What is Revival?

By Chris Chalmers

I find a lot of Christians aren’t really sure what a revival is, or often proclaim that revival is here when a church service is a little bit more hyped that usual. But revival is a sovereign move of God in a church, a city or a nation where the church is revived and the power of God breaks out to save many souls and dramatic miracles often occur. Richard Owen Roberts defined revival as “an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results.” He expands upon this definition by defining revival in this way:

There is a very precious sense in which revival is literally “GOD in the midst of His people.” His manifest presence produces all that is desirable in revival. The absence of His manifest presence accounts for all that is undesirable during the seasons of moral and spiritual decline that precede revivals.

When God’s presence intensifies then things happen. This is what you would expect when the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth actually turns up in power in a church service or a city right?

So, for those of us praying for revival I would like start posting some devotions on revival and share a few stories from previous revivals to encourage us about what we praying for, and to grow our faith for revival. Here is the first one from the Second Great Awakening:

The following is a testimony from James B. Finley during the Cane Ridge Revival in 1801, a six day camp meeting of 20,000 people:

The noise was like the roar of Niagra.  The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm.  I counted seven ministers, all preaching at one time, some on stumps, other in wagons and one standing on a tree which had, in falling lodged against another… Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting most vociferously.

While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation such as I had never felt before came over me.  My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lips quivered and I felt as though I must fall to the ground.  A strange supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected… I stepped up on a log where I could have a better view of the surging sea of humanity.  The scene that then presented itself to my mind was indescribable.  At one time I saw at least five hundred swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens.

This revival had about 20,000 people in attendance, which was unheard of in the sparsely populated American frontier.  This revival set the American frontier ablaze.  The Presbyterians and Methodists immediately caught fire, and the flame broke out among the Baptists as well.

This one revival started many others and shaped the course of American history and is part of the reason why just under half of Americans still go to church regularly.  This revival helped shaped America into the very morale and God fearing nation it was until the later part of the 20th century.

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