What are the characteristics of true revival? by RC Sproul
It seems another so called "revival" has sprung up in Lakeland , Florida .
Over the last semester of our Highlands Hall program, and during the previous semester of the Highlands Academy , the classes we offer to area homeschoolers, we read a great deal on church history. In both instances we noted this strange phenomenon. The people of God grow cold in their fervor for the Lord. A group within the church reacts against this, and comes up with a plan to stoke that fervor. There is, at first, some measure of success. Soon, however, we grow cold again. This is where the monastic movement came from. This is why and how universities were founded, first in Europe and later in America . This is where the camp meeting came from, followed by the establishment of “camp ministries.” This is where the great American evangelical fad machine (WWJD, Jabez’ prayer, Promise Keepers, 40 Days, ad nauseum) comes from. We noted that none of these institutions, plans or programs are called for in God’s Word.
I would argue that our pursuit of “revival” as an event falls into essentially the same category. It is good and right and proper that we should labor for, hope for, pray for both great numbers of conversions to the Christian faith, and for great leaps forward of spiritual growth among those who are already Christians. No one could be opposed to that. But the Bible is rather sparse in looking at this as though it were some kind of definable and measurable category. The Spirit, we are told, blows where it will. Did God move in an unusual way in mid-eighteenth century New England ? To be sure. Did God bless the ministries of John Wesley and George Whitefield? Of course He did. Did God blaze a trail across the prairie in the Second Great Awakening? Maybe. Was God bringing in the elect in Toronto twenty years ago? Probably not. My confidence level goes down as the use of self-conscious techniques and the visibility of sundry “signs” goes up.
The fruit of real revival is lost souls being saved, and found souls becoming more like Jesus. It is found in the decidedly unspectacular phenomenon of people repenting. The source of this blessing is the Holy Spirit. The only patterns I have been able to discern wherein we might expect to see the Spirit at work are these. First, the Spirit tends to move in a context of persecution. Signs and wonders are not signs of wonder. The blood of the martyrs, that’s where you’ll see the Spirit.
Secondly, and perhaps ironically, I believe we can expect to see the Spirit at work where we see Christians striving to live in peace and quietness with all men, as much as is possible. Consider these few statistics. Eighty percent of children of evangelical Christians attend the government’s schools. Eighty percent of them will leave the faith. Over the last twenty years, anywhere from half a million to two million evangelical families have taught their children in their homes. The overwhelming majority of these children walk in the way that they should go when they are grown. If these numbers are accurate, we are witnessing a silent revival right here in America . Taking back the schools is a failed and worldly technique. Taking back His children, that is changing everything. When we no longer render to Caesar the things that are God’s, our children, then we can expect to see revival.