival,” is a planned evangelistic meeting or program. In the historic understanding of the word, revival begins with the recovery of the Lord’s testimony in a given generation. The resulting effect of the revived Church on society with large numbers of people being converted is termed a “spiritual awakening.”

Author and pastor, Paul Jehle explains, “Many revivals have stopped short of their full potential because God’s people had a goal of simply being revived themselves. The goal of true revival is more than church meetings, souls or sensitivity to spiritual things. The goal of true revival is a long-term vision for covenant faithfulness to our children’s children.”

Similarly, David L. McKenna, president of Asbury Theological Seminary writes: “If the church is to be revived, it will be a multigenerational experience which brings together the visions of the young, the prophecies of the adult and the dreams of the elderly. Rather than stifling the energies of the young, we should set them free with the balance of the prophetic Word and a sense of history. They are the fuel for the engine of revival.”

Looking at social trends, some may doubt that we are on the verge another Great Awakening. However, when we look at history, we see that spiritual awakening always occurs after a time of deep moral decline in the churches.

Revival expert Jeff Ziegler notes, “When moral decline is at its most rampant then the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ dawns upon the elect in unusual power and His character is recovered and expressed among His people. Among the society, spiritual awakening occurs when there is great spiritual darkness among the people. When the greatness of Christ’s glorified testimony is revived in the Church, the lost are awakened in large number.”

We should also realize that there is revival happening all over the world today. There are spiritual awakenings that have swept hundreds of millions of people into the Kingdom of God within the last few decades. There is revival in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, China, the South Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia. The sheer volume of people coming to know Christ in this “World Awakening” not only rivals but also even surpasses what happened in America in centuries past.

As we turn to look at our own nation and Western Europe, we see that the supposedly “Christian” nations of the world today are sadly deficient in terms of revival experience. Nevertheless, in times of great darkness in America’s past revival has dawned bringing new light and hope. So we can hope and pray for a Great Awakening in America, which will surpass all past experience.

Today in America, we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening among young people. As a high school English teacher, I have used some of the articles that appear in this magazine with my students. It seems absolutely normal to these young people to read about God in class. This is a big change from my high school experience and what I saw as a teacher only a few years ago.

In fact, this generation thinks about spiritual reality far more than any recent generation in America’s history. They lack only leadership. Every youth evangelist I have spoken with agrees that this is the most spiritually open generation of young people that they have ever seen. There is already an awakening among youth. Every revival starts like this. As one revivalist wrote: “The youth are the kindling that set fire to the old logs.”

Jay Rogers is the director of The Forerunner International, a media ministry that trains students worldwide in Christian apologetics.

See also: Revival and Spiritual Awakening

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