Three phases of
Gordon L. Anderson
What is a revival? What does one
look like? For many, the word revival creates an image of long, emotional,
powerful church services where people worship with enthusiasm, pray
with passion, reach out in faith and see the power of God demonstrated
in new and unique ways. This might be generally true, but I believe
that revival is much more than that.
I define revival as a period of
time when people awaken to the reality of a God who is always present
and always willing to work on behalf of His kingdom through His people.
When people awaken to God and begin to conduct themselves as though
God is truly present, things begin to happen. Schedules and priorities
change, sinners are converted, saints are sanctified, people are called
into ministry, church services come alive and the power of God is revealed
in new and thrilling ways.
It is the narrow view of revival
that focuses on the long and emotional church services characterized
by long and loud singing, preaching and praying. Often this picture
includes running, dancing, falling or other physical responses to the
presence of God that have been clearly documented as common in the history
of revival. But revival is much more than that.
One issue complicates the problem.
The language of revival is made up of many metaphors. Metaphors describe
something about which we know very little in terms of things about which
we know a great deal more. We know so little about spiritual matters,
and we have no vocabulary adequate to explain them, so we use metaphors.
Since metaphors are imprecise, revival must be described with great
Revival is composed of three phases,
preceded by a condition that requires the power of God. The precondition
is spiritual death or slumber, followed by the phases of reaching up
to God, receiving from God, and reaching out for God. Most descriptions
of revival emphasize phase two, receiving from God, but that is not
all there is.
The precondition: death
Spiritual death requires revival. Theologically, death is a metaphor
that refers to the fact that sinners are separated from God. Paul has
this in mind in Ephesians 2 when he says that we were dead in our sins,
without hope and without God. If this condition is never corrected,
then the sinner suffers eternal death, that is, eternal separation from
This metaphor works well to describe
the condition of the sinner but is not entirely accurate when describing
the Christian who needs revival. By definition, Christians are alive
in Christ, so what needs reviving? Often the problem is that they have
fallen into a worthless condition much like death. Sleep describes this
condition well. Technically, these believers are alive, but they are
rather deathlike in their passion, godliness and fruitfulness in the
Kingdom. They need to be awakened; they need to be revived.
Basically, the precondition for
revival is that the sinner needs to be made alive or "vived"
in the first place; the apostate Christian who has lost his or her salvation
needs to be revived (brought back to life); and the worthless saint
needs to be awakened.
Phase one: reaching up
It is often said that revival is preceded by a significant period of
prayer two years often being the period cited. But I believe
that prayer is the first indication that a revival is actually under
way. I say this because sleeping saints seldom pray; and when they begin
to pray, it means that spiritual life has already begun to stir. This
is not as exciting as phase two, when people receive from God, but it
is vital spiritual activity nevertheless.
Why does phase one seem to take
so long to produce fruit? It is because the sleeping condition is a
powerful form of spiritual bondage that does not yield easily to the
will and power of God. Sleeping saints are very religious saints, and
religious saints are nearly impossible to arouse.
In Revelation 2 and 3, the church
at Ephesus had lots of works but had lost its love for God. Sardis had
a reputation for life but was dead. And Laodicea thought it was in fine
shape and did not know it was wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
You would think they would have a clue. But sleeping saints are clueless.
When they do face the prospects
of spiritual renewal, they fight violently to protect the status quo.
John 11 and 12 show how this works. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
There was no question about this. The Jewish leaders determined they
should kill Jesus. If He kept this up, they would lose their people
and their place. Revival means change and religion hates change,
especially if it means losing power, position and influence. Rather
than cooperate with God, they decide to kill Him. That is always religions
answer. In chapter 12 they decide to kill Lazarus too. Kill the Messiah
and the miracle.
The instincts that drive this response
are powerful, and they do not yield easily. That is why revival is "preceded"
by a period of prayer. Only prayer can reveal the depths of religious
pride and slumber, and only prayer can dissolve the bonds that hold
the spiritual sleeper. Religion is a powerful sleeping agent
a powerful anesthetic to the pain of a useless and essentially godless
existence. It is an insidious form of idolatry because it looks so much
like the real thing and resists change so arduously.
Second Chronicles 16:9 tells us
that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro across the earth looking for
a people on whose behalf He can demonstrate His strength. We invite
Him to land in our lives, only to find the runway so cluttered with
the trash of our religiosity that there is no space for Him. Idolatry
is simply putting something in Gods place. We sing that we surrender
all to Jesus, then fight like mad if He tries to rearrange something
in our lives so He can move in. Removing "space-takers" is
profound spiritual work, and it takes time.
Phase two: receiving from
This part of a revival usually gets most of the attention. "They
run, jump, shout, holler, hoot, shiver, shake, quake, fall down, jump
up and run around. They sing for two hours, preach for two hours, pray
for two hours, and come back the next night to do it again. They are
having a revival." Yup, probably.
When people pray through the religious
idolatry that has separated them from an awareness of the presence of
God, they are amazed to find how powerful the presence of God is and
how unusual their responses to it are. Gods presence is lethal.
God warned Moses that seeing Him would be fatal. The Old Testament high
priest risked death every time he entered the Holy of Holies. In the
new covenant believers are allowed to be the sanctuary of God. The Holy
Spirit dwells within them. When a sleeping saint arouses, he or she
is amazed at the spiritual world to which he or she has been oblivious.
Electrical wires are covered with
insulation that makes it possible to hold the wire without being shocked,
even though hundreds of volts might be surging through it. Religion
is like that insulation. A very thin layer of it insulates people from
the power of God. Out of touch with spiritual reality, they call their
non-response to God "dignity." It is not. It is stinking,
prideful, religious slumber. They claim they are conservative by nature.
They are not. Poke their finger into a light socket and they will find
out just how conservative they are.
Revival awakens people to the reality
of Gods presence. This affects their minds, emotions, will and
bodies. That is what is meant by loving God with all our heart, soul
and mind (Matthew 22:37). When religious insulation is stripped away
and the power of God touches the whole person, it is not surprising
that unusual human responses to this power occur. One cannot read the
Bible or the history of revival without recognizing that powerful human
responses regularly characterize periods of renewal. They are legitimate,
they should be affirmed, but they are not the purpose of revival, nor
Phase three: reaching
out for God
Revival is not complete until it has passed through this phase. The
mood and tone, the terrain and landscape of this phase are different.
Phase three is ministry for God.
Let me contrast phases two and three
to make the point:
Phase two is "to me,
for me." And this is good. Phase three is "through me, for
In phase two, walking people
fall down (the apostle Paul, and people at the altar in revival meetings).
In phase three, lame people are made to walk.
In phase two, speaking people
are made silent (Zacharias) and seeing people are made blind (Paul).
In phase three, the blind see and the dumb speak.
In phase two, people experience
or encounter the power of God. In phase three, they are endued with
In phase two, they are touched
by the Spirit. In phase three, they are baptized in the Spirit.
Some revival testimonies indicate
that when people come to the altar, are prayed for and fall down (and/or
quiver, shake, quake, weep, shout, etc.), that they have received a
fresh anointing and are manifesting the presence of God. This is a serious
mistake. In the Old Testament a king or priest was made ready for his
ministry through the anointing. Oil was poured over his head to signify
his ministry. In the New Testament this imagery is used of the Holy
Spirit. Luke 4:18 indicates that the Spirit of the Lord was on Jesus,
that He was anointed for miraculous ministry. This anointing was not
to make Him dance, run, jump, shout or fall down. It was to do miracles.
Acts 10:38 says God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and He went
about doing miracles. I affirm the validity of the encounters people
have in phase two, but it is a mistake to equate an experience with
the Spirit with an anointing of the Spirit.
The biblical word manifestation
has a precise meaning. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, Paul outlines the manifestations
of the Spirit. These manifestations are all miraculous ministries. Human
responses to the Spirit, such as running, falling, etc., are not manifestations
of the Spirit. Human responses are a manifestation of humanity
the way humanity responds to an encounter with the power of God. Human
responses to Gods power should not be confused with the manifestations
Paul is discussing.
Strong words of caution are in order
here. It is easy to stagnate in phase two, turn the revival into a blessing
cult, exchange the anointing and spiritual manifestations for human
responses, and abort the plan of God for revival. I affirm and plead
for people to pray (phase one), receive and respond (phase two), but
to continue into phase three.
True Pentecostal revival embraces
both phases one and two, but it always focuses on phase three. The baptism
in the Holy Spirit is a phase three doctrine. We will receive power
to be witnesses and do the work of the ministry. We work hard in phase
one, we celebrate joyfully in phase two, but we anticipate the power
of phase three so we can reach this world for Christ.
Gordon L. Anderson,
Ph.D., is president of North Central University in Minneapolis, Minn.,
and a general presbyter of the Assemblies of God.
The three revival articles in this
issue are reprinted with permission from Revival Sermons: How You
Can Be a Part of Todays Spiritual Awakening, compiled and
edited by Ken Horn (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2000). Available
through Gospel Publishing House. Call 1-800-641-4310 and ask for item