I have always been passionate about revivals. I love reading and studying about the historical revivals that have graced this earth. These revival movements were characterized by the preaching of God’s word, repentance, and notable change. I would encourage all Christians to be schooled in the history of revival movements. The study of revivals encourages us that God is still in the saving business!
I would like to share with you 5 historical revivals that motivate me to keep on ministering
Note: Much of this information is taken from the book FireFall, How God has Shaped History through Revivals by McDow and Reid
- The Jesus Movement of 1970
The Jesus Movement arrived on the West Coast and impacted the flower children that were coming out of the 60s. Notable leaders like Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel are often associated with this movement, as well as the emergence of modern Christian contemporary music. The revival spread amongst the youth culture from one side of the country to the other. Musicians like Keith Green helped spread the revival fire while holding up their index fingers and declaring “one way.” One famous movement happened on the campus of Asbury College, here in my state of Kentucky, with many kids repenting and confessing sin for days.
Why does it motivate me to minister? I am reminded that God can spark a revival in the most unlikely of places! If he can save a bunch of hippie kids and spark a nationwide youth movement then he can move in this generation. Imagine if the current youth culture caught fire and began to use digital means such as TikTok, Snapchat, and other forms of Social Media to spark a movement? God can revive our nation and he can use our kids to do it! I want to see kids get saved!
- The British Revivals of 1735-91
The two great names that emerge from the British revivals are John Wesley and George Whitfield Though these two men differed theologically (one more Calvinistic than the other) they were both used by God in a mighty way. They traveled as itinerant preachers to bring the message of salvation to people who needed to hear! I love hearing the stories of open-field preaching, the writing of new hymns, and the new commitment to world evangelization (especially in the New World). Wesley and Whitefield were bold and ushered in great change for England. Sadly, as Reid writes, “Britain experienced the Evangelical Awakening, but no revival of such magnitude swept France. Instead, the Revolution brought a bloodbath” ( Reid, pg.202).
Why does it motivate me to minister? The British revivals remind me that God can wake up the spiritually sleepy. The churches of those times were cold and dead, but God used Wesley and Whitfield to spark something new. I am encouraged to keep ministering, even when I hear about some denominations and churches embracing worldly views and degrading the Bible. These cultural churches who have given up on the Bible cannot stop God from moving. Sometimes that means the birth of new churches and the salvation of unregenerated members, so I need to keep preaching regardless of what “some churches” become.
- The Josiah Revival (from 2 Kings 22-23).
I love the historical narrative of revival in 2 Kings 22-23. The boy-king Josiah reigns in a time of moral and spiritual deprivation in the Old Testament. The temple (the central place of worship for the Hebrews) was in dire disrepair. Josiah orders the temple to be repaired and as a result, finds the forgotten law. Not only is the temple repaired, but the law is read and a revival takes place! That nation repents and turns back to God (even though it is only temporary).
Why does it motivate me to minister? Various reports from Barna and Pew Research are indicating a shrinking of churches. Baptism numbers (especially amongst Southern Baptists) are not what they used to be several years ago. Many churches have lost a passion and a desire to reach the communities around them and have sadly entered into a state of “disrepair.” I am motivated to reintroduce the word of God to these congregations. The word of God brings life and I am encouraged to preach the word of God. The hope for a church in disrepair is a rediscovery of the bible! The rediscovery of the bible will lead to a rediscovery of the Great Commission.
- The Great Awakening of the 1740s
Perhaps one of the greatest and well-known revivals occurred under the leadership of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a congregational pastor in Northhampton Massachusetts. His famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, was read to his congregation and resulted in people repenting of their sins. The revival spread all over the New England area (which was known for being spiritually and morally corrupt). The revival would have a lasting impact on schools, churches, and entire communities. It’s called the Great Awakening for a reason!
Why does it motivate me? Edwards read his sermon! He didn’t use flashy gimmicks or tricks. Edwards relied on the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word of God. He read a sermon to people who were spiritually dead and God sparked the Great Awakening. I am encouraged that God can still do the same. I want to be used by God and I believe that he can take me and use me, not because of my oratory or people skills, but because he is God! I am motivated to stay close to the Father and close to the text of the Bible.
- The Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1857-59
The Layman’s Prayer Revival goes unknown by some people but it’s the one revival that encourages me more than the others. Jeremiah Lanphier was hired to be a city missionary in New York City (years before the Civil War). After many failed attempts at outreach, he began a simple lunch prayer meeting. The prayer meeting exploded over time. People would confess sin, get saved, and pray for the lost in these meetings. The meetings spread all over New York City and into the rest of the country. Lay people were organized and involved in starting additional prayer movements. People like D.L. Moody emerged out of this period. Estimates of conversion ranged from 300,000 to 1 million (Reid pg. 271).
Why does it Motivate me? The same power that was available to Jeremiah Lanphier is available to me; the power of prayer. I am motivated to keep on ministering because of prayer. I believe that God hears the prayers of his children. Elijah was indeed a man like us, but he prayed and the heavens gave rain (James 5:17-18). No matter how hard ministry gets I can call on the power of the Lord through prayer. Prayer always precedes a revival.
I pray that these 5 Revivals motivate you to keep going. Remember, revivals came when times were dark. In those days people were living in sin, people were far from God, and people seemed hopeless. As you minister in a time (that honestly feels like those days) believe that God may use you to be a revival catalyst. Let’s pray for revival and let’s be motivated to minister!