Christian Ministry Resources
Strategies for Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal
Part of the ministry resources on Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal.
- Introduction, The Nature of Church Revival
- The Nature of Church Revival Literature
- Ministry Resources on Church Revival
- Related Ministry Resources
Introduction – The Nature of Revival in the Church
Ray Ortlund tells of a speech he heard in seminary by the renowned Christian scholar, J. I. Packer, who conveyed with “haunting persistence” that ministers “not neglect the revival dimension in ministry.” (When God Comes to Church, 15) While not all those interested in church renewal will see their situation through the eyes of revival, Packer’s words are a reminder of its importance.
Church Revival is a unique and unusual occurrence, both in scripture and Christian history. Revival in the church should not be confused with protracted meetings of emotionally charged preaching and manipulative pleas for public repentance and re-dedication. It also is tragic to mistake biblical revival for the celebrity-promoting religious marquees dotting the American landscape, or even the fare of self-anointed messiahs who monopolize Sunday community television. Instead, revival is God’s answer to the fervent prayers of men and women who ache over the eclipse of God from the consciousness of his people, the overpowering presence of sin and unrighteousness, and the lethargy of Christ’s church in their place and time. In answer to this longing and prayer, God, in his time, and often in surprising ways, brings about a rebirth of the teaching and preaching of scripture, and the Holy Spirit moves mightily in the receptive hearts of listeners who repent sorrowfully and confess their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, experience God’s mercy, and powerfully rededicate their lives to him in ways that literally transform their surroundings. In genuine revivals, whole communities, cities, and nations may experience the mighty presence of God among them.
LifeandLeadership.com affirms the validity of church revival. Admittedly, those trained in biblical interpretation and theology may have to develop a taste for revival literature. Those who can extend gracious latitude, however, may come out more blessed than they anticipated.
The Nature of Church Revival Literature
Just as church revival is a unique phenomena, so revival literature is its own genre. It focuses on the movement of God in bringing about deep transformation in individuals, churches, and whole groups of people. It tends to take scripture quite literally, and does not maintain a scholarly distance from the text. Instead it emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about a “fresh encounter” with God resulting in repentance and reformation. Harkening back to biblical revivals and historical epochs such as the First and Second Great Awakenings, revivalism describes the departure of man from God, the judgment of God against rebelliousness, the role of godly men and women as instruments God uses to call his “backslidden” people to return to him, the consequences for those who reject, and the blessings for those who receive.
Literature on revival in the church is not without its critics. It describes the work of God in very sequential, patterned terms, and spells out specific steps individuals and churches must take in seeking and experiencing revival. Some may not like this formulaic, “direct encounter” approach. Others may not appreciate the highly emotional experience that is characteristic of revivals. Also, authentic revival occurs in times and seasons that require a prophetic voice focused on conviction of sin, repentance, and restoration. It is not the best choice for those who need encouragement and consolation. Some messages comfort the afflicted, but revival literature afflicts the comfortable. Both have their place. Critics raise some legitimate concerns, especially as they relate to select phenomena often associated with so-called revivals. On the other hand, criticism may at times mask the spiritual lukewarmness indicative of the need for genuine revival.
It is impossible to deny the occurrence of genuine revivals in scripture and world history. The important task in appropriating God’s work in revival, however, is to distinguish between true and counterfeit phenomena. The first step toward this is to understand how God brought revival in biblical history, and then to let these episodes serve as benchmarks for the current day.
MINISTRY RESOURCES ON CHURCH REVIVAL
LifeandLeadership.com looks at revivalism more appreciatively than critically, and suggests resources in the following categories:
Revival — Biblical Themes
These works look at the biblical record to see how God has used revival to bring people back to himself. They also provide biblical, theological, and formational benchmarks for authentic revival.
- Walter C. Kaiser, Revive Us Again: Biblical Insights for Encouraging Spiritual Renewal — The standard overview of each of the revival occurrences in both Old and New Testaments.
- Richard F. Lovelace, Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth, and Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal — A very scholarly overview of revival (or his term, “renewal”) from a biblical, historical, theological, and formational perspective.
- Raymond C. Ortlund, When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today – Ortlund writes as a scholar who has never lost connection to the church’s need for a vital relationship with God.
- ChurchSmart Resources on Congregational Spiritual Revival — A fine collection informed by a background in ministry practice, marriage and family therapy, and biblical scholarship.
Other Popular Works on Revival: Though the volumes referenced above are sufficient guides to understanding biblical phenomena, the authors below are frequently referenced and may be good supplements. They are not summarized on LifeandLeadership.com, but are linked directly to Amazon.
- Ernest Baker, The Revivals of the Bible. Ambassador Publications, 1988.
- Wilbur M. Smith, The Glorious Revival Under King Hezekiah. Zondervan, 1954.
- Philip R. Newel, Revival on God’s Terms. Moody, 1959.
- C. E. Autry, Revivals of the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1960.
- Stephen F. Olford, Heart-Cry for Revival: Expository Sermons on Revival. Christian Focus, 2005.
Revival — Historical
Most church leaders who follow a revival theme encounter names such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Charles G. Finney, and Francis Asbury. It helps to understand the history behind the First and Second Great Awakenings of which these men were a part. Church histories help us in this task.
- Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir — Offers a history of seven periods of revival in North America, Europe, Korea, and China. Written out of a longing for genuine revival phenomena.
- Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys — One of today’s most respected church historians discusses the major movements and personalities of the First Great Awakening, including Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys.
- Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada — Includes Noll’s history on the Second Great Awakening, covering key figures Finney and Asbury.
Other Popular Works:
- Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750-1858 — Murray provides a very conservative recounting of the revivals, drawing a sharp contrast between genuine revival and humanly engineered revivalism.
- J. Edwin Orr, The Re-Study of Revival and Revivalism — A recognized classic that provides a good overview of revivals in European and American history.
Classic and Modern Revivalists
These resources concentrate on key figures in the First and Second Great Awakenings, as well as others in more modern times whose works are consistently referenced in the interest of revival. They are listed in historical order, starting with the oldest.
- Jonathan Edwards on Spiritual Revival — References works from this main player in the First Great Awakening, especially as popularized in recent literature by Edwards enthusiast, John Piper.
- Charles G. Finney, Experiencing the Presence of God — An anthology of works by a major catalyst during the Second Great Awakening.
- Leonard Ravenhill on Spiritual Revival — Writings from a prominent revivalist of the twentieth century, including his classic, Why Revival Tarries.
- Aiden Wilson (A. W.) Tozer on Spiritual Revival – Writings from a popular author of the twentieth century, including his classic, The Pursuit of God.
- David Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Revival — Lloyd-Jones served as minister of Westminster Chapel in London for thirty years and preached extensively throughout the United States and Europe. The author of more than thirty books, many of which carry a revival theme.
- Henry Blackaby, Claude King, Richard Blackaby, and Anne Lotz, Fresh Encounter: God’s Plan for Your Spiritual Awakening — Designed to be a clear guide for revival, written by the authors of the popular series, Experiencing God. Click through to the summaries to get a shapshot of the content of this series.
- Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Revised and Expanded. Also the companion volume: Experiencing God: Knowing the Doing the Will of God, Leaders Guide, Updated.
- Henry Blackaby and Holman Bible Editorial Staff, Experiencing the Word New Testament.
- Henry and Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God Day by Day: A Devotional and Journal.
- Henry and Richard Blackaby, Hearing God’s Voice.
- Henry and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda.
- Henry and Richard Blackaby, God in the Marketplace: 45 Questions Fortune 500 Executive Ask About Faith, Life, and Business.
- Henry Blackaby, Experiencing the Cross: Your Greatest Opportunity for Victory Over Sin. Also the companion volume,Experiencing the Cross Study Guide.
- Henry and Melvin Blackaby, Experiencing the Resurrection: The Everyday Encounter that Changes Your Life.Also companion volume, Experiencing the Resurrection Study Guide.
- Henry and Melvin Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day.
- Henry and Norman Blackaby, Experiencing Prayer With Jesus: The Power of His Presence and Example.
Critique of Revivalism
It is important to note these are not critiques of biblical revival, but of various religious phenomena that present as revival.
- Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places, Revised and Expanded – Affirms the importance of genuine revival, but looks unfavorably on other events which he believes misuse scripture, make outlandish claims, and abuse people spiritually.
- Michael Horton, In the Face of God: The Dangers and Delights of Spiritual Intimacy – Tackles a kind of mystical spirituality expressed in popular Christian literature that is at times characteristic of revivalist literature.
- Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750-1858 — A probing analysis of revivals and revivalism from the 18th and 19th centuries and their lingering effect on today’s evangelicalism, written from a conservative Calvinist perspective.
Related Ministry Resources
See Other Resources on Church Leadership and Renewal:
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal, Index
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Theological Foundations, Ecclesiology
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Philosophical Foundations – e.g. Church Growth, Missional, Emergent, and Other Missionally Responsive Trajectories
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Practical Foundations, Church Dynamics and Research
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Practical Foundations, Congregational Culture, Church Identity
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Practical Foundations, Church Size, Size Transitions
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Practical Foundations, Research and Case Studies on Effective Churches
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Special Situations, Small Church Development
- Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal – Strategies for Renewal
Ministry Resources on Related Areas
- Church Administration
- Christian Leadership for Transition and Change in Church
- Christian Leadership for Conflict in Church
- Elders, Church Governance
- Church Giving, Tithing, and Financial Stewardship
- Involvement, Using Spiritual Gifts for Ministry in Church
- Christian Leadership
- Managing Volunteers in Christian Ministry
- Church Staff, Ministry Teams
- Ministry Transitions, Interim Ministry
- Missional Perspectives, Intro
- Missional Strategies for Christian Ministry
- Pastoral Theology
- Social Ministry
- Spiritual Formation for Christian Ministry
- Theology of Mission and Ministry
See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry: