Flashpoints of revival have occurred repeatedly starting at Pentecost up to the innumerable flames of revival around the world today. The flames of Pentecost have never ceased. The light shines brightly in the darkness still, and that darkness has never put it out (see Jn. 1:5). Often it has seemed as though darkness had triumphed and that evil abounded, when suddenly God showed His mighty hand again and again, especially in answer to the earnest, believing, repentant prayers of His people.
Revival fires continue to spread through the earth. From that initial outpouring at Pentecost until now they are controversial, disturbing, and often confusing. They often look better from a distance in time and space. They may look and sound very messy close up. Revivals in the history books or in Africa sound wonderful! Revivals in your own backyard can be a headache.
Noisy outbursts of strange activities, such as speaking in tongues, may cause huge crowds to come and see what is going on, even before any preaching begins (see Acts 2:6). Preachers may have to explain that they and their friends are not drunk as everyone thinks they are (see Acts 2:15). Hundreds or thousands of brand-new Christians may suddenly invade your church with all the problems and possibilities they bring (see Acts 2:41). People in authority may object violently to these disturbing developments, especially if they involve healing in Jesus’ name without any doctor present, and thousands more believing in Jesus without even a New Testament to guide them (see Acts 4:1–4). Those are the messy and wonderful problems typical of revival.
This book briefly surveyed a little of that story from the evangelical revivals in the eighteenth century to the current revivals of the last few decades. Revivals still burst into flame in spite of rampant unbelief and the spread of evil or persecution. Flashpoints of revival have occurred in many places including Africa, Latin America, China, Korea, and the Pacific where hundreds of millions have become Christian in a few decades.
It is an astounding story. A small community of Moravians prayed around the clock in “hourly intercessions” for a century and sent out missionaries while Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, and others fanned the flames of the Great Awakening. Revival ignited further missionary zeal in the nineteenth century when Finney, Moody, and others led widespread revivals as hundreds of thousands cried out to God in prayer. The awesome Welsh revival early in the twentieth century ignited revival fires around the world and ushered in a century of repeated outbursts of revival with hundreds of millions turning from darkness to light.
Revival historian Edwin Orr described these awakenings following the Great Awakening of 1727–1745, as the Second Awakening of 1790–1830 (The Eager Feet, fired with missionary commitment), the Third Awakening of 1858–60 (The Fervent Prayer, spread through countless prayer groups) and the Worldwide Awakening in 1900 (The Flaming Tongue , spreading the word around the globe).
The twentieth century saw further movements of revival and renewal with the amazing growth of the church globally. The Pentecostal rediscovery of New Testament ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit ignited revival fires across the world.
Following the dark days of two world wars, evangelists and revivalists such as Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, T.L. and Daisy Osborn, and others gained global exposure from 1947–1948. Another outpouring of revival and renewal surged through the 1970’s with revivals in Canada, the Jesus People movement in America, charismatic renewal in the churches, and a fresh outpouring of mission and evangelism in developing nations, which launched people such as Reinhard Bonnke, Yonggi Cho, and many more in leading hundreds of thousands to the Lord and establishing massive churches and ministries.
The 1990’s continue to see an acceleration of revival including the spread of revival from countries such as Argentina and from local American communities such as Pensacola.
Accounts such as the ones in this book raise other awkward questions. How much is of God? How much is just human reaction to the Spirit of God? How much is mere excitement and enthusiasm? How much is hysteria? How much is crowd manipulation? How much is demonic?
The answers to such questions can fall into two equally dangerous and opposite extremes. On one hand we may think that it is all of God, alone, when, in fact, there are always many human reactions and even demonic attacks mixed in with powerful revivals. On the other hand we may dismiss it all as emotional hype, psychological reactions and/or sociological developments, when, in fact, God has brought people from death to life and from darkness to light in huge numbers, permanently affecting their eternal destiny.
When the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem faced similar dilemmas, especially the boldness of uneducated and ordinary people with a flaming zeal for the Jesus whom those leaders had killed, they were not happy (see Acts 4:13–21). In fact, they wanted to kill those revivalists as they had killed Jesus. However, one of their more insightful leaders reminded them that they may end up fighting against God—a rather unequal match (see Acts 5:33–39).
May God grant us the faith to believe in our great God who is able and willing to do far more than anything we could ever ask or imagine (see Eph. 3:20–21), the hope that shines in a dark world where we desperately need God’s grace to abound in revival (see Rom. 5:20–21), and the love to serve and bless one another as Jesus demands of us and as He Himself loves us (see Jn. 13:34–35).
Flashpoints of revival ignited the early Church and turned their world upside down (see Acts 17:6). Fire has fallen again and again in revivals, and still does. We need to be people full of repentance, humility, faith, vision, wisdom, love, and the fire of the Holy Spirit as we live for God in our moment in history.