Planned Revival?

I did not grow up in a church that had an annual revival meeting or planned revival outreaching weeks, so I always find it strange to hear churches planning revival meetings.  What are these meetings and what to the planners actually expect? 

During the First Great Awaking for example, three specific points would need special attention the sovereignty of God worked as God works. As is often the case, there was not no “sure model” or method that brought about spectacular revival. There are some key elements—most specifically a dedication to preaching the Word of God—but between Edwards and Whitefield, there were two entirely different styles and reactions in revival.  And it is widely know that Edwards read his sermons word for word, without emotion.  Whitefield, on the other hand, did show emotion, even weeping while delivering his sermon. Edwards did not plan for the reactions he received and it happened outside of his orchestration. Gonzalez writes, “He had been preaching in Northampton for several years, which average results, when his preaching began evoking a response that surprised him” (González 1985, 228). God brings about revival, not a program, planned revival, or marketing plan of man.

Also worth noting is that the revival was not limited to one denomination, geographic location, local church, or preacher. Edwards was a Congregationalist; Whitefield was an Anglican.  Others were Methodists; some were Baptist.  Some were Calvinist, but not all.  It can been shown that during this period Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptist saw fervor and excitement in various forms, and the zeal was spreading to multiple locations (although in this case, like most, it was in the mostly in country rather than in the cities). Revival it seem, is not a program or outreach for one church to plan into the upcoming year, it’s God’s working in a people.

And finally, it is valuable to see that just as quick as revival comes, it goes. Some people will hold on to the past memories and some will look to future hope. González writes, “In a few months, the movement swept the area and reached into Connecticut. Soon it subsided, and after three years its extraordinary signs had almost disappeared. But the memory remained, as well as the hope that it would be rekindled” (González 1985, 228).

We should realize that revival is not something to be taken lightly and it is not something that we simply build into our annual plans as an outreach program.  Revival is God’s revival, to happen as he sees best fit, when he makes it happen.  We must always remember that.

González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol II. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.

*The photo of Methodist revival in USA 1839, watercolor from 1839, is technically depicting the Second Great Awakening.  It is in the public domain.