“Divine omnipotence is the doctrine of a revival.” —Charles Spurgeon
“The church still has a theology of the Holy Ghost, but it has no living consciousness of His presence and power. Theology without experience is like faith without works; it is dead. The signs of death abound. Prayer meetings have died out because men did not believe in the Holy Ghost. Because Christian experience, though it may have to begin in the Spirit, must be perfected in the wisdom of the flesh and the culture of the schools, confusion and impotence are the inevitable results when the wisdom and resources of the world are substituted for the presence and power of the Spirit.” —Samuel Chadwick
The hymn writer put it well, “The things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Nothing but the immediate presence of God can tenderize, sanitize, and energize the souls of men. Jonathan Edwards wrote of the revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, “The minds and hearts of the whole town were taken off the things of the world and strongly focused on the things of the world to come.”
In 1905 God worked powerfully in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Chapel. Joseph Kemp recorded, “There was nothing, humanly speaking, to account for what happened. Quite suddenly, upon one and another came an overwhelming sense of the reality and awfulness of His presence and of eternal things. Life, death, and eternity seemed suddenly laid bare.”
The dominant spiritual atmosphere in our day is decidedly earthbound. Psychology has displaced theology as the key to understanding life. I regularly meet Christian young people who tell me they are majoring in psychology because they “want to help people.” It is revealing when the mindset among so many tends toward the man-side instead of the God-side, the secular rather than the spiritual.
Most churches are locations where warm bodies are assembled on Sunday morning for the sake of assembling. The church-growth experts have gotten increasing church attendance down to a science. A friend attended one of these “expert’s” seminars. After listening intently, he approached the instructor and said, “I think what you are advocating will work if I implement it and pray about it.” The seminar leader retorted, “It will work whether you pray or not.” Think about it—guaranteed results with, or without, God!
Only a fraction of the average congregation attends other services besides Sunday morning. Very few even make a tangible contribution. Mobilizing the majority for the work of the ministry is not even on the radar. We have normalized the abnormal until the normal appears abnormal!
Back to Normal
Revival is simply the process whereby God restores us to normalcy. When God shows up men are initially alarmed, gripped, shaken, and then moved onto an eternal plane. The world, which is at best a handful of shadows, gives way to the ultimate reality.
“There was life in the air” is how one man described revival. Another person describing the unusual enlivening that occurs in revival said, “Christians are enabled to preach and pray for extended seasons without appearing tired. Worshippers stay up late for the meetings, get up early for work the next day, and rush back to services not wanting to miss a single thing. Sometimes the meetings continue all night and sleep becomes impossible or undesirable …. Rest seems a waste of time in such an atmosphere.”
Jonathan Edwards writes further of the outpouring of the Spirit of God in 1733: “God has also seemed to have gone out of his usual way in the quickness of his work and the swift progress the Spirit has made in his operations on the hearts of many. It is wonderful that persons should be so suddenly yet so greatly changed. Many have been taken from a loose and careless way of living and seized with strong convictions of their guilt and misery, and in a very little time old things have passed away, and all things have become new. There was as much done in a day or two as, at ordinary times … is done in a year.”
The Great Shantung Revival
Perhaps one of the best ways to grasp the power of revival is to study the account written by an individual who was intimately involved and affected from the outset in one of these spiritual earthquakes. Missionary C.L. Culpepper wrote in the aftermath of the Shantung Revival:
- The joy of restored fellowship with God and fellow Christians was overflowing. The joy was so great in certain cases that it took hours to get over it.
- God poured out His love and power in such abundance that many were overwhelmed with it. Preachers were anointed with great power for preaching and witnessing. Love was poured out with such power that whole congregations were bound together in love and fellowship.
- There came into all of our hearts a spirit of gratitude to God and a feeling of our unworthiness to receive such wonderful blessings. Praise and thanksgiving seemed to overflow every life. Complaining and criticism were done with.
- The preaching of the Gospel was with power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Conviction came upon the unsaved and the Word of God seemed to run and have great power. Conversions and baptisms increased the first year … and this work continued for many years.
- There came a great hunger for God’s Word. The sale of Bibles increased so rapidly that the supply constantly ran out. The Christians carried their Bibles with them and read them constantly. They memorized long passages. They put many passages of Scripture to tunes and sang them even while working in the field or traveling along the road. God’s Word became a living book to many.
- There was a spirit of unity and cooperation among the churches. Revival meetings, Bible conferences, and summer assemblies were largely attended. Great throngs of people came and lived very simply in unity and fellowship, and many times under very trying circumstances.
- Christians gladly brought their tithes into God’s storehouse, the church. Many went back and restored God’s tithe which they had neglected to give in the past.
- The Christians grew and matured spiritually. Many of them who had been formerly weak and indifferent became strong and stable in their Christian lives.
- Large numbers of young people were called into fulltime service for the Lord. Our seminary had gotten down to four students before the revival. After this great revival started, the first term we had twenty-five new students, then forty, next fifty, sixty, seventy-five and up to one hundred twenty-five. Many of them have become prisoners and martyrs in these later years. A lot of them have died, but many of them are still preaching though most of them have had to go “underground.”
Revival Fire in Scotland
An ordinary, but godly, young minister in Cambuslang (near Glasgow, Scotland) started reading reports of Whitefield’s ministry and revival in America to his congregation. Later he preached a series of messages on the new birth. In fewer than three months, three hundred people were converted. The fires of revival soon spread to neighboring parishes.
In June 1742 Whitefield arrived in Edinburgh where he spoke to great crowds twice a day. On July 8 Whitefield arrived at Cambuslang. Whitefield describes the scene: “Such a commotion was surely never heard of, especially about eleven o’clock at night. It far outdid anything I ever saw in America. For about an hour and a half there was such weeping, so many falling into deep distress, and manifesting it in various ways, that description is impossible. The people seemed to be smitten in scores. They were carried off and brought into the house like wounded soldiers taken from a field of battle. Their agonies and cries were deeply affecting.”
Another minister spoke after Whitefield, and he preached until one o’clock in the morning. The people were so caught up that they did not want to leave. Prayer and praise could be heard throughout the night in the surrounding fields. Two days later 30,000 gathered to hear Whitefield’s Sunday sermon. Unlike anything seen in Scotland, a vast throng of people gathered for a giant communion service. The revival sent shock waves throughout the nation.
Page after page could be filled with the remarkable accounts demonstrating the power of revival. Here we are at the darkest and most wicked hour in the history of the world. But don’t lose heart because the darkest nights often precede the brightest days. O, for a mighty visitation of God in our midst!
Questions to Ponder
- What is the only thing that can tenderize, sanitize, and energize the souls of men?
- What has replaced theology as the key to understanding life?
- Is your church building a location where warm bodies assemble on Sunday morning for the sake of assembling?
- According to the chapter, what is simply the process whereby God restores us to normalcy?
- According to the chapter, what happens when God shows up?
- Name four benefits of the Great Shantung Revival?
- Whose ministry during the revival in America inspired a godly young minister in Cambuslang?
- How many people were converted in fewer than three months as a result of the revival in Scotland?
- How many gathered to hear Whitefield’s Sunday sermon?
Taken from “Revival In Our Time: Outside The Box … Inside The Book!” by Harold Vaughan.
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