by Mike Shields, Director ISUM International
It’s exciting to go to churches where fires of revival stoke great congregations. There’s energy and enthusiasm, intensity and intentionality. Revival can supercharge a ministry and advance spiritual gains explosively. If given a choice of good organization, a better building, more finances or Revival…most pastors would jump at Revival every time.
So, what’s the secret? Why do some have it, and some don’t?
As the Director for ISUM International, I’ve thought about this question many times. But after years of pondering, I still can’t pinpoint a certain formula or plan of action that could provoke Revival. The variables are so different for every congregation. You can have the same kind of people from the same city, all speaking the same language, from the same socio-economic background, and what works for one group won’t work for another. Revival is specific but elusive, available to all yet uncommon. It is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in cooperation with men and women of focused faith. Other than that, I haven’t been very successful in describing the ignition factors for Revival.
What I can say is there are certain things that great Revival churches share. As my wife, MonaRé, and I have traveled throughout Latin America for ISUM, we visit many churches and have personal interaction with many leaders. We have a few thots on the topic of revival from our perspective.
Here is my list of 7 characteristics of spiritually dynamic churches.
1. Great Revival Churches Have Great Worship
We’re not talking about great music. If great music was the key to Revival, we’d be seeing it all over Christendom. Many churches, even small ones in isolated places, can have great musicians. But there is a lot of confusion today with many Christians who believe music is worship. While the two are related, they are not equivalent.
To complicate matters, there is an increasing lack of discernment between what is praise and what is worship. According to Strong’s Concordance, praise in the original Greek means “to sing, to tell of, to give or to confess”. It’s enthusiastic and expressive, it’s corporate and affirmative. Many churches do well in this dimension. It’s like a great pep rally with a spiritual purpose to bring Glory to God.
But Revival churches give a lot of room for worship. Strong’s Concordance describes worship in both Greek and Hebrew as “prostrating oneself, to bow down, to fall face down, to pay homage and to pay respect”.
Daniel Forster from “The Life Project” says this: “What we worship is who and what we will follow. Worship goes beyond words and feelings. It is the foundation for our true servanthood towards God. Therefore, worship is so intimate ― it defines our relationship with Him. There is nothing on this earth, or in our lives, that is more important than our relationship with God.” https://thelife.com/what-is-praise-and-worship
Great Revival churches understand the difference. They give ample time to this deeply introspective action of worship and adoration by men and women in a close encounter with God. It’s where the Holy Spirit abides. No jumping around, shouting, chanting, enthusiastic shouts or catchy praise can substitute the profound work of the Spirit that takes place in true worship.
Jesus understood this dimension clearly. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.” John 4:24 Great churches give room for powerful worship.
2. Great Revival Churches Pray Great Prayers
Revival is closely identified with intense, Spirit-led, transformational and powerful prayer. Those great churches organize prayer times, prayer teams, prayer retreats, and have a constant prayer emphasis. As oxygen is to sustaining life in our bodies, prayer is the breath that blows upon dying embers that become raging fires of Revival. Their prayers are not just old repetitions of pre-packaged rants. These great churches are centers of earth-shaking intercession that scare off demons and captivate hearts of hungry people.
Intercession is the act of spiritual intervention for the burdens and pain of others. It is invasive, intentional, ground-breaking clamor to the God of Heaven. Great Revival churches take the time for unified, vocal, cathartic cries from the depths of their beings. They pray prayers that break burdens, heal broken bodies, deliver from bondages and set people free. They are specific prayers, anointed, triumphant. They draw men and women to the Throne of God by their intensity and genuineness that break our natural human resistance.
3. Great Revival Churches Proclaim Great Themes
We live in a world of fractious and bitter divides in every area of life. Social media and mass communications have made it possible for niche themes to take center stage. But great Revival churches proclaim great Revival truths. They don’t promote novelty for novelty’s sake. They identify biblical themes that relate to the broadest number of people and proclaim basic truths to drive them deep into hearts.
These great churches are powerful engines of relevant, biblical information that inspire people to believe. They promote revival through proclamation of timeless themes of redemption, hope, new possibilities, and being set free of sinful behaviors that create barriers with God.
4. Great Revival Churches Have Great Missionary Vision
The more powerful the revival, the more profound the missionary passion of great churches. Every great revival has been characterized by a corresponding missionary zeal. Today’s churches in a state of revival have made intentional efforts to highlight outreaches in many cross-cultural contexts.
When church leaders emphasize the Great Commission and the world-wide challenge of winning cultures and people groups to the Lord Jesus, there is a compounding effect. The more we do missions, the more resources flow into the church. The more resources that flow into the church, the more people hear and want to come and see what’s happening. Great churches understand the importance of adopting a missionary project. They build schools, help with food and supplies to displaced persons, or maybe set up a medical clinic to assist hurting people in a needy area of the world. Great Revival churches are passionate about the Great Commission!
5. Great Revival Churches Call for Great Miracles
It’s a spiritual principle that God rewards them who diligently seek Him. Great revival churches are not afraid to call out for miracles of healing, for direction in difficult decisions, for peace in the time of conflict, for miraculous clarity in times of confusion, and for overwhelming financial resources.
There’s a real enthusiasm in churches experiencing Revival for giving. They aren’t ashamed to ask for great offerings. They have no fear of the cost of doing something big for the Kingdom. Revival churches are willing to give so generously it makes any outside observer marvel at the effort. Those churches that operate in the dimension of hilarious, outrageous, open-hearted generosity are closely identified with blessing and high levels of excellence in every area.
6. Great Revival Churches Have Great Joy!
These kinds of congregations really love being together. Their leaders highlight relationships, they encourage engagement, they innately are inspirational, and they love to laugh! Revival churches have great courage, using humor and joy to confront the unknown or unfair. They aren’t afraid to congratulate, encourage, invest and work the great themes with a merry heart. In short, Great Revival Churches have Great Joy.
The world loves joy. World changing churches in a state of revival have a mixture of enthusiasm, humor, passion, and triumphal perspective that joyfully draws people in. People who are weary, burdened, ill or worse come into such an atmosphere. The joy projects a powerful sense of hope and future. It doesn’t just happen. It’s part of the DNA of a church in Revival. People close to its roots quickly duplicate then resonate that frequency of the Spirit.
7. Great Revival Churches Have Great Celebrations
Revival churches know how to celebrate. They look at the calendar and turn a cold, repetitive posting into a grand celebration. Christmas? They do something awesome! Easter? They build enthusiasm for weeks before the big day. Pentecost Sunday? For a Spirit-filled church, they won’t let that day go by without an a full blown and all out proclamation that the Holy Spirit has visited God’s people.
I can’t even say how many times my wife and I have visited churches that let days like Easter, Mother’s or Father’s Day, Independence Day, Día del Amigo, and even Pentecost Sunday just pass by with not even a mention! They have become so accustomed to a monotonous rhythm of music and mundane announcements, constancy and predictability that it snuffs the life out of any reason to celebrate.
Revival Churches look for an excuse to celebrate. They honor their members, highlight accomplishments, invite others to participate and create an updraft of pride and joy for the Kingdom. It’s intentional. Revival church leadership lives it, sleeps it, plans it, works it and loves it.
I wish it was possible to wave the staff of Moses over any church and declare 10 miracles and see Revivals sweep in with a mighty rushing wind. But that just doesn’t happen. It’s not in the means or heart of a man to make Revival come. Yet all of us can act in one accord to create the atmosphere and fertile soil for the Holy Spirit to bring fresh life and breath to “these dry bones.”
We walk by faith, not by sight. Go out and live these observed principles. I believe the Holy Spirit will help you “with signs following”.