Myths & Misconceptions of Revival - by Ron McGatlin

There are commonly held notions about revival that are erroneous and can be detrimental to revival. In this current season of the outpouring of God's Spirit, the potential for spiritual awakening and revival is a very present reality. Much of our previous understanding and concepts of revival have changed through the practical experience of the recent outpouring of revival in the USA.

One damaging and erroneous concepts is that revival will just fall from the sky and we have nothing to do neither with it coming nor with it staying. This myth creates the feeling that it would be wrong if man did anything to help bring or sustain revival. This misconception probably has its roots in the backlash to fleshly attempts of men trying to bring revival with human effort and hype without the outpouring of the Spirit in an atmosphere of lukewarm church. History and recent experiences of revival have taught us that there are things we can and must do to receive and maintain an outpouring from heaven.

We live in a time when God is not silent. He is, in these days, pouring out His Spirit and speaking to His people. It is no longer a matter of trying to get God to come down and visit mankind. We are in a visitation of God. The question now becomes, will we make room in our lives for a move of God? Will we lay aside our lukewarm religious lifestyles to embrace the King of heaven and His presence upon the earth and within our hearts? Is there room in our hearts and lives for revival? God does not desire just a room or space in our hearts and lives. He desires and requires our entire hearts and lifestyles to be in subjection and submission to Him and His will. To receive and maintain revival we must be permeated and filled to overflowing with His presence -- with His life and not our own self-willed, self centered, lukewarm lifestyles. We cannot have a divided life, living part for ourselves and part for Him and experience the fire and glory of the outpouring of God bringing revival in our lives and our world.

Another aspect of the hands off myth about revival is the belief that it would be wrong to advertise publicly what God is doing. Again this probably has its roots in the merchandising of spiritual things that has occurred during seasons of lack of outpouring from God when men have in their mixed motivations of self serving and God serving hyped their meetings and made false or exaggerated claims of the presence of God to attract numbers of people which produces more dollars in their offerings.

The Samaritan revival began when the woman at the well ran back to the city and publicly proclaimed she had met the Christ and told part of what He had done and invited everyone to come and see for themselves. That basically is the foundation of advertising revival. Contrary to the notion that a true revival is not advertised; virtually all revivals in history have been promoted in one-way or another. Most have used the print media rather extensively, but the methods have varied. Historian Frank Lambert documents in "Peddler in Divinity; Oxford University Press," how George Whitefield, utilized the colonial newspapers to promote and propagate revival meetings in the colonies during the Great Awakening.

Christian History Magazine reveals that the Cane Ridge camp meeting as well as many other camp meetings in the early 19th Century utilized handbills, communion tokens, and word of mouth to elicit interest in the services. Margaret Long in her ground breaking book "Revival of 1857-1858" documents how many of the prayer services during the revival of 1857-1858 were extensively covered and promoted by newspapers in New York City. She goes on to document how newspapers and publishers have in many ways created the conception and identity of revival. The Welsh Revival of 1904 was heavily promoted and covered by many international newspapers. In the United States, the "Apostolic Faith" newspaper promoted the Azusa Street Revival. During the healing Revival of the 1950's, the activities and services of virtually all of the "healing evangelists" were promoted in the "Voice of Healing" Magazine. "Advertising" has had through out history a much larger role in promotion and propagation of revival than we may have thought.

Another hindering myth and misconception of revival is that a revival is first and foremost an evangelistic campaign.

This misconception probably has its roots in the recent past lukewarm church, which saw itself as having no needs and on its way to heaven, but recognized that the people outside the church were lost and on their way to an eternal hell. This focus caused the great truths of Jesus changing our lives, and causing us to rule and reign with Him now, to be veiled in the church. The reality of Christ in us bringing the kingdom of God lifestyle and causing the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven was not a focus.

The problem was that getting the lost saved and bringing them into the lukewarm church and sitting them beside lukewarm Christians who had no greater concept of God that a ticket to heaven when they died, only produced more lukewarm pew sitting Christians. Usually they soon lost interest in the powerless lifestyle of church and went back to the things of the world. Their lives became largely the same as before except they now believed that they would be in heaven when they died though they lived ungodly lifestyles now. The church people must be revived first, and become people filled with His presence, then evangelism will bring lost people into a powerful meaningful relationship with the King of heaven and earth.

There has clearly been a blurring of distinctions between revival and evangelistic campaigns. Through the lens of scripture and experience of recent and historic revivals, we have learned that revival primarily deals with the church. Revival is vigorous life coming to the half dead. To be revived one must have previously had life. Revival is bringing reformation to the church first and then reaching out to the lost. Throughout the Bible, God primarily dealt with individuals and groups who already knew the truth and believed. Consequently, "revival," in the truest sense of the word, is not an evangelistic campaign. Noted revival historian, Richard Owen Roberts clarified this when he wrote, "When the term revival is applied to organized mass evangelism, both concepts suffer. As significant as mass evangelism is, as wise as it may be to organize this work carefully -- such labors cannot be called revival with any degree of accuracy."

Famed Holiness minister, Andrew Murray often considered the meaning and implications of revival. He wrote in "What kind of Revival Do we need?" "Now there may be differences in what we understand by revival. Many think of the work of evangelists like Moody and Torrey. We need a different and mightier revival than those were. In them the chief object was the conversion of sinners and incidentally, the quickening of believers. But the revival that we need calls for a deeper and more entire upheaval of the Church. The great defect of those revivals was that the converts were received into a church that was not living on the high level of consecration and holiness, and speedily sank down to the average standard of ordinary religious life."

The "revival is temporary" myth is a wide spread misconception.

Again the origins of this myth dates back to the lukewarm church days when a revivalist would come into town and have a series of meetings usually three days to a week. Real revival fire may have come forth and lives may have been really touched. Unusual manifestations might occur and commitments would often be made in the excitement of the presence of God, which followed the "evangelist". But those who had been through many "revival meetings" of this sort knew that soon after the visiting preacher left town everything would return to the normal lukewarm status as people began to focus their lives back on the things of this life. Many Christians today consider this normal and do not believe that it is possible, much less normal to live in this high level of spiritual life on a continuous basis week after week and year after year. At the Smithton Outpouring, now World Revival Church, we have learned and proven by experience that it is very possible to maintain the high level of powerful revival in the presence of God indefinitely. We have learned that it is God's intention for His people to truly seek first the kingdom of God and His righteous ways of doing and being and to become a people, walking in the revived fiery lifestyle of His presence forever.

Another prominent misconception of revival is that it is a shallow thing with much emotion and lacking in depth of the Word.

This has been a somewhat realistic evaluation of some revival meetings of the past and indeed the emotions are touched when the presence of God shows up and hearts are impacted and changed. It is true that it can be on rare occasions that the direction of the Spirit of God will be to continue in praise, worship, and prayer ministry with only brief presentation of the Word. But we have found at the Smithton Outpouring that the scholarly presentation of the powerful revelation of the Word of the kingdom is a major focus of the Spirit and a major portion of the revival services. There is almost always an in depth powerful life changing message from the Word of God that builds the spiritual life of the person and brings the reality of spiritual depth in the revival. Revival is not a shallow emotional and mostly evangelistic experience. It is the power of God moving with the Word of God bringing both the fire of revival and the Word of the kingdom.

One of the misconceptions held by critics of the revivals of today is that all true revival should look the same.

The thought is that if the move of God today is not the same as others then it must not be a true move of God. The reality is that God's focus is different in different places and times to bring forth the restoration and revelation of Himself and the glory of His presence as much as can be received through the people in that time and place to accomplish His will and purpose. God's overall purpose will always remain the same and there may be great similarities in different outpouring and moves of God, but they will never be exactly the same.

Dr. Robert White who has served God in multiple capacities for many years and has been the general overseer of the entire Church of God based in Cleveland, Tennessee, has witnessed many moves of God and revivals of this century and is a student of all the historic revivals. He had this to say on a recent Television program. "God does not repeat Himself. What He did in Brownsville is different than what he did in Smithton. God puts His stamp on it when He says; I am not going to do in Azusa Street what I did in North Carolina. I'm not going to do in North Carolina what I did in Wales or wherever. Every time God moves it is a sovereign move that has God's unique and individual stamp on it."

One of the obvious focal points of the moves of God in recent years is the renewal and reformation of the church. He is restoring vigorous life to the body of Christ and doing away with the lukewarm religion of the past. He is preparing a people to pour out to the world in preparation for a great harvest.

Ron McGatlin


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