A True Life Changer
This was a paper I wrote back in the day which I believe reflects a revival (in a reportage sense). Hope you enjoy it :)
A True Life Changer
Steven Olford defines a revival as “an invasion from Heaven which brings a man to a conscious awareness of God.” All around the world, and in all eras, revivals have emerged, unannounced. Revivals have changed the lives of the broken-hearted, the weary, the rich, and the poor. Revivals can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Some people become speechless as others cry out and travel across the world after a revival has affected them. A revival cannot be summed up in one sentence as history tells of miraculous tales of revivals. Revivals happen to random individuals, and who knows if there might be one coming.
Revivals happen in many different ways; the clearest definition of a revival must come from the Christians’ main source, the Bible. In Isaiah 64:3 (New International Version) the passage resembles a revival, “for when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.” According to Wendy Yu, a devoted Christian involved in evangelism, a revival is, “A genuine, powerful move of the Holy Spirit sweeping across a land, touching everything and everybody - burning away impurity and selfishness in Holy Fire, unifying Christians of all backgrounds in love and transforming all individuals and therefore all sectors of society.” She refers to the Holy Spirit, which Christians regard as the third person in the Trinity, or as Mike Liang, a youth director at Living Water Evangelical Church would say, “it’s like ‘Tri-unity’, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… The Father being the architect, Jesus being the manager, and the Holy Spirit being the worker.” A common misconception that many people have about the Christian God is that it’s actually three gods. In reality, it’s three parts of God. Each player of the Trinity is just as important as the others. Revivals can only happen with all three parts of the Trinity.
During a revival, the Holy Spirit “shakes up” the lives of Christians. It reminds them of the love of Christ Jesus, and as a result, they would repent and renew their lives to God. During a revival, believers would usually fast and pray nonstop for many hours, days, weeks, and even months. An article on Forerunner speaks of Marilyn Blackburn who participated in the Asbury Revival of 1970 in Kentucky saying, “People didn’t want to leave she said. They were afraid they would miss something wonderful.” Specifically, in the Asbury revival, a routine meeting, which usually lasts 50 minutes, turned into “185 hours non-stop, 24 hours a day. Intermittently, it continued for weeks.” (Forerunner). People claimed that they felt the Holy Spirit; Yu says “He often feels like fire… heat in my palms like I’m holding a fiery hand… People who receive instantaneous healing often feel heat on the area where the healing takes place. The Spirit often feels like dense, weighty air… when people would feel a heavy air of conviction or just weighty consciousness of God’s Holy Presence on their bodies.” What seems like never-ending worship and intense supernatural feelings all occur during a revival.
Revivals usually do not happen in other religions, or if they do, they are not as powerful as a Christian revival. The basis of the Christian faith, and the reason why it is so different than other religions is “Jesus Christ… he is an answer of hundreds of prophesies, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of scripture, Jesus Christ’s blood is the only reason why we are saved. And it’s through his life that we see grace and forgiveness,” Liang says. The concept of someone else taking the fall for something we deserve doesn’t make sense to people, and Christians’ concept of love, grace, and forgiveness separates Christianity from other religions. This concept is the core of a revival, being reminded of the love of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the works of the Spirit.
A street on their knees, a nation humbled, countries restored, revivals were scattered throughout history. Both Yu and Liang agree that revivals can only happen in times of desperation. In 1857, a nationwide revival started with the breakdown of a country. Stephen Smith, author of an article titled, “The Great Awakening of 1857-1858,” explains how the citizens of the United States were “seeking riches rather than God. The churches were losing people, and worldliness was creeping in.” Soon, those who were apart from earthly desires began to see their own people stray away from God. “A number of Christians who had become concerned over the materialism that pervaded the land, and the fact that the young were growing up without God, began to pray that God would break the love of money over people’s lives and send another revival to the nation” (Smith). God answered their prayer through the Bank Panic of October 1857. During that winter, the United States banking system collapsed. Smith says, “The panic caused rich men to go broke literally overnight. Suicide and murder increased.” As people lost everything that they ever knew, they began to call out to God. The number of church attendees grew rapidly, with about 50,000 new converts a week. In 1906, a prayer meeting on Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles experienced a few people speaking in tongues, a spiritual gift that Christians believes, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” (1 Corinthians 14:2 NIV). Soon, news of this event spread all around and those who were seeking a revival came to an abandoned church on Azusa Street. Edith Blumhofer wrote an article in the Christian Century titled “Azusa Street Revival”, believes that this revival gave “the visible gifts of the Holy Spirit testified to the Spirits immediate presence in and among believers.” The revived experienced instantaneous healing through prayer, interpretation of the tongues, “prophesied-phenomena with which few Christians had any direct experience,” and baptism with the Holy Spirit. Many more revivals such as the New York revival, which had a massive political change, and a revival in Uganda, which changed the government, all, were a result of desperate people in need of God.
Revivals can happen to anyone. An attendee of the Asbury revival who was changed by the revival claimed, “There was this sense of the divine presence that one doesn’t have often in his life… and when you do have it, you never quite get over it… You know. You know. You know it in your bone marrow” (Forerunner). There must be people praying for a revival, wanting one. Liang says, “there needs to be a point of brokenness and desperation. People here in America aren’t broken enough.” The reason why so many people are oblivious to revivals is because “many people have spiritual blindfolds on… many people are too stuck in their comfort zones and have believed lies for so long, they don’t recognize truth staring them in the face. These comfort zones may be materialism, worldliness, normalness, intellectualism, specific doctrines, etc.” (Yu). Once people want and long for a revival, it can happen on a personal level, a group level, and a national level. Liang gives an example of when he had experienced personal revival. Once a stockbroker for Morgan Stanley, he was dissatisfied with money and making money for people, that he wanted true joy, and he claims is only found in Christ. This change of heart, a personal revival, had led him to become a youth director. A group level can be seen in the Azusa Street Revival and Ashbury Revival, and a national level is shown in the Great Awakening.
Revivals are still a mysterious phenomenon. Christians believe that anyone who is seeking a revival will experience one. It’s possible that there may be a revival coming in the near future. Yu believes a revival is happening, “I see it, I smell it, I hear it, I feel it, I taste it… I know it’s coming…with the world at our fingertips, many people realize that they are still, oddly enough, not happy! And so they begin their search for truth. Religion has become irrelevant and disinteresting… The superficiality and the temptations of the world lead to enslavement and dissatisfaction, and a lot of people are more than happy to say goodbye to those things in exchange for greatness.” Revivals have been seen throughout history. These revivals happened in times of hopelessness, as one is in need of a change. Christians believe that as inhabitants of this world, they were called to be set apart, and to desire a revival. Christians around the world are constantly praying for revivals. It is through revivals, that Christians believe as a true collision of Heaven to Earth.
Blumhofer, Edith. “Azusa Street revival.” Christian Century. 07 Mar 2006. 20.
ProQuest. Web. 19 Nov 2009.
Carnes, Tony. “Christian revival shakes the Big Apple, with more to come.” The
Christian Index. 17 Feb. 2005. Web. 14 Nov. 2009.
Liang, Mike. Personal Interview. 6 Dec 2009.
Nelson, Jill. “Trying times.” WORLD Magazine 12 July 2008. Print.
"A Revival Account Asbury 1970." The Forerunner. Mar. 2008. Web. 14 Nov. 2009.
Smith, Stephen. “The Great Awakening of 1857-1858.” Smithworks. Web. 14 Nov.
Yu, Wendy. Personal Interview. 29 Nov 2009.