Since my exodus from organized religion (and my former involvement in the Toronto Blessing movement), some of my friends and acquaintances have wondered if I still believe God can bring “revival” to a people in this day and age. Some folks presume that just because I am no longer a proponent of “Institutional Churchianity” that I must not believe in the present power of the Holy Spirit, the supernatural, etc. Somehow for them, they presume “church” is directly tied to the state of being an active disciple of Jesus. The funny thing is, I have always been very straightforward about my perspective concerning revival and to quickly answer the question I will tell you, YES, I do believe revival is possible! Not only do I believe it is possible, but I believe IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME! I believe it has been happening since Jesus rose from the dead…
If we understand revival to mean an awakening and that awakening refers to people experiencing a “re-kindling” of their first love for Jesus, then ABSOLUTELY this happens… In fact, many people who have “woken up” from their spiritual slumber in church world and stepped outside of their former mindset to follow the Lord free and unfettered by religion have experienced what I would regard as a genuine revival or rekindling of their relationship with the Lord.
If we also understand revival to mean the event of people turning to Christ Jesus and believing the Gospel, then this too happens all the time. It’s really nothing new, though so many people (particularly those who have been influenced by institutionalized religion) tend to see “revival” as something that needs to be worked for. Worked for how? By engaging in special prayer meetings, extra church services, 24-hour worship services, extensive Bible study routines, etc. These often take good things and make labor, legalism (and almost witchcraft) of them, supposing that this will move the hand of God to work a “new thing” in their organization.
On the one hand, this response reveals a weariness that many people are experiencing with religion, yet they haven’t necessarily connected all the dots yet. They are feeling the deadness and futility of their religion and they become ever more desperate to experience something alive and fresh. They know in their heart there must be more and so they crave what they feel is lacking. The problem is, they often have no idea how to get it… They are often so infected by religion that the only thing they know to do is to employ more religion in hopes that God will respond. Still, a few reach out to God and God is found by them.
Many have no idea how to recognize true revival and falsely presume that it is represented by a grand emotional experience. So when something seemingly new and exciting comes along, they feel the winds of emotion and think it must be a move of God. They use words like “feeling the anointing” but really have no idea what that means. To most those words are just ways of describing exuberant emotion. They hear a preacher preach a lively sermon and they say, “Oh, that man is so anointed.” Many label movements that create these kinds of emotional hype as being “revival”, yet they are often little more than a passing religious fad. Often times manifestations and wild experiences are talked about, but no real conversions are realized. No repentance from sin. No spiritual fruit. No lasting joy in the Spirit.
During the Toronto Blessing I witnessed many people talking about “revival” (myself included) and there was a lot of excitement. People were going on about wild manifestations and all kind of spiritual buzz words were used. And while I can honestly tell you that I believe some people did experience a genuine revival of faith and a rekindling of their love for Jesus, many were simply caught up in spiritualized hype. There were people who talked about “God moving” constantly, but meanwhile their marriages were falling apart and their relationships with other friends and family were dissolving. Some became so smug about their “enlightenment” that they arrogantly labeled those who questioned things as being “religious”.
How different this mindset was from what the Bible presents; such as when we read about Paul and Silas visiting the city of Berea and proclaiming the Gospel. The Bible says that these people had open hearts but searched the Scriptures to see whether the things Paul and Silas were teaching them were true. The Bible commends the Bereans for being diligent to search the Scriptures, whereas many in the Toronto revival’s leadership condemned people for searching the Scriptures.
All of that aside, “revival”, to my perspective, has NOTHING to do with scheduled church meetings or even “movements” which are often referred to as such. It is simply the reality that occurs when a life genuinely submits to the Father.
It is encouraging to note that there have been a number of occasions throughout history where God has revealed His presence in incredible ways as people prayed and witnessed a unique and powerful move of God by His Spirit. There are some marvelous accounts where hundreds of people have experienced a conviction of sin and repentance and turned their hearts to Christ. Sometimes people were delivered from all kind of illness and addictions. Other times the transformation of people’s lives spread throughout the town and abroad and many others were touched as well.
One thing that is most frequently recorded about these kinds of genuine “revivals” is that THEY WERE NOT THE PRODUCT OF ANY HUMAN ORGANIZATION OR EFFORT! God moved sovereignly! They did not happen because some church decided to have a “revival meeting”. In fact, they didn’t always even happen in church! Sometimes people fell on their knees in repentance in bars and jail cells!
The following video is an account by a brother in Christ by the name of Duncan Campbell. This brother from Scotland tells of a revival that broke out in Hebrides in 1949. Duncan remarks that no religious organizing brought about the revival and no human effort. It was totally a work of God. The full story is remarkable. I will not chronicle all of that story here, but I will share that the revival began after two elderly ladies (one blind and the other suffering from severe arthritis) had been praying for God to touch the young people of their city for some time. These two ladies were not church attenders (in large part because their infirmities prohibited them), but they were lovers of Christ and prayed for their city earnestly. At one point, God revealed to them that a certain man (Duncan Campbell) would be used of God to come to their town and preach the Gospel and that, at this time, there would be an outpouring of God’s Spirit. They sent word, inviting him to come, but received a refusal. They were told he would not be able to come, yet they boldly disregarded this reply believing that it was still God’s will. Their response was to say, “That’s what man says. God has said otherwise. He shall be here within a fortnight!” To everyone’s surprise, this is exactly what happened! Duncan came to preach, intending to stay for only ten days, but after the revival hit he stayed for 2 years!
Duncan remarked that 75% of the salvations occurred before anyone even set foot in a church! People were getting saved right where they were, wherever they were. God supernaturally started touching lives all over the city. No preacher had a chance to get to them… No church program reached them… No religious influence whatsoever! Just the power of God! The only thing we know about human involvement that helped to bring about the revival was that there were people who prayed, asking God for mercy to draw souls to Himself… and that He did!
Now, you’ll note that brother Duncan was a preacher and a church man, but his life was so dramatically affected by what he witnessed in this revival that he spent the next many years telling his testimony of how God sovereignly brought revival and how religion had NOTHING to do with it. People ran from the bars and dance halls to the churches because they didn’t know where else to go. They were sensing the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the only thing many of them knew of God was that churches were supposed to be places where people went to worship God. They did not go to these churches because there were special meetings advertised or because there was some big shot revival preacher there or healing evangelist. They went because they were groping in the dark for God. God met them!
Which brings me to my next point… Do I believe God touches churches with revival… No! I believe He touches PEOPLE with revival. If those people happen to be gathering in a church or part of a religious organization, that is no matter to God. His interest is when people reach out to Him and when God moves by His Spirit, not even church can get in the way. There are many stories of churches having their entire religious program upset by a move of God… and in my own case, when God got a hold of my life (even through the midst of the Toronto craziness) He led me OUT of that environment and set me totally free of religion! So don’t be surprised if God chooses to move on people who attend church! Don’t be critical when you see God at work in the lives of people who may attend religious meetings. Who cares where it happens! I pray that God would even move right into the Mormon Church! What a place for revival to happen!!! Could you fathom it happening? Would it offend you if it happened there? Do you know that it has happened before? There is a great video about the former cult known as the World Wide Church of God (the video is called “Called To Be Free”). God saved the leaders of this organization and they renounced their former cult leader and doctrine and turned to Jesus. It completely upset the organization and they lost many members, but MANY people came to Christ.
If you are a Jesus-follower (like myself) who is “out of church world”, please don’t let the fact that Duncan (in this video) was a church man bother you. Please know that, by sharing this video, I am NOT endorsing church or religion of any kind. I think that will be obvious when you listen to this testimony. Instead I pray you will be greatly encouraged that miracles can and do still happen. I hope it will boost your faith and cause hope to well up in your heart that God still desires to draw souls to Himself. Pray with me that we will see this yet in our day!
In many places God is presently touching lives in amazing ways. I actually believe the exodus from organized religion is one evidence of that. Of course the organized church doesn’t see it that way and they speak negatively about this in their publications. They quote the statistics and talk about how terrible it is that people seem to be leaving the church in droves. They see it as a sign of godlessness increasing, not even acknowledging the possibility that it could very well be plain evidence of a genuine move of God.
I can tell you that, with all the email testimonies I have received over the last 10 years because of this website, I am CONVINCED that God is moving through the massive exodus from churchianity! Some of you may not even know that one of the reasons my own wife first heard the Gospel and came to believe in Jesus was because God first had to take me out of religion to prepare my heart for my relationship with her and the testimony of Christ that I would end up sharing with her and the fruit that it would eventually bring and continues to bring. God is AWESOME!!! Be encouraged my friends! Revival fires have never stopped burning and I will continue to pray that God will continue to keep them burning until all is said and done! This is a good time to be alive!