While teaching classes during the Brownsville Revival, I wrote out a working definition of revival, since in the Bible Belt in particular, the term “revival” often meant a series of special meetings.
In fact, it was common to see signs outside of church buildings in Pensacola announcing (in advance), “Revival, September 21-23,” while evangelists would often tell me that they would be “holding a revival” at such-and-such location at such-and-such time.
That’s why I would frequently explain to people that you can no more “hold a revival” than you can hold a hurricane, and that you can no more “schedule a revival” than you can schedule an earthquake.
This is the definition of revival that I have used for the last decade:
“Revival is a season of unusual divine visitation resulting in deep repentance, supernatural renewal, and sweeping reformation in the Church, along with the radical conversion of sinners in the world, often producing moral, social, and even economic change in the local or national communities.”
Of course, God is free to move in any way that pleases Him, and our ultimate goal is habitation rather than visitation (in other words, our goal is to see the fire burning constantly and God’s presence in powerful manifestation at all times).
But until we reach that goal, we will need seasons of revival.
On many occasions, I have quoted Charles Finney’s description of revival. Read it and let it stir your heart! [A revival] presupposes that the Church is sunk down in a backslidden state, and a revival consists in the return of the Church from her backslidings, and in the conversion of sinners.
- A revival always includes conviction of sin on the part of the Church. Backslidden professors [of the faith] cannot wake up and begin right away in the service of God, without deep searchings of heart. The fountains of sin need to be broken up.
In a true revival, Christians are always brought under such conviction; they see their sins in such a light that often they find it impossible to maintain a hope of their acceptance with God. It does not always go that extent, but there are always, in a genuine revival, deep convictions of sin, and often cases of abandoning all hope.
- Backslidden Christians will be brought to repentance. A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.
Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility, and a forsaking of sin.
- Christians will have their faith renewed. While they are in a backslidden state they are blind to the state of sinners. Their hearts as hard as marble. The truths of the Bible appear as a dream. They admit it to be all true; their conscience and their judgment assent to it; but their faith does not see it standing out in bold relief, in all the burning realities of eternity.
But when they enter into a revival, they no longer see “men as trees, walking,” but they see things in that strong light which will renew the love of God in their hearts...
- A revival breaks the power of the world and of sin over Christians. It brings them to such vantage-ground that they get a fresh impulse towards heaven; they have a new foretaste of heaven, and new desires after union with God; thus the charm of the world is broken, and the power of sin overcome.
- When the churches are thus awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow... The worst of human beings are softened and reclaimed, and made to appear as lovely specimens of the beauty of holiness.
(Taken from Finney’s Revival Lectures, sometimes titled, Lectures on the Revival of Religion)