It’s important to long for revival for a few reasons: First, it has some biblical basis. The Psalmist prays, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” It’s right there: a prayer for the revival of the Jewish people and their faith in God. We’ll make a stronger biblical case throughout the book for the concept of revival, but for now, wouldn’t that be a great prayer for the Christian church?
It is also historic. From Pentecost to the present day, revivals have dotted the timeline of Christian history. There were times when Christian spirituality seemed to recede into the background, but when revivals arrived, new movements sprouted up that brought spiritual vitality back to the church—from the Franciscans to the Moravians to the Pentecostals to the Korean Presbyterians to the East Africans.
It could be strategic. Eighteenth-century pastor Jonathan Edwards saw the strategic nature of revival. As recounted by professor Richard Lovelace, Edwards believed, “Every major advance of the kingdom of God on earth is signaled and brought about by a general outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”
And in the twenty-first century, Christianity hasn’t died away, although much of its center has shifted away from the Western world to Africa, Asia, and South America. In his book Global Awakening, Mark Shaw shows that Christianity is surging worldwide, and he believes that revival is the main delivery system for this tremendous growth: “Global revivals . . . are at the heart of the global resurgence of Christianity.”
Revivals are happening all around the world. And I don’t want to be someone who’s on the outside looking in. What if we were understanding and preparing ourselves, so that if revival were to come through our lives or land, we could be ready to be a part of it?
Perhaps more importantly, revival is a powerful word.
Our culture tries to co-opt the word. The word revive is used in all kinds of marketing from skin care to skateboards, craft beers to conferences, massage spas to mattresses. Even pop albums are titled Revival. It’s almost a commercial cliché.
But more deeply, to revive something means that it must’ve been either dead or close to dead. Life had seeped away. Lungs stopped breathing. Hearts beat no longer. Flesh rotted away so that all that could be seen was a valley of dry bones. Something died within us or around us.
When something is revived, however, it comes back to life.
In faith-speak, it’s resurrected.
We seek that kind of resurrection in our lives, communities, societies, and ultimately, throughout the world, because right now, much of it reeks of death.
The world needs leaders who are resuscitated, resurrected, revived. No revival has happened in history without revived people. We need leaders who know how to help others be revived, and that’s not going to happen merely with good management principles, solid plans and execution, or clever social media campaigns. Sure, they can be important and helpful, but they are merely the skin and bones. Revival needs to be infused with breath, blood, soul, and life.
And that only comes through God’s Spirit.
But before we scare anyone off, we also know that revival without good, wise, feet-on-the-ground strategic leadership will quickly fizzle. It’s the difference between a weekend retreat and an ongoing work of God’s Spirit among us.
We seek the intersection of strategic and spiritual leadership that leads to revival, where structures and mystery meet.
We need form and fire.
We need revival for the rest of us.
And sure, we can’t manufacture revivals. We definitely can’t make them happen. But they can break out. And for revivals to last, they must be led.
That’s where this book is going: If revival leadership is the kind of ministry leadership needed before and during revival, what would it look like to exercise revival leadership in this day and age? This book is not a history book on past revivals, nor is it an analysis of broad-scale dynamics for revival. Those volumes have been written. Instead, we want to equip you to prepare for and lead revival effectively.
Our hope is that if revival comes, this book will have equipped you so that instead of missing out, you will find yourself experiencing and leading in it. We hope that by the time you finish reading, you too will also long for revival.
—Adapted from the introduction, “Why Revival?”