Rethinking What Revival Means
It’s time to rethink what revival means. In the New Testament, the word “church” always refers to a people and never to a physical building. In contrast, today, the word “church” refers to a time, a location, and a building. A first-century Christian would find this type of language perplexing. For the early Christians, the church referred to a people and a body, not to a place or a building. The Greek word for church, “Ecclesia,” means “an assembly of called-out ones.” In its most elementary state, the church is a people who are called out of the world for a purpose. This calling out is not a retreat from the world but a calling to model a kingdom life as an alternate society within the world. The church should be the visible expression of God’s kingdom on the earth, but how can we be an alternate society and a visible expression if we are hidden inside the walls of a church building?
In recent history, the word “revival” has become synonymous with extended church meetings, whether planned or spontaneous. It is not uncommon to drive past a church and see a sign regarding a “weeklong revival.” Extended church meetings are not wrong, but many Christians and pastors potentially see extended services as a goal. If our definition of revival is simply extended church meetings, how will we ever fulfill the Great Commission? This definition is circular. We need to revisit our understanding of revival and gain insight from the early church.
The following passage from the Book of Acts indicates that five unique characteristics marked the early church.
“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
1. Passion – They Prayed.
2. Community – They Gathered Together.
3. Manifestations of the Spirit – They Were Shaken.
4. Empowerment – They Were Filled With The Spirit.
5. Mission – They Spoke The Word Of God With Boldness.
In the church today, we are infatuated with the first four elements of this passage. We love praying and gathering together, and we love when God manifests his presence and fills us with His Spirit. Sadly we tend to neglect Mission.
In our day, if God shakes a building and pours out his Spirit, we contact the Christian media rather than preach the gospel to our community. For this reason, many revivals come to an end. If churches experience a dramatic movement of the Spirit, they respond by hosting extended meetings so that every waking moment people are in a church service. While these meetings can be powerful and are a gift from God, we must be careful not to forget the purpose. True revival is more than attending extended church services; it is about a sustainable culture where people are empowered continuously to expand God’s kingdom in their world.
This mission cannot be fulfilled in Sunday morning services alone but must be lived out every day of the week. Jesus never commanded us to “go into all the world and start Sunday morning services,” but he did command us to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). God’s desire for the church is not extended services but a transformed community. The Book of Acts gives us a wonderful picture of what the outpouring of the Spirit looks like when Christians gather together to seek God’s face, are empowered by the Spirit, and are on Mission in their city.
We must rethink what revival means and ask a different question than “How do we get more people into a building?”
The Great Commission can never be fulfilled on a Sunday morning. Jesus calls us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. You are the only person who has the ability to reach your portion of the world, and God has entrusted you with that mission. Whether you believe it or not, you have everything you need to reach the world around you through the power of God that lives inside of you. All of us, not just those we label missionaries, are called to fulfill the Great Commission.
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