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The First Day

A prayer for Sunday morning

Today we celebrate Your magnificent splendour
For by Your hand You placed time in motion
From the first day of creation until this day
Your creative wonders have filled the universe

Today we celebrate Your mighty power
For by Your hand you raised Christ from the grave
From resurrection Sunday until this day
Your love has given life to all mankind

Father we thank you for today
We give this special day over to You
May we rest in Your presence
Bathe in Your goodness
And celebrate Your eternal life
This day and always

Amen!

(A modern prayer for Sundays from http://www.lords-prayer-words.com)

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“If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of leader. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.”

~A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

“Many times, prayer is the most practical thing you ‘do’ to encourage change.”

Mark Dever & Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community132.

“As long as we are content to live without revival, we will.”

~ Leonard Ravenhill

“The coming revival must begin with a great revival of prayer. It is in the closet, with the door shut, that the sound of abundance of rain will first be heard. An increase of secret prayer with ministers will be the sure harbinger of blessing.”

 

by Bill Muehlenberg

Revival is the need of the hour. All true Christians long for and pray for revival. Without sweeping revival we are in very dire straits. And it is certainly true that we NEED revival far more than what we need to read about revival. But offering helpful works on revival can help us to get more of a hunger and a thirst for genuine revival.

So there is a place for offering some key titles on this subject. Indeed, there are many thousands of books which could be offered here. I will be much less ambitious, and only present a few select titles. There are of course all sorts of general books about the various great revivals and awakenings which are not included here, nor the biographies of the main players, such as Whitefield or Wesley or Edwards, etc.

What is revival?

Before proceeding, let me offer just a few definitions of revival. Stephen Olford says that revival is “the sovereign act of God, in which He restores His own backsliding people to repentance, faith and obedience.” J. I. Packer says it is “God’s quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives.”

“Revival,” says Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “above anything else, is a glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the restoration of him to the centre of the life of the Church.” And Richard Robert Owens describes revival “an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results.”

Speaking of Richard Owen Roberts, since I include one of his books in my list, let me say a bit more about him here. One biographical blurb says this about him:

He worked with the Billy Graham Association and Wheaton College in the formation of the Billy Graham Center Library. His own private collection of some 9,000 volumes relating to movements of religious revival provides the nucleus of the Graham Center Library. From his youth, Mr. Roberts has been a student of spiritual awakenings. He has authored, edited and/or published numerous volumes relating to revival and revivalism.
rortrust.org/about

Given that his own library has 9000 volumes on revival, he is the one to turn to if you want a much larger listing. But if you want a much briefer selection, these books should be of use. I have divided them into two main sections: nearly 30 general works on revival, and then ten volumes on the incredible Welsh revivals.

General works

Backhouse, Robert, Spurgeon on Revival. Kingsway, 1996.
Davies, R.E., I Will Pour Out My Spirit. Monarch, 1992.
Dixon, Patrick, Signs of Revival. Kingsway, 1994.
Drummond, Lewis, Eight Keys to Biblical Revival. Bethany House, 1994.
Duewel, Wesley, Revival Fire. Zondervan, 1995.
Edwards, Brian, Revival: A People Saturated With God. Evangelical Press, 1990.
Finney, Charles, Lectures on Revival. 1835.
Hansen, Collin and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir. Zondervan, 2010.
Hill, Stephen, Time to Weep. Creation House, 1997.
Kaiser, Walter, Revive Us Again. Christian Focus, 2001.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Revival. Crossway, 1987.
Murray, Iain, Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival. Banner of Truth, 1998.
Murray, Iain, Revival and Revivalism. Banner of Truth, 1994.
Orr, J. Edwin, The Eager Feet. Moody, 1975.
Orr, J. Edwin, The Flaming Tongue. Moody, 1973.
Orr, J. Edwin, Full Surrender. Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1951.
Orr, J. Edwin, The Second Evangelical Awakening. Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1949.
Pratney, Winkie, Revival: Its Principles and Personalities. Huntington House, 1994.
Ravenhill, Leonard, Revival God’s Way. Bethany House, 1983.
Ravenhill, Leonard, Revival Praying. Bethany House, 1962, 2005.
Ravenhill, Leonard, Why Revival Tarries. Bethany House, 1959.
Roberts, Richard Owen, Revival. Tyndale, 1982.
Smith, Timothy, Revivalism and Social Reform. Abingdon, 1957.
Stibbe, Mark, Revival. Monarch, 1998.
Turnbull, Richard, Reviving the Heart: The Story of the 18th Century Revival. Lion, 2012.
Warner, Rob, Prepare for Revival. Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.
Whittaker, Colin, Great Revivals. Marshalls, 1984.
Wright, Fred and Sharon, The World’s Greatest Revivals. Destiny Image, 2007.

The Welsh Revivals (of 1859 and 1904-05)

Evans, Eifion, Revival Comes to Wales [1859]. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1959.
Evans, Eifion, The Welsh Revival of 1904. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1969.
Gibbard, Noel, Fire on the Altar: A History and Evaluation of the 1904-1905 Revival. Bryntirion Press, 2005.
Jones, Brynmor, Voices from the Welsh Revival 1904-1905. Evangelical Press of Wales, 1995.
Matthews, David, I Saw the Welsh Revival. Moody Press, 1951.
Paisley, Ian, The 59 Revival. Martyr’s Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, 1958.
Phillips, Thomas, The Welsh Revival [1859]. Banner of Truth Trust, 1860, 1989.
Railton, Nicholas, Revival on the Causeway Coast. Christian Focus, 2009.
Randall, Ian, Rhythms of Revival: The Spiritual Awakening of 1857-1863. Authentic Media, 2010.
Roberts, Richard Owen, Glory Filled the land: A Trilogy on the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) [H. Elvet Lewis, C. Campbell Morgan, I.V. Neprash]. International Awakening Press, 1989.

For the rest of the post…

“How we have prayed for a Revival – we did not care whether it was old-fashioned or not – what we asked for was that it should be such that would cleanse and revive His children and set them on fire to win others.”

~ Mary Booth

Charles Haddon Spurgeon to a group of pastors…

“Your work, brethren, is to set your church on fire…Keep up the fire within, and add fresh fuel to give a more fervent heat.”

“Church revitalization will only happen in answer to faith-filled, prevailing prayer.”

~ Andrew M. DavisRevitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again94.


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Most Christian churches in America are small. In 2012, the National Congregations Study found that the median Sunday morning attendance for churches in the United States was 75 people. The study also found that 43% of American churches had fewer than 50 regular participants, 67% had fewer than 100 regular participants, and 87% had fewer than 250.

Many of these small churches are located in small places. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow notes in his book Small-Town America that “there are more churches per capita in less populated areas than there are in more heavily populated places.” A recent Barna study found that in my own region of New England, 40% of churchgoing Christians live in small towns or rural areas (though, of course, some may commute to urban or suburban churches).

Small Churches in Small Places

Small churches in small places face certain realities. With 45 regular Sunday morning attenders (or 85, or 145), there will be few things outwardly impressive about your gathering. Your meeting place will likely be humble — perhaps not always well-heated or air-conditioned. You probably won’t enjoy the sound of professional-level musicians, see visually appealing graphic design, or hear preaching that generates thousands of views online the following week. The natural pleasure and encouragement of welcoming new visitors on Sunday morning may not be an experience you enjoy very often. With many in your congregation aging, your church will have lots of accumulated wisdom, but may struggle with health, energy, and a willingness to venture into new things.

“Most Christian churches in America are small.”

Beyond these realities, there will be an ever-present awareness of fragility. You will know that if even a few of the regular attenders move out of town, tire of coming, become offended, opt for a more exciting church, get sick, or die, your church could suffer. Even if a few people stop giving, or if a few get laid off, your church likely won’t meet its budget and your pastor will need to find a part-time job. It will always feel possible that the church doors could close for good sooner or later.

Minnows in a Small Pond

Faced with these realities, you will find there are some things you can work to improve. As a church, you may patiently, prayerfully grow toward God-glorifying excellence in your facilities, your music, your pulpit ministry, your small groups, and much else. But you will eventually reach a point where you recognize that, no matter what you do, you will always be a small church in a small place. Even if God brings revival, and you double from 45 to 90 people, you will still be a small church in a small place. At the point of this realization, you will have a very important choice to make.

Some small churches and their pastors will become dissatisfied with who they are. This may manifest itself in a restless striving to implement the latest program from some big church in some big place. It may result in a pastor applying the latest terminology he has heard (in the city) to his own small context, in manifestly absurd ways (like a small-town pastor exhorting his church to “love their city”).

“Without Christ’s sustaining grace, no church will last, or have any lasting impact.”

Or it may settle into a long, slow simmer of discontentment and restlessness and endless tinkering and yearning for something more and better. I once participated in a gathering of fellow small-town and rural pastors. We were a bunch of no-names, but passionate lovers of Jesus and of people. We met in a wealthy suburban mega-church that had a worship band good enough to sell out concerts, a sound board as big as a dining room table, and huge hi-tech projection screens. I’ve wondered since then whether this was a parable of the contemporary American church: a group of small-place, small-church pastors, lifted out of our own contexts and set down, wide-eyed, in an enormously impressive facility that bore little resemblance to what most of us knew, quietly yearning for the resources, personnel, and excellence of a bigger place.

God Tends Bruised Reed

We have another, better way to respond to our small church’s manifest weakness and fragility. Yes, prayerfully improve what we can. Yes, plead with God for conversions. And then receive — as a gift from God — the manifest weakness of our small church in our small place.

Every church, big or little, urban or rural, is utterly dependent upon its Head. Without Christ’s sustaining grace, no church will last, or have any lasting impact. Every church must receive and reckon with this knowledge. But the particular gift God gives to small churches in small places is that their weakness is so very evident.

For the rest of the post…

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