What comes to our minds when we hear the word, "Revival"? I'm sure if you ask a dozen people you get as many answers. Tent revivals, Billy Graham crusades, Wales, The Great Awakening, John Wesley, George Whitfield and Charles Finney are perhaps some of the people and events that come to mind. For some maybe they have no real definition at all. It sounds like just another christianese word that gets bantered around.
The good is we don't have to look any further than our Bibles for a definition. It is found in Revelations 2:2-5:
"I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
(Revelation 2:2-5 ESV)
Jesus is having John write a personal message to the church at Ephesus. There are three points I want to make about this passage:
1. This letter is directed to the entire church, not to individuals.
2. Jesus is speaking to believers who are doing somethings right. He compliments them.
3. They, as a church, have drifted.
First, it is important to note that revival isn't simply about the individual. Of course individuals must have some sort of experience. The church is made up of individuals after all. But I don't think we can consider what an individual experiences a "revival". I'll address this more in a different post. For now I'd like to, for our definition's sake, settle on the point that revival must be experienced by the church as a body.
Some may argue with me that they themselves experienced revival on an individual level, and I won't be the one to argue with you. I'm simply coming up with a working definition of revival that we can use for the rest of our discussion on this wonderful topic. I have to draw the line somewhere and I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that history will agree on this one point as part of the definition of revival.
Second, revival is something experienced by believers. It is true that during a revival many will come to know Christ and be born again, but this is a fruit of revival and not revival itself. It is here that I make a distinction between revival and a harvest (Matt. 9:38). Is it an essential distinction? Again, although I won't fight over it, I believe it is a helpful distinction. I believe this will become more clear as we move along in our discussion.
Finally, revival is a returning to where we should have been all along. It isn't a creation of something new, but a returning to something old. Something that was there but was lost and now is rediscovered again. The passage here could also be translated, "You have left your first love". It doesn't matter much because either way this can include Jesus, our brothers and sisters, our unsaved neighbors, the truth, prayer, the reading of the Word, etc. However, since by loving Jesus we will love all those other things, I prefer to think of the "first love" as referring to my Lord.
So there is my working definition. Or...at least part of it. There is a bit more, but for now I want you to think about it. Ask yourself,
"Is my church in love with Jesus like it once was?"
"Do we really love our brothers and sisters as we once did?"
"Do we love to read the Bible? Do we love to pray (together and apart)?"
"Do we love our neighbors?"
These are all important questions. Be honest with yourself. God will honor this kind of honesty. If you are unsure how to answer these questions, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. He will give you ears to hear and eyes to see if you ask.