Warnings About Problems that Can Develop During Revivals

The following is a collection of common problems that have been seen in revivals over the years. When God sends a season of refreshing, we need to take heed to these warnings and act accordingly.

Neglect of Preaching and Teaching

At times revival services have consisted of prayer, singing, and worshiping in the presence of God. There is no problem with having special services that are filled with testimonies or that are exclusively used for prayer or singing, but it must be remembered that revivals are temporary. They will last a few months to 6 years on an average—what then?

There must be continual effort made to lay a solid biblical foundation in the lives of the believers. The Word of God must be held in high esteem, far above any spiritual experiences. In conjunction with that thought, a well-developed discipleship process should be in place to conserve the fruit, or the new believers will be “blown about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:13-15).

Harmful Publicity

Prayer should be conducted prior to formulating a response to inquiries about the revival that is taking place. There will be those from other churches who will be asking probing questions. The media will also seek information. Responses should be well thought out and selected individuals designated to respond to questions.

Emotion is Acceptable, but Emotionalism Isn’t

There will be extremists, even well-intentioned ones, who could potentially jeopardize the credibility of the revival. People should be led into having an encounter with God, not an encounter with an emotional experience.

Opposition to A Revival is Inevitable

There has never been a revival without opposition. The Apostle Paul confessed that even he was hindered by Satan (1 Thess. 2:18). We need not be surprised when opposition arises.

For those within the church who are opposing the revival, Frank Damazio, in his book Seasons of Revival, suggests that we should be empathetic and make an intentional effort to reach out to the people of the congregation who are suspicious of or who are resistant to revival.

Others will Attempt to Place Control on the Move of God

Ministers from outside the local church where a revival is taking place (maybe from the denominational hierarchy), may attempt to usurp authority over the person who gives birth to the movement, or over the entire movement itself.

During the Azusa Street Revival, William Seymour (the leader of that revival) was under almost constant pressure from world-renowned church leaders who came from around the globe to impose what they perceived to be needed order and direction on the revival. For over two years Seymour held the course and allowed the Holy Spirit to move on His own. Gradually Seymour allowed more and more control of the meetings to be taken over by a few leaders. Soon they were following a program for the meetings. Those who were witnesses said that just as gradually as this happened, the Holy Spirit seemed to depart.

Revivalist Will Speak Against the Next Move of God

Those who begin a movement have been known to persecute those who seek to take it further, or who are used to start another subsequent movement. The spiritual pride of:

If a revival is going to take place God will use me to start it,”

or,

If a revival is to be genuine, it must resemble what I started.”

Leadership Vacuum

If there is not mature leadership, the immature, prideful, or rebellious will quickly step in and take control. The result will be the ending of the revival, or something much worse.

God May Tell You to Do Something Confusing During a Revival

Philip was right in the middle of a great revival and hundreds of people were being saved (Acts 8:5-25). And God said to him, “Go to the desert” (Acts 8:26). Why would God tell him to leave something so profound as what he was involved with and go to the desert—and there only preach to one man? But that one man had tremendous influence and was used by the Lord to carry the Gospel back to Ethiopia (Acts 8:26–40).

Not Everyone Will Be Moved By a Revival

Surprisingly, there will always be those whose hearts are so rebellious that no matter what miracle they witness, or how powerful the presence of God they may experience, they will still harden their hearts and refuse to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Not Everyone Can Lead a Revival

Some preachers are genuinely called to a pastoral ministry—that is their unique and special gift. They are anointed to deliver messages that will bring comfort to the bereaved like what no other can do. The Church cannot exist without them. But these men and women often become envious of those with gifts unlike their own, like the evangelists whose words pierce hearts with Holy Spirit conviction, and many get saved. Pastoral gifted ministers, attempting the same ministry will not get the same results, and due to that discouragement can easily set in.

We need to allow the 5-fold ministry (Eph. 4:11) to operate and not become jealous of those with gifts that differ from our own.

Many Will Come To Experience the Revival

People from churches around the area will come, causing area pastors from other churches to become jealous as they observe people trickle out of their church and into the church experiencing the revival.

To help dissipate hurt feelings and create an atmosphere of unity in a community, consider allowing God to broaden the revival by moving services into other churches in the city. Select pastors from neighboring churches could also be invited to participate.

Some Will Speak Against Any Revival

Pastors of area churches have often felt the need to attack, criticize, and warn their people to stay away from a revival that is taking place at the other church in their city or region. The reason could be a genuine protection pastors feel for their sheep.  It could also be due to the different doctrinal position the two churches may have. The pastor, wanting to protect their people from the “erroneous teachings,” will ask their people not to attend that revival. It could also be they do not want their sheep to leave and permanently begin attending the church experiencing revival.

At times pastors leading a revival, after being attacked with harsh or bitter criticism, have become highly defensive and began to harbor a bitter or censorious spirit. This bitterness emerged as they took to the pulpit and attacked back, destroying the atmosphere of love and the presence of God the revival was intended to bring.

Preachers who are attacked need to guard very closely how they react to opposition. It is often better to take no notice and to make no reference whatsoever about the opposition, than to fan the flames of disruption. Instead, continually seek God so He will fill you with the fruit of the Holy Spirit—humility!

Revivals Are Often Short-Lived

Revivals have rarely lasted more than a decade, and more often it is but a year or two. Even the first century church faded rapidly into increasing apostasy after the death of the 12 apostles.

Some have stated that a revival is like a sale at the department store, in that it gets a lot of attention, but a tremendous amount of the sales that take place comes through the normal day-to-day business of the store. Revivals may be spectacular, but they are not the normal business of the church. Do not neglect nor look down on the activity of the church outside of revivals. Much has been accomplished through the faithful witness of saints and the service of faithful pastors outside seasons of revival.

Spectacular spiritual experiences are wonderful, and they can propel us to great heights of devotion and worship, but the real strength of every Christian’s life will usually be found in the degree of faithfulness to the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, fellowship and day to day witnessing.

The New Testament epistles are basically the apostles’ exhortations to leaders who were serving in times that were not dynamic revivals. They did not expect the spirit to come every day like He did on the Day of Pentecost, so they went about doing the day to day work of the ministry. However, when He does decide to come in a dramatic way that ignites a revival, it’s time to drop what we’re doing and ride the wave for as far as it will take us.

They tell me a revival is only temporary; so is a bath, but it does you good.” —Billy Sunday

Most Revivals End Prematurely

From the next chapter, Why Revivals Die, we note some of the reasons why revivals end. What can be seen is that they often end due to sin, namely pride, which causes us to lose unity. We should learn from this and not worship revival itself. We need to seek the presence of God, grow as close to Him as we possibly can, whether or not a revival takes place.

Overwork and Exhaustion Can Overtake You

Because of the tremendous desire people have to be in the presence of God during revivals, and due to the great results that take place evangelistically and otherwise, many churches experiencing revivals will conduct services 6-7 days per week, for as long as the revival lasts—sometimes as long as several years.

Evan Roberts, one of the leader during the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, suffered a serious physical collapse. The spiritual burden and demand placed upon his physical body had a very adverse effect. After the revival this man spent the rest of his life in seclusion.

The Revivalist Must Be Ready for Rejection

One recurring theme in church history is that the men and women at the forefront of revivals were subject to vicious attacks, which came from those in the Church as well as those from without. Satan will use anybody to stop a move of God.

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