When I was younger I thought a revival was a 3-night event where all the church folk would come together and sing longer than normal. I later came to understand revival as awakening the church ultimately to win others to Christ. My husband and I are inner-city missionaries so I have been thinking about, praying about, and meeting about revival for a while now. But if I can be honest for a bit—I am tired.
Although we have been at this for three years now, at times it seems the lingo of “revival” is still as nebulous and undefined as it was when I was a little girl. It almost feels as if we are chasing after the wind.
I was recently introduced to the work of Jeremiah Lanphier, a lay missionary who began the Fulton Street Prayer meeting in 1857. What began as a small prayer meeting of six went on to spark a massive revival in North American history.
It was said that tens of thousands were coming to Christ daily across the nations with an estimated one million people submitted to Christ in approximately one year. One commentator reflected on the secret sauce of the Lanphier revival saying, “And everywhere, it was a revival of prayer. There was no hysteria, no unusual disturbances. Just prayer.”
As news of this major move of God traveled all over the world, a Chicago newspaper printed the following reflection-
“So far as the effects of the present religious movement are concerned, they are apparent to all. They are to be seen in every walk of life, to be felt in every phase of society. The merchant, the farmer, the mechanic—all who have been within their influence—have been incited to better things; to a more orderly and honest way of life. All have been more or less influenced by this excitement.” (Taken from “Revival Born in a Prayer Meeting,” originally posted in Christian Life Magazine.)
Reflecting on the Lanphier revival, I see that it wasn’t the right speaker that fed this movement. Nor the right aesthetics that fed this movement. It wasn’t necessarily an advanced methodology of evangelism. It was just prayer… earnest prayer that led people to Jesus and He changed lives.
I have grown weary as a communicator of the gospel. I have developed a distaste for continued exhortation without producing the fruit of the spirit. I have championed the word revival so much that it has begun to lose meaning as we wait and wait and wait.
What are we missing?
If we can use history as our professor I would suggest perhaps we have to go back to basics. We have to clear away some of the strategies we have earnestly worked on and seek out Jesus, preach the Kingdom of God and repentance and most assuredly we need to pray.
Evangelist and author Mike Pilavachi put it this way: “Keep talking about revival and you are likely to end up with disappointed and disillusioned people; keep talking about Jesus and you are likely to end up with revival. Our greatest need in the church is more knowledge and experience of Jesus. Not gimmicks, not hype, not better marketing or a more entertaining show. Just Jesus.”