Recently I was speaking in a part of the country known for its antagonism to the gospel. Church planting in that area is very hard work. The small number of confessionally strong churches are making headway, but slowly. I admire these pastors, evangelists, and church planters more than I can say; it is a pleasure and a privilege to spend time with them.
In the course of a meal with several of them, one pastor said, “I know full well that I may serve all my years working in the teeth of strenuous opposition that may get worse before it gets better. But suppose that genuine revival breaks out, whether in one church or in a larger region. What should my priorities be?”
Great question—not least because this brother was not awash in pessimism. While working faithfully in a day of small things, he retained confidence that the Lord’s arm is not shortened, such that he could not save. By this time, the pastor in question has a pretty good idea of what godly ministry looks like when the opposition is pretty intense, but he wondered how his priorities should change if the Lord in his mercy visited him with the blessings of reformation and revival.
As it happens, I’ve been on the edge of such visitations a couple of times. In 1970–1971, when the so-called Canadian Revival swept through parts of Western Canada, sparked by ministry led by the Sutera twins, I was serving as pastor of a church in British Columbia. And then, brought up as I was in French Canada, I witnessed the unprecedented (for Québec) multiplication of about 35 French-speaking churches to just under 500, in eight years (1972–1980). More importantly, I’ve tried to read some of the histories of revivals in various corners of the world, partly to think through what is genuinely of God and what is not.
As a result of my own experience and of my reading, filtered by what I understand Scripture to say, my list of dos and don’ts when revival comes, in no particular order of importance, would look something like this . . .