One day I drove by a church and saw on their sign in front, “Revival,” along with the dates and times. I thought about this as I drove to my home, not far away. I wondered: is there really going to be a revival? How many of these events bearing that title actually bring genuine revival to churches? My answers to these questions based on many years of church experience were not encouraging. Nevertheless, my heart went out to those people at the church that I had driven past because at least they were trying. They were facing in the right direction and their motives and desires were good ones.
The use of the term “revival” implies the bringing back to life something that once had life but no longer does. The term is not used literally, of course, but rather concerns itself more with spiritual vitality that has presumably gone on the wane and that churches wish to bring back. The specialist dedicated to that endeavor is the evangelist.
I overheard a group of evangelists down South once discussing a revival one of them had recently held. They never once mentioned attendance or the number of decisions made for God in the lives of those who came. One man asked one question, got a one word answer, and the discussion was over. That question was telling and brutally pointed, and it told these men everything they needed to know about those meetings. The question only had four words, and the answer one: “Did it break loose?” The answer: “no.”
Having been in one revival where there was not a molecule of doubt that the Holy Spirit had convincingly and completely taken over, I knew as soon as I heard that term, “break loose,” that it was the perfect description for what happens when God’s power sweeps through a revival meeting. This is not a metaphorical expression. I have seen it happen twice. I am not the least bit prone to hyperbole or exaggeration, but the closest I have ever come to justly describing this phenomenon is to say that it is like standing under a waterfall. It is overwhelming to the human capacity and senses and leaves the lives of everyone there permanently and unforgettably transformed. The effect often lasts for generations. These events are true miracles of God.
If there is a key element to true revival, it is that there it is an open secret as to how they are accomplished. I would say from my personal and very limited experience at seeing the Spirit of God “break loose” in a church that the common ingredients seems to be sincerity and an uncompromising desire for the presence and revitalizing power of God.
I was in one revival once in a small church in the hills of Kentucky where the Holy Spirit did not “break loose” until one woman followed her personal directive from God in a very public way. The preacher said that there was “someone here whom God told to testify,” and made it clear that the meeting would not go on until that person followed God’s prompting. There was a long silence, and he repeated his words. Still nothing. The congregation sang a song and he asked again. Silence. Finally a young woman in the far right aisle (there was standing room only) shouted out with every bit of volume and energy that was in her small frame: “ITS ME! ITS ME! ITS ME, PREACHER!!!”
She poured her heart out a mile a minute with a riveting account of how God had been working in her life. Her words swept every person in that small church along in a river of spiritual emotion and energy that was beyond anything I had witnesses in my twenty five years of church life. The second she was done, a man on the other side of the church felt emboldened to speak out and gushed forth with a testimony that he too could no longer contain. Then another, and another, and finally the evangelist had the good sense to understand that the order of service had been taken over by the Holy Spirit. He extended the invitation without ever preaching a word. Out of about 350 people there, probably all but three or four came to the altar and poured their hearts out to God for a solid forty-five minutes, including me.This was the real thing.
I’m sure that if anyone in that revival service was ever asked that uniquely important and telling question, they would all have the same answer. The question that the knowing Christian understands is all that needs to be asked about any revival to know whether or not it lived up to its name. It is still till the only question that matters: “Did it break loose?’ The answer on that day from that small white church-house in the hills of central Kentucky is as simple as it is joyous: “yes, it did!”
Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.