Promoters of Revival?
At the start of the Indianapolis 500, a pace car circles the track slightly ahead of the others with the responsibility of bringing the whole field up to speed and into the race. People don’t usually reward the driver of the pace car, but you can’t have a race without one.
Similarly you can’t have a movement toward national and world revival without pacesetters—men and women abounding in confidence about what is coming, who ignite and sustain an effort to pray and prepare for revival. The world belongs to those who offer it hope. For us, that means it belongs to those who set the pace for the church toward the hope of fill-orbed spiritual awakening to Christ.
This final segment of the book was written for one reason: If any of us pry into the subject of a twenty-first century revival without intending to respond to that hope here and now, we fall far short of what God intended. In fact our delay in beginning to pray and prepare for revival now and to mobilize others with us may be the deadliest form of denying its truth.
Jonathan Edwards championed appropriate efforts in promotion and preparation for revival. This is evidenced in the title of his little volume encouraging concerts of pray in the mid 1700s, which began, An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union . . . Jonathan Edwards understood that the promotion of revival—embodied for him in preaching and organizing prayer for revival—was absolutely crucial to the final realization of God’s gracious work.
Of course, in all revival God is sovereign. Just as faith is a gift of God, so prayer is a gift of God, praying people are a gift of God, and a movement of prayer is God’s gift to his church. Therefore he alone receives the credit from beginning to end. But history is replete with stories of revival pacesetters who prayed and promoted preparations for revival, and who in many cases lived to see it break forth.
Recently I met with two hundred such pacesetters from throughout New England, representing almost fifty cities and communities. We gathered for a twenty-four-hour Pacesetters Retreat in which we worked with each other to define our vision for revival and to design a strategy for serving it. The retreat was held in a white clapboard church in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, just across the street from the Hopkinton Commons, launch point every year of the world famous Boston Marathon. At the conclusion of the retreat I took these leaders with me over to the Commons where we regrouped on its grassy knoll. There, about to enter our own marathon, we recommissioned each other to go forth to set the pace for many other seekers of world revival. And we committed ourselves to do so with our eyes fixed on Christ, who models preeminently the work of pacesetting for all of us (Heb. 12:1-2) and who gives us assurance that he will bring all our endeavors to success.
A Movement of Multipliers
What are some goals of pacesetters? One important one is a desire to multiply themselves. They understand how essential it is to expand the base of seekers of revival as fully as possible. Since what is coming is so extensive, there must be a sufficiently broad-based number of seekers in place to receive it. Therefore the most strategic thing revival-minded Christians can do is to grow as advocates of revival before God and before others and to mobilize others with them into a movement of seekers determined to settle for nothing less.
Clearly such multiplication does imply the development of a “movement,” a word I’ve regularly used in these chapters. Pacesetters call people to move with them. What does them mean? In a university sociology textbook People, Power, and Change: Movements of Social Transformation, authors Gerlach and Hine define a movement, based on a number of diverse case studies?
A movement is a group of people who are organized for, ideologically motivated by, and committed to a purpose which implements some form of personal or social change; who are actively engaged in the recruitment of others; and whose influence is spreading an opposition to the established order within which it originated.1
It would be hard to produce a better definition for a movement of Christians toward a massive spiritual awakening to Christ. Take a look. We also have a purpose that is grand enough to focus all of our energies: national and world revival. We, too, are organized for and committed to this work of God so fully that we are willing to make whatever personal or corporate changes are needed. In addition we become active in recruiting others to seek and prepare with us in our pursuit of revival. Finally, everything pacesetters do is obviously in opposition to the established order. It is because of that we need revival, and it is that order which will be radically transformed when true revival comes.
Now you see why we must call the current crescendo of revival concern a “movement”!
The First Four Steps
Over the years I have trained thousands of pacesetters. I have seen how pacesetters for revival are God’s special gift to the church. And I’ve become aware of four important steps that most have taken at the outset of their obedience to God in this vision. Thinking through these four steps is a useful starting point for evaluating your own call from God to set the pace in a movement toward national and world revival.
- Embrace the Vision
As I’ve said, pacesetters not only believe in the coming revival and are getting set for it, they are also compelled to bring many others with them into the hope of spiritual awakening.
Has God give you the willingness to be such a pacesetter, to live with a burden for revival, and to mobilize others to that vision no matter what the cost. If not you, who? If not now, when? If no here, where? If not this, what else? In other words, are you to convinced that God has called you to be a pacesetter that you have seized the vision as your permanent platform?
- Build the Vision
Pacesetters read about revivals. They build for themselves a biblical foundation on the topic. In addition they are constantly seeking our communication networks that will keep them informed of broader developments in revival throughout their city, their nation, and the world. They seek out the “pools of renewal” in churches and organizations, nearby and elsewhere identifying individuals and groups who are pursuing revival. Whenever possible they attempt to visit places where prayer movements are flourishing and talk to those who may be experiencing the first tastes of revival.
Are you willing to continue expanding your own horizons as you set the pace for others? You can begin as you take time to meditate on the kinds of confidence-building reasons discussed in this book, attempting to learn more about each area, and make that information fuel for your prayers, obedience, and influence on others.
- Integrate the Vision
Pacesetters also seek to develop an approach to their own daily discipleship that is consistent with their hope for revival.
Would your way of life convince others that you seriously expect national and world revival? Are you actively integrating your vision for revival into everything else you do in following Christ? Are you willing to live so as to end each day convinced it has counted strategically for the coming revival and for the sake of those whom you are pointing toward that vision?
- Share the Vision
Pacesetters do not try to carry out their calling alone. They know they need to be banded with other committed pacesetters. Most have become a part of a small group of friends and associates who not only share their vision for revival but also their desire to promote that cause throughout the churches.
Are you willing to enter into a relationship with a team of people who encourage each other and hold each other accountable in this way? Are you open to being a part of a group that strategizes together on how to most effectively mobilize others into seekers of revival?
You Are Not Alone
If this is your desire—to seek and prepare for spiritual awakening and to bring others with you—be encouraged. You are not alone! Thee are many others actively setting the pace already. And there are millions more waiting to be mobilized. God is at work giving people the gift of hope. He is stirring multitudes with desire for world revival.
In all your efforts to be a pacesetter, you can work in the secure knowledge that God has preceded you. He is bringing about a “second conversion” in the church, converting non-seekers into seekers, converting those who have left the world to join Christ to now move with Christ into the acceleration of his global cause. He is making significant numbers of Christians restless, causing them to questions the status quo, to challenge the idols of their counterfeit hopes, and to fix their eyes on the promises of his Word regarding revival.
A pacesetter’s primary job is to find out what direction God is moving, to find those in whom he is working, and then to move with him in serving them. The pools of renewal have already been dug in churches and fellowships all through the body of Christ. Now pacesetters have the privilege of “digging the trenches” between these pools of renewal, so they flow together to form reservoirs of renewal, and ultimately rivers of renewal for the whole earth.
A Survey to Find Seekers
How do we uncover these people, and how do we bring them together? One way I have found helpful is through the use of a survey. I’ve provided a model at the end of this chapter. It is a six-part questionnaire that has been used successfully to uncover seekers and mobilize pacesetters. These are six questions most Christians have never been asked.
The questions follow a logical sequence. They help people understand and then express what God is already putting on their hearts. Because most Christians have never been asked these questions before, leaders are amazed to find how many give positive responses. They learn that God has already prepared many to be a part of his movement toward revival.
The questions begin by identifying an individual’s sense of the need for revival and what he or she considers to be the strategic role of prayer especially. And then the questionnaire goes on to help a person define the degree of hope he or she has about what God is getting ready to do, as well as his or her own readiness to get involved. From our experience in using the survey, I would not be surprised to find thousands in churches within your own community whom God is calling right now to seek and prepare for world revival.
Here is a short form of the survey. An expanded version is at the end of this chapter. When you design your own survey, feel free to substitute wording that would be meaningful to your people.
- Is the church in need of revival?
Circle one: no maybe yes
- Will revival have an impact on the world?
Circle one: no maybe yes
- Must we pursue revival by united prayer?
Circle one: no maybe yes
- Is God ready to give us revival?
Circle one: no maybe yes
- Is God ready to help us pray as we should?
Circle one: no maybe yes
- Am I ready to be involved?
Circle one: no maybe yes
Here are two ways this survey can be used.
First, use it in a Sunday worship service as a bulletin insert. For five minutes a pastor may guide his congregation through the sex questions. That provides an excellent opportunity to expose the congregation to a new way of thinking about what God is up to. That in itself makes the questionnaire worthwhile. But it also helps the pastor get a reading on his congregation’s thinking about revival. (Incidentally, do not require people to give their names. That way they all will be fully candid. But tabulate the responses between Sundays to bring back the encouraging report the following Sunday.)
In most congregations a majority will identify themselves toward the right side of each continuum. It is a tremendous experience for a local church to have its pastor report the following Sunday that half of the congregation (or more) are not only convinced of the need for and impendingness of revival, but also of their willingness to pray and prepare for it personally. Once those results have been made known, the church will act with renewed confidence to foster revival vision among its people.
A second approach is to involve a number of churches within a community who give the survey on the same Sunday. In the intervening week, the pastors not only tabulate results for their own congregations but pool the responses of all participating congregations. The findings are reported the following Sunday to each congregation. It is a revelation both to pastors and churches to discover that (possibly) thousands of others throughout the local body of Christ feel the same about a coming revival. This in turn instills a new level of camaraderie among the churches to seek and prepare for revival together, beginning most logically in a movement of united prayer.
“Get Them to Me”
Now I want to explore with you a little of my role as a pacesetter. I have functioned this way for over fifteen years. But much more recently, in a time of crisis, I finally discovered the real “bottom line” of a pacesetter’s ministry. Let me tell you what happened to me.
Having promoted united prayer across the world, I began to sense a growing dissatisfaction with what seemed to me to be (and these are the words that came to me) and “insignificant ministry of simply leading prayer.” I reasoned that there was so much else that needed to be done, things that I was gifted to do, things that might be far more practical. What about the poor? What about the unevangelized? What about the moral free fall of my own nation?
I started asking God if there wasn’t something more productive for me, something more important, more strategic, more effective for the advance of Christ’s kingdom. One night I awakened at 2 a.m. with an answer ringing in my ears. I will never forget was seemed to be God’s response to me that night: David, get them to me, just get them to me—and I will take them from there. I knew he was right. That’s my job description!
If we can get God’s people united together before his throne, seeking his face for the work of revival that’s so deep on his heart, he will not fail to take them from there. He will take them on to Christ and the hope at hand, and then on into being a part of the answer to our prayers. How can any pacesetter assume a more vital role than to get Christians together before God in prayer so that he can “take them from there,” especially when we know to many are waiting to be led? Especially when we know their destination is a spiritual awakening to Christ?
A Job Description for Pacesetters
With this as the great objective, I can boil down my job description over the years into three words: Incite. Unite. Invite. These three objectives provide any pacesetter solid tracks to run on.
Objective One: Incite God’s People
Incite God’s people to pursue him wholeheartedly for the hope of revival. This objective can be accomplished by at least five approaches: by Scripture, through stories and reports, by logical reasoning, through networking, and by dreaming.
- Incite People through the Word of God
We must keep people’s expectations for national and world revival (which includes personal and congregational revival) in line with the promises of Scripture, so they are looking for nothing more and nothing less than what God has ordained. I recently worked through my Bible from Genesis to Revelation, marking with a yellow highlighting pen all the passages that deal with how much more God has for us, particularly his promises for revival. Almost half of my Bible turned yellow! The Scriptures are full of messages that can incite people to faith and hope.
Of course, we must present the biblical vision with balance—emphasizing the three dimensions to revival that have been explored in this book: focus, fullness, fulfillment (see chapter 4, especially). They’re like a sailboat, which can only move if there is a sail, a boat, and the wind. The full focus on Christ in revival is like the wind. The sails catching that wind will all of its empowerment are like God giving the fullness of Christ’s life to his church in revival. And the vessel itself, which takes us from one side of the lake to the other is God leading his church through revival into the fulfillment of Christ’s mission to the nations. All that we teach from Scripture, therefore, must keep this same balance, as we give emphasis to this threefold theme. Only then can we properly incite a movement toward biblical revival.
In sermons or small group Bible studies, we can help people appreciate more fully great revival passages (the verses marked in yellow) if we help them answer questions like these:
- What is the hope this passage sets before us(either regarding the consummation or any approximation of the consummation)?
- How does that hope relate to the overarching theme of revival (either the final revival or some intermediate experience of revival)?
- Specifically how does this text encourage us to pray and prepare for a stronger focus on Christ’s glory in revival? Or for the fullness of the life of Christ in his church through revival? Or for the fulfillment of the mission of Christ among the nations out of revival? Or for all three?
- How do these findings apply to issues touching the dark prospects in the world or the disturbing paralysis in the church?
- Why obedience is required of us as a movement of seekers based on our discoveries in this text?
(For more help with biblical texts that can be used to inspire vision for revival, see my Biblical Agendas for Concerts of Prayer.)2
- Incite People through Stories and Reports
Compelling stories can be gleaned from church history, out of the Scriptures, and from current movements toward revival around the world. Tell stories that show why we need revival, how God works in revival, and the growing signs of a coming revival. Church historians point out that stories on revival may be the single most important human factor in the promotion of revival in past spiritual awakenings. (See appendices 3 and 4 to get you started).
- Equip Yourself to Present Arguments for Revival
This book provides a basis for such persuasion. Consider taking a group of people through this book, using The Hope at Hand: A Small Group Study/Discussion Guide 9 (available through the offices of Concerts of Prayer International).3
- Help People Network with Others Pursuing Revival
Perhaps the most exciting way this can be done is through the development of a citywide movement of prayer in your own community. Or two churches can adopt each other, praying for revival in each other’s congregation and circulating regular reports of evidences of answered prayer. On another level, city prayer movements have actually adopted each other, praying for each other and reporting preliminary activities of God in revival within each city, to encourage each other. Other means of networking include newsletters published by revival-minded ministries or special 800 numbers that provide regular updates by phone on the acceleration in revival across the country and around the world. Groups like the National Prayer Committee, International Prayer Summits, the Denominational Prayer Leaders Network, the National Youth Leaders’ Prayer Forum, and Mission American 2000 can help you.
- Incite People by Showing What God Intends
People will be moved when they see the contrast between the status quo and what God intends. Help them come to grips with both the “dark prospects” and the “disturbing paralysis.” A vision for revival can electrify people if we help them grasp what revival accomplishes to reverse and displace our desperate needs.
We need to help people gain a personal vision of what revival might look like in their own lives, in their churches, and cities within this generation. Revival dreaming, we might call it. Their vision should be as unique and colorful as possible in light of who they are, in light of their present and past, and most of all in light of God’s Word on revival. Our goal is to gain consensus and excitement about the coming revival so that people will be compelled to seek it together until it comes.
Revival dreaming can be facilitated in a number of ways. Here is an example. Take key revival passages of Scripture (such as Isa. 54, Jer. 33, Acts 1 and 2, or any of the great passages on the final revival, such as Isa. 60 or Rev. 21). Ask people to outline the basic characteristics of the revival described, either of an intermediate revival or of the consummation itself. Ask them to dream about how such revival might impact individual Christians, communities of Christians, and beyond. Then ask them to imagine what it would be like for an approximation of those principles to be worked out in their own setting.
Have the people brainstorm in small groups on this series of questions:
- If Christ and his kingdom were to become the focus of attention in our city, in answer to our prayers for revival, what might this look like?
- What might be the impact of this work of God on four key areas:
- On the daily work of individual Christians?
- On the churches in our city, both inside the churches and among the churches?
- On the needs and challenges of the city as a whole?
- And ultimately on the nations of the world?
Then have people report back, placing their answers in four columns based on the four areas discussed. I have used this approach with many groups, and as people begin to dream along these lines it bring dramatic results. In fact, you can use these four columns to develop your own “concert of prayer.” Plan for an hour of prayer and divide it into six, ten-minute segments: an opening ten minutes of worship and praise, then ten minutes each to pray through the issues in the four columns, and finally ten minutes for the re-consecration of lives to be a part of the answer and for worship.
Objective Two: Unite God’s People
Once incited to hope (and growing in faith as a result), God’s people must unite to pray concertedly for world revival. In Hong Kong, when With Concerts of Prayer was translated into Chinese, they could not employ the idea of a concert when inviting people to pray. In their culture a reference to concerts might remind Christians of extravagant musical events only attended by the wealthy. My translators were afraid that Hong Kong believers would interpret “concert of prayer” as referring to a prayer meeting for the upper class! Instead, translators chose Chinese characters that literally mean “united-in-heart-and-soul kind of praying.” And that’s perfect! It is exactly what a revival pacesetter wants to promote.
To unite people in concerted prayer we need to keep the balance. The primary agenda for prayer is focus, fullness, fulfillment. These are the three dimensions of revival and thus of all revival praying. Pacesetters should help people pray through these three agendas every time they gather.
In addition, we must help people pray on three different levels: personal, local, and global. We fall short of God’s intention if we concentrate on any one of these to the neglect of the other two. The emphasis on world revival means we’re pursuing a spiritual awakening of such a magnitude that it touches every other level as well. Accordingly our prayers must do the same.
Putting the six together (the three agendas and the three levels) results in the following grid:
Each of the boxes represents one of nine facets of prayer for revival. For example, we should pray for a greater focus on Christ not long for ourselves but for our local churches and for the body of Christ worldwide. We should pray for the fulfillment of Christ’s mission out of revival not only through our own ministry or the ministry of churches in our communities but also among unreached peoples. This simple grid can help prayer groups stay on target. (For further help in leading exciting prayer gatherings, contact Concerts of Prayer International for the video “How to Lead a Concert of Prayer.” The address is at the beginning of this book.)
What all of this means is that we can achieve significant unity in prayer because we are agreed on the basic vision we are praying for. Now, when it comes to mobilizing united prayer, we need to work at two major fronts: the integration front and the intensification front.
- The Integration Front
First we should help people integrate revival prayer into the daily walk with Christ. I suggest as a starting point a fifteen-minute “daily discipline” in which every Christian can participate. Try it for a month. Ten minutes are divided into seven areas”
- Rejoice (one minute)—Praise God for what he has done, is doing, and is getting ready to do in local, national, and global revival.
- Review (five minutes)—Dip into books, magazines, other literature, and most of all Scriptures to learn the nature of revival and of the coming world revival. What is discovered during these five minutes makes the remaining nine minutes more meaningful.
- Repent (one minute)—Confess to God on your behalf and on behalf of the whole church the specific ways in which we are hindering revival.
- Resist (one minute)—Target in prayer those points where Satan is attempting to undermine the life and mission of the church in order to diminish the potential for revival.
- Request (five minutes)—Intercede for full revival in the church, using the preceding chart as a guide.
- Recommit (one minute)—Reflect on all you have learned from the Lord and all you have said to him, and commit yourself back to him to be used in answer to your prayers, whatever the cost. Recommit yourself to set the pace for others to pray with you in the same directions.
- Record (one minute)—In a journal, record whatever you sense God has given you in the previous fourteen minutes. What new understanding has he shared with you on revival? What new directions has he given for prayer? What new steps of obedience has he called you to take as a result of praying? How has he encouraged you to set the pace for others? Over time this journal will provide a tremendous encouragement not only about your praying but about how God is working in response to your prayers.
If a Christian would commit to this fifteen-minute daily discipline for twelve months, he or she would add ninety hours or revival praying to his or her life. All other things being equal, what difference might that make in that Christian’s walk with Christ and in his or her personal preparation for revival? What difference might that make in personal preparation for revival? What difference might that make in how God accelerates the coming revival in answer to his or her prayers?
Or what if a church of two hundred adult members would commit themselves to the same daily discipline, holding one another accountable to it for a year? The result would be eighteen thousand additional hours focused on prayer for revival. All other things being equal, what impact might this have not only on the current spiritual climate of that one congregation but on preparing that church to enter into God’s greater works in a revival of biblical proportions? (Not to mention that God answers prayer!)
Here’s another way revival prayer can be integrated into church services, Sunday school classes, and small group meetings. For example, I ask pastors, “What if you would commit to ten minutes a week during Sunday morning worship to help your people pray for revival by praying your sermon back to God.”
Many pastors say they cannot get their people to attend church prayer meetings. What I’m suggesting is that we take the prayer meetings to the people! Sunday morning is when we have most of the people together. It’s a perfect time to start uniting the church to pray concertedly toward the hope of world revival.
This brief time for prayer can easily be freed up if a pastor shortens his preaching by ten minutes and uses the extra time for prayer, knowing that such praying is actually a continuation of the message but through the interactive approach of group intercession. In addition, if a pastor’s message provides, as a central focus, greater understanding of important issues in revival, the ten minutes of prayer could appropriately be called revival praying.
The ten-minute prayer response is simply to conduct. For example, if a pastor has a four-point outline in his message on revival, he simply helps the people pray those major concepts back to God, asking the Father to activate each one in the life of the congregation. One could shape this session the following way: one minute of opening praise (for all we’ve learned about Christ in the sermon), two minutes of intercession for each of the four points, and the final minute for a prayer of recommitment (or a minute of silence in order to listen to God). For the ten minutes of prayer, the people might be broken into cluster groups of five or six, or the church elders might come to the pulpit to pray through these points, using the same time frames. (For many exciting ways to lead people in corporate prayers, write to Concerts of Prayer International for my Creative Approaches for Concerts of Prayer.)
Suddenly your church will be united in prayer for the larger works of God in revival. This will impact a church in several ways.
First, it will change the way the pastor preaches. If a pastor knows that whatever he preaches on a given Sunday will be the specific issues his people ask God to give to their church, he will look at his sermon in an entirely different light. It will give him a new excitement about sermon preparation, as well as new ways to teach on a text.
Second, it will change the way the people listen to the message. If they know that immediately after the message is over they will pray it back to God, they will be much more attentive (perhaps even taking notes), so that they will be ready to pray as they ought.
Third, it will actually change the church! Why? Because God answers prayer! For the first time, on a consistent and informed basis, your church will be praying together in ways that give God an opportunity to work toward revival in a way he has not had before. He will not turn away the prayers of the saints. In addition, it will change the people’s hearts Sunday by Sunday. Whenever we pray the Word of God back to the Father, it allows the Holy Spirit to take the message out of our minds and put it down into our hearts, where it revitalizes our daily obedience to Christ.
A church might try this on Sunday mornings as a two-month experiment. At the end of eight weeks the elders could meet to evaluate what difference the weekly prayer time has made, to see if God has given any indication that the church should proceed further, that this is his prayer strategy for the church (or that he wants them to develop an even more effective one).
We can take the integration approach to a more intimate level through prayer partners and prayer triplets. The idea is for two or three Christians to enter into a covenant to pray together on a regular basis for local and world revival. They may choose to meet together for ten minutes a week, perhaps between Sunday school and morning worship (and thereby avoid planning an extra meeting). Or they might pray together by phone (particularly if one of them has a phone with conference-call capabilities.) Again they can use the guidelines above to orchestrate these times of prayer.
Finally, praying for revival can be integrated every time Christians pray together, even it it’s only for a few moments at the dinner table, during family devotions, in a Bible study group, at the opening of a Sunday school class, or in personal devotions. In whatever form, a revival pacesetter wants to insure that revival praying takes place every time Christians pray together.
- The Intensification Front
We also need to intensify revival prayer in the body of Christ. As we sense the impending nature of national and world revival and all that it is bringing, as we see the desperate need of the church and the world for such a revival to come, we will want to find ways to increase the work of revival prayer among God’s people.
In my own city of New York we have seen the integration/intensification balance take a special form through two broad efforts. Prayer-Net attempts to network hundreds of regular prayer groups from churches throughout the city who are willing to integrate ten minutes of prayer for world revival every time they meet for prayer, no matter what other issues they may also address. They see themselves as part of a citywide coalition of prayer groups, praying the same issues back to God based on suggestions sent to them by a coordinating team. This is a form of integration. But on the intensification front we have scores of churches (involving hundreds of prayer groups) participating in The Lord’s Watch. We just concluded a six-month Lord’s Watch in which one or more churches were committed for one of 180 consecutive nights to pray for our region and for world revival. Each church brought together a group of people (sometimes the entire congregation) on their appointed night to form a “watch” for that night, interceding for revival on the basis of the guidelines we sent them. Afterward the leaders of that night’s groups called the leaders of groups meeting the next night to pass the torch of prayer, encouraging them by sharing how God worked the previous evening. Our goal is to see The Lord’s Watch functioning every night of the year.
Another way to intensify prayer is through large group events, such as Concert of Prayer rallies. In New York City not only are there large gatherings of pastors in prayer for revival, but on some weekends as many as ten Concerts of Prayer may be conducted simultaneously throughout the city, bringing together thousands of Christians. Similar efforts are under way in many cities across the nation.
Such a large event, though it involves extra time and commitment, has tremendous impact. It embellishes the idea of gathering together for prayer and worship, so that people rediscover the blessing of sustained corporate prayer, which they take back with them to their own congregations. Also, by sharing a brief message at a prayer rally on the coming revival, there’s an opportunity for people to be built up in their faith, to be filled with hope. Further, in a large assembly, praying Christians find out how many of God’s people throughout their community have the same growing burden for revival, which encourages everyone to stay faithful in the work of prayer at all times. In such events new pacesetters for revival will be raised up to serve the local churches. In fact, toward the end of a rally, leaders even make a call for commitment to become pacesetters. Those who desire to do so may come forward to special prayer by all of those at the rally. This might be followed up with prayer training events in the ensuing weeks to help train pacesetters to carry out their assignment in their own church and/or in the city prayer movement.
Objective Three: Invite God’s People
Beyond inciting the vision and uniting in prayer, we must encourage God’s people to prepare comprehensively in the hope of spiritual awakening. Our preparations for impending revival are similar to changes Scripture challenges us to make whenever we contemplate the final revival. After all, all revivals are a “coming” of Christ to his people, a fresh manifestation of his presence by his Spirit, an approximation of his final and visible arrival. Should we not have the same attitude of watchful readiness—an eagerness to meet him, with no fear that we will pull back in shame? Should we not get set for revival with the same spirit by which we must prepare for his ultimate glorious revelation? (See, for example, how 1 John 2:28 and 3:2-3 could also apply to readiness for revival.)
Although there are many ways to promote preparation among God’s people, here are two of the most important steps:
- Preparing by Repentance
In our invitation to the church to prepare for revival, one key emphasis by every pacesetter must be to foster a healthy spirit of repentance. There may be no single step more important than this. Repentance is the most dynamic inrush of the kingdom within ordinary history.4 John the Baptist pictured repentance as lowering the mountains, raising up the valleys, straightening out the crooked ways so that God can reveal his glory to all flesh. If, as missionary leader Jack Miller says, “it is simply impossible for a man to meet the Lord of Glory in the full revelation of His Majesty and not be grieved by his particular sins and want to confess them,” then it’s equally true that any who anticipate a coming revelation of God’s majesty in world revival will be grieved over everything in us that contradicts what is coming, or that hinders it. We will confess these things and turn from them in order to be prepared to receive what God is ready to give.
Repentance can be measured in a number of ways. It is measured against the character and ways of God revealed in his historical acts in Scripture. But it can also be measured against how God promises to reveal his character and his ways increasingly in the future, ultimately in the consummation itself. Repentance is the response that comes not only from seeing who God is but also what more he wants to do for us. Discerning where he is headed, we learn to take him as seriously as he takes himself.
Repentance is based not so much on what we are turning from, but rather on what we are turning toward. “Repent and believe” was the message of Jesus based on the fact that “the time has come, the kingdom is near” (Mark 1:15). Repentance therefore acts as a hinge that swings the church from what we are toward what is coming so that we make the necessary readjustments to receive it as it comes.
Of course in repentance there must be confession to God, sometimes with feelings of deep brokenness and tears. It comes out of our sense of solidarity both with the world and its dark prospects (because the human race is our race) as well as with the church and its disturbing paralysis (because we have helped to bring that paralysis on us and because it is in us all).
In the end, all of this actually points us forward. What we own up to and then confess and forsake, sharply defines what it is we want to seek from God in the coming revival. Repentance turns us with hope toward the future. Repentance is a heart broken in longing as much as in shame. We long for what God has promised but that is still waiting to appear, rather than just expressing regret over what could have been but never way.
In repentance we identify anything that hinders our full enthusiasm for revival and a decisive devotion to Christ to seek it. We identify everything within us and within the church that may be hindering, resisting, counterfeiting, ignoring, diminishing, or undermining God’s new work in us to prepare us for revival. We acknowledge to him the ways we have been blinded to such revival, rebelled against it hardened our hearts against it, or even fled from him in the fear of it.
Here’s another reason repentance is a first step into comprehensive preparation for revival: Through repentance we relinquish to God everything that revival must transform. Sometimes these may be good things. But God asks us to do more than simply let them go. He wants us to give them over to him to be transformed in the outpouring of his Spirit. We must even be willing under his directives to actively dismantle in our own lives and in our congregations everything that may compete with or be a stronghold against revival. Again these may be good things—good programs, good plans, good agendas, good achievements, good experiences, good intentions. But if they compete with the greater glory God want to reveal in his Son, they must go.
A good starting point for repentance may be a moratorium in our schedules, in which for a period of time we voluntarily set aside good things in our lives and ministries to give ourselves more fully to pray and prepare for God’s very best: the coming revival. For example, the members of one of the fastest growing urban church in America, with a plethora of ministries to the poor, to prostitutes, to drug addicts, to AIDS patients, and other recently concluded that with all of these good activities they were merely making a dent in reaching the city for Christ. And so, they set aside eight weeks to give themselves to prayer every night. The canceled all church programs except for Sunday morning worship. And they prayed. Night after night, over one thousand gathered for prayer. And on Sunday they poured themselves out in intercession following the morning worship. Because they call this moratorium, they experience a fresh touch of Christ in their lives—a foretaste of the coming revival—and were able to reenter the fray with new enthusiasm and greater power.
Whatever issues we choose to confess, repentance must ultimately become a way of life for any people who are concerned for revival. And it must be reflected in the practical ways we change our living to conform to our confessions.
If repentance is to prepare for revival, it must be more than a personal response; it must also be corporate. For whatever hinders revival in the church, we all share responsibility. The sooner we confess corporately, the more poised we will be for God to act. As we give God comprehensive corporate repentance (the approach to repentance most often called for in Scripture), we make preparation for a comprehensive corporate revival.
And what are some of the unique issues that must be dealt with, both individually and corporately, by Christians committed to preparing the way for God’s visitation in revival? Here are a few suggestions, areas that we often don’t think about when we think of repentance, but they must be addressed, especially if the hope of revival is at hand.
- Repent of a lesser view of Christ, which has led us to a lesser concern for his purposes, his presence, and his power.
- Repent of pursuits and priorities that are ungodly and that have robbed us of a vision for and enthusiasm for the final revival or any revival that precedes it.
- Repent of our tentative spirits regarding revival. We say to God “Show me, and then I’ll believe.” We need to say, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
- Repent of unbelief that says our particular situation is hopeless and cannot be transformed, even by revival.
- Repent of our unwillingness to confess our frustrated and hopeless condition as a church, with no hope outside of revival.
- Repent of how our daily living advances the present order of things, instead of being a part of preparing the church for the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in new ways through revival.
- Repent of our indifference and apathy. We are will be to be satisfied with much less than God has promised us and the nations.
- Repent of our “religious flesh,” as we attempt to do God’s work in our own strength. This is evidenced in our self-sufficiency, self-confidence, self-righteousness, and self-promotion.
- Repent of our counterfeit hopes that are centered on this life, on our church, in particular Christian leaders, or in our own programs and systems.
- Repent of our lack of prayer as a church. This reveals our hearts’ hidden aversion to the living God and his purposes for all the earth.
- Repent of the fear that hesitates to seek revival, because we are afraid of what it might cost us.
- Repent of the disunity of the church, that makes it impossible for God to pour out a broad-based spiritual awakening. God’s whole revival must come to the whole church, for the sake of the whole earth. We must repent of divisiveness caused by our denominationalism, traditionalism, competitiveness in ministry, and racism.
You may be able to identify other areas of repentance that need to be a part of how we prepare the way of the Lord.
- Preparing by the Strategy of Silence
Of supreme importance, overarching all other preparations including repentance, we must practice what I call the “strategy of silence.” This should not surprise us since one of the major impact of revival when it comes will be silence—a sense of awe and the fear of God that make us prostrate in spirit before him (see Revelation 1:17 as an example).
We must take time to listen to God. We must remove all the clutter and static that keeps us from hearing his voice. This is possibly the greatest evidence that revival is near. As God’s people are humbled before him, silence not only means we have a heart full of wonder but also a spirit of readiness to respond to the Lord no matter when revival requires of us.
Initially silence may simply mean asking God questions and giving him undistracted time to answer us. As you practice the strategy of silence and help others to do the same, here are some suggested questions you might ask.
- Has God given us a greater sense of hope and confidence about the coming world revival? And has our hunger for revival increased?
- As we seek to prepare for a national and world revival, in what ways is God calling us to obey him in response to our growing vision?
- Do we see any preliminary answers to our prayers for revival taking place right now?
- Are there ways we should give testimony to what God is teaching us or testimony to the ways he’s beginning to answer? Are there ways we should begin challenging others to renewed confidence about the coming revival? Does God want us to set the pace in any new directions?
Finally, as we look at our own walk with Christ and our work to mobilize other believers for the coming revival, it demands that we evaluate and adjust the full scope of our discipleship on a regular basis. And we must wait in silence to hear God’s answer.
On a number of occasions I have led citywide revival prayer concerts in the Antelope Valley just north of Los Angeles, a short distance from the runway on which the space shuttle lands. I have often thought as we prayed together and then went forth from those rallies to watch for the answers that it was as if we too were putting down a runway, a runway for revival. We were preparing a way for the Lord, for him to “land” among us with a fuller manifestation of Christ and his kingdom. We were getting ready to receive him and then to “take off” with him.
In light of the coming revival, life preparation is key, both personal and corporate. We must constantly encourage each other to do everything we can to make room for God to act. We must “clear the decks” for God’s initiative among us so that we might go forward into all that world revival holds for the twenty-first century. True, revival is God’s work, it is his visitation. But we have a job to do as well. We must be sure everything is in place for him to arrive!
So press on! Set the pace with confidence. You are simply uncovering what God has already begun to do among the people for whom you are setting the pace. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Even if only a few seem to be ready to seek and prepare for revival, be assured that God can and will work powerfully with that initial few until ultimately he brings forth a great host who are ready to receive it.
Be patient with the process. Know that God is as committed to the process leading toward revival as he is to the revival itself. The process of seeking and preparing contains within it the seeds of the awakening toward which we are moving.
And set the pace with joy and enthusiasm. Hope is infectious—it’s caught, not just taught. Emphasize how much more God wants to give us than we have yet experienced. At the same time help people face up to the fears they have about revival and talk about them freely. Help them come to grips with the radical nature of revival and help them want it because nothing less will do. Let them feel the excitement in store for us as God takes us together through revival into advances of the kingdom we have not experienced before. Above all, never be satisfied until they understand that all revival, plain and simple, is Christ. We are seeking and preparing for his manifest presence among us.
Pressing on means we must stay alert for the inevitable spiritual conflicts that lie ahead. Satan will try to undermine movements of seekers in every way he can. He’ll attempt to divert us, distract us, discourage us, and divide us because he knows that the coming revival will cut his time shorter than ever. He will attack with fury all who have set themselves to mobilize the church to seek and prepare for this triumphant work of the Spirit.
So stay determined. Don’t give up. Never be apologetic. You are not on a fool’s errand. Sow the vision among others. Plant and water. And then press in on God to give you the increase. You will reap if you faint not. World revival is coming! The hope is at hand!
A Survey about Local and World Revival
Note: By means of this questionnaire , we wish to gauge the nature of your attitudes on issues related to a coming world revival. For each question below, there is a continuum provided for your response that allows you to indicate the intensity of your feelings. All answers are confidential. We will report back the results at a future date. The questions are given in summary form. The one administering this questionnaire will explain each question in more detail.
- To what extent does the church worldwide (including our church) need a greater manifestation of all that Christ is for us, in us, and through us? To what degree are we in need of a true biblical revival?
| It would be helpful,
but not essential to our task.
| Without it most
churches (our own
included) will languish,
and we will fall short of
God’s purposes for us
in this generation.
- What impact would a world revival (as well as revival where we live) have on the worldwide advance of Christ’s kingdom? To what degree is revival in the church the only hope for our city and for the nations?
|It would be helpful,
but not essential to our task.
task to the comprehensive
degree that God has
called us to in this
generation, without a true
| We can never carry out
The Great Commission
- How strategic is it for the body of Christ (including our church) to work concertedly in prayer and preparation for a coming world revival?
| It would be helpful,
but not essential to revival.
wide awakening in the
church if we unite as a
body to pray for it and
to prepare for it together.
| God will only respond
with a local and world-
- Is God willing, able, and ready to give world revival to this generation (and to us right here)?
| Undoubtedly God is
able. I’m not sure he
wants to at this time.
| Absolutely! God yearns
to do such a thing right
now. It is his highest
priority for us in this
- Does God desire to fill his church (including our church) with confidence and hope about a coming revival and to enable us to seek it and prepare for it together?
|I’m not sure.||
Absolutely! Such a
- Am I ready to get involved right now with other believers in new ways to seek and prepare for local and world revival?
|I’m not sure.|| I want to make such
involvement a number-
one priority in my life,
reflected in such things
as my commitments of
time, energy, resources,