As a pastor, church members would occasionally ask, “Why don’t we have revivals?” To which I would sometimes answer, “I don’t know, but I wish God would send one soon –don’t you?”

Of course, I knew what they were really asking. “Why don’t we have a series of services set aside each year for preaching and singing?”

First, let me say that I love preaching and I love singing. And I don’t have a problem with setting aside a series of services. However, I do have a problem with getting the cart before the horse.

Revival is the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men drawing them to repent of their sins and follow Christ more vigorously. During revival, the backsliders become worshippers, the self-absorbed become Christ-infatuated, and the nominal become evangelizers. True revival is evidenced by vast changes in the way believers talk, serve, work, and live.

Over the history of Christianity, God has never sent revival because a church scheduled services, hired a preacher, arranged for musicians, or invited crowds. (This is where the cart gets before the horse) Instead, God has promised revival “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chron. 7:14)

This is the way it has always worked. Pick any famous revival in history (First & Second Great Awakenings, Welsh Revival, etc.) and you will find that they all started the same way: By men and women pleading with God to awaken their souls by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then, God begins moving –not in specially designed services, but in weekly scheduled Sunday services. When the Holy Spirit moves it can spread like wildfire.  Families spend hours upon hours together in worship. Some depart from the services evangelizing throughout the community and returning to report to the church family.   Others go directly to the homes of loved ones who have strayed from the Lord in order to plead with them for their souls.

Often during revival, so many people are being revived that they determine to meet again before the next Sunday. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to experience? Won’t you pray, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is wrong for a church to hold special services. I don’t even think its wrong to call them “revival services” as long as it is communicated that the purpose is to ask God to awaken His people. We must remember that genuine revival is scheduled by Him and not us. For that reason, I would suggest the following:

  • Encourage your church to pray for revival -not just when its time for special services.
  • Consider renaming the services something like, “Spiritual Emphasis.”
  • Be clear about the nature of genuine revival -we plead for it, God grants it.
  • Never suppress revival. If God is moving, be open to extending a service or adding more services (that goes for normal Sundays just as well as for special meetings). Don’t let schedules, routines, and traditions cause you to squelch the Spirit.