Marks of Revival Movements for Leaders

In 2014 current SBC President Ronnie Floyd issued a call entitled  Pleading with Southern Baptists  calling for a focus on revival prayer. Last fall Dr. Floyd asked me to address almost 100 SBC leaders about the need for and nature of revival. I shared with them five marks of awakenings gleaned from past movements. These do not represent an exhaustive list, but in my mind are critical for our times. The first two marks would surprise no one familiar with God’s work in past revival movements. The next two may surprise some, and the final mark surprised me, as it represents an aspect of awakening I missed in my years of study but saw clearly in seasons of real revival in my own experience and in that of friends.

1. Deep, burdened, desperate prayer. Matthew Henry said, “When God begins a work, He sets His people to praying.” John Knox prayer, “Give me Scotland, or I die.” As a boy, Jonathan Edwards made a booth in the woods and prayed five times a day. No wonder he wrote a treatise on prayer in the middle of the First Great Awakening.

Baptist pastors Stephen Gano and Isaac Backus sent a circular letter in 1795 to pastors of all denominations in New England calling for a concert of prayer, using Edwards’ treatise on prayer in their exhortation. Within a few years the Second Great Awakening came. A group of college guys prayed under a haystack in 1806; as a result the first movement of global missions on American soil was born out of this “Haystack Revival.” Jeremiah Lanphier experienced a prayer revival out of a prayer meeting in 1857 in New York City. On and on the examples go.

Leonard Ravenhill said when it comes to praying for revival, God does not answer prayer, He answers desperate prayer. For what are you praying in holy desperation?

2. A radical passion to win the world to Jesus. Movements of revival send believers into the culture to win people at all costs. John Wesley, a proper, Oxford trained Anglican, wrote in his journal that he doubted whether a person could be saved outside a church building. But when revival came he found himself reaching a whole population by preaching in the fields. Edwards noted that when rescuing people from a burning house, they had no time to fight one another. In the same way, when we focus on advancing the gospel, we build each other up instead of tearing each other down. In the Jesus Movement, a trio of pastors in their pressed suits came upon some Jesus freakish hippies sharing Jesus on the street.

“What are you doing?” A pastor asked a young man. “Sir, we are doing what you just talk about,” the young believer replied. Ouch. When is the last time you were so broken for a lost person you became less concerned about methods or being proper and more broken to show and share Christ?

3. Youth play a vital role. Jonathan Edwards said the Great Awakening was mostly a youth movement. I’ve read countless primary accounts of revival movements from history; youth figure prominently in around 90% I have read. Spurgeon preached to thousands in London in his early 20s. Whitefield preached across the colonies at 25. Brainerd and McCheyne died before they turned 30 yet we remember well their valiant ministries.

If you are middle aged or older, be aware: you and I are not likely to be the people who start a revival, but we certainly have the influence to kill one. What are you doing to involve young people and to allow them to lead?

4. Social justice: in awakenings, people are reach, churches are planted, and orphanages are established. Whitefield spread the Great Awakening across the colonies. He also founded an orphanage called Bethesda in Georgia. Spurgeon, Spener, and others had orphanages as well. Numerous other social enterprises had their genesis in revival movements.

Millennials love causes. If we want to impact a younger generation note this: before they will join in our causes we have to care about theirs. What are you doing about the brokenness in our land and in your community?

5. Here is the one I missed: in revival, leaders get right. Isaiah was the most godly man in the land, yet he was ruined by his own sin. Edwards wept in his church as Whitefield preached. Brainerd lay in the snow, coughing up blood from tuberculosis, begging God to save the Indians.
Leaders can so easily isolate themselves from accountability and thus from confronting their own sin.

Who is in your life that can call you out? Note: you can be in the middle of the activity of God and miss Him. I know I am experiencing revival personally when I stop confessing the sins of others and look in my own heart. When is the last time you were broken personally and sought God to revive your heart? God is stirring the hearts of many. Let’s join together, seek the Lord, and be available for His Spirit to use us.

Note: I’ve written a bit on this topic.  See Firefall 2.0 and Revival Revived.

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Book Notice: “As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students”

Thank you for having been about to ask. Yes, Alvin Reid has committed another act of Reid_As_you_goliterature. Dr. Reid, SEBTS professor of evangelism and student ministry, has published a new book As You Go: Creating A Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students (NavPress). Those of us who know Dr. Reid perceive in him a real passion both for gospel-centered ministry and for students. Fittingly, then, As You Go calls students and student ministry leaders to the same sort of passion.

The back cover of the book states the context and goal of the book:

“Today’s students long for a rich, meaningful faith. They want something more than a moral code and therapeutic worship that leaves them unsatisfied and uninspired. Speaker, author, and evangelism professor Alvin L. Reid reveals a key to capturing students’ hearts for life: a missional youth ministry. Through practical teaching and powerful application tools, discover how giving teens a grander purpose and vision and encouraging them to see all of life as a mission field transforms their faith, their lives, and the world.”

Reid’s proposal is a simple one: return student ministry to the biblical moorings any faithful ministry needs. Thus he offers four interrelated ways: a return to 1) God-centered theology and worship; 2) the gospel (“a radical, Christocentric transformation . . .” p. 19); 3) the goal that is to glorify God; and 4) the gathering, which is to connect teens to the whole congregation not just one another (pp. 18–21). For those who desire to glorify God in their church’s student ministry–as a student, student minister, pastor, or parent–this book will help them reach that goal. Follow the link above to pick up your copy.

Family Matters

Susannah Wesley bore 19 children, 10 of whom died before age two. But two of those who did survive were used of God to shake a nation. John and Charles Wesley preached the gospel, wrote hymns, and established a renewed faith for the land of Great Britain that spread globally.

Susannah has been remembered as one of the great mothers in history. Read just a few of her thoughts on raising children:

  1. Allow no eating between meals.
  2. Teach each child to pray as soon as they can speak.
  3. Require all children to be quiet during family worship.
  4. Give a child nothing that they cry for, and only that which they ask for politely.
  5. To prevent lying, punish no fault that is first confessed and repented of.
  6. Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.
  7. Never punish a child twice for a single offense.
  8. Commend and reward good behavior.
  9. Commend any attempt to please, even if poorly performed.
  10. Strictly observe all promises.
  11. Require no daughter to work before she can read well.
  12. Teach children to fear the rod.

Susannah never had a high political office, nor did she earn great degrees or titles. We must remember that the most important people have the shortest of titles: Mom. Dad. Son. Daughter. Pastor.

I love Southeastern for a lot of reasons, but the one that marks our school we do not talk a lot about relates to the value of family: the family of God in the local church, our seminary family, and the nuclear family.

We know that the family is under assault today. The best way to defend the family is to demonstrate the gospel’s effect on families of believers. Such families realize our wretchedness and great need of daily grace, and prioritize the gospel and the mission of God for the people of God to the nations for the glory of God. We who follow Christ do not always demonstrate a moral superiority over all others, but we are aware of divine grace. And a divine calling.

Here are just a few examples of our faculty who demonstrate the gospel in their homes:

Steve McKinion and his wife Ginger have shown the work of God’s grace in their journey with Harrison in his valiant battle against cancer, encouraged by his siblings Lachlan and Blakely;

President Akin and wife Charlotte have raised four godly young men who serve the Lord in ministry;

George and Catherine Robinson have taken their whole family (3 kids) on a mission trip to Asia;

Tony and Kim Merida have famously championed adoption by their words and by their example with five children of their own they chose to adopt.

Tomorrow I will walk our beautiful daughter Hannah down the aisle in Binkley Chapel where she will take the hand of a fine young man named Corey – whom she met while traveling with me in ministry — who will be her husband. Four weeks later our son Josh will marry a precious young lady named Jacqueline – a pastor’s daughter and a student in our college – in the same chapel. Michelle and I have been blessed with children after we thought for a season we would never have any. And now they begin their own families, with Jesus at the center.

Makes me think of the wonderful hymn penned by Charles Wesley days after his conversion:

Amazing love, how can it be

That Thou my God would die for me!

We deserve nothing but God’s wrath, but in His great mercy He has given us eternal life by faith. And He has given us family.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.