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 God’s movement in the early church was marked by five unique characteristics. “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)
- Passion They prayed.
- Community They gathered together.
- Manifestations of the Spirit They were shaken.
- Empowerment They were filled with the Spirit.
- 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. Mission is what we tend to neglect. 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 to not forget the purpose. True revival is more than attending extended church services; it is about a revival 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. The miracles in the Book of Acts took place mostly outside of church services and prayer meetings rather than during a Sunday church service. The few snapshots we do have of corporate meetings in the early church looks like a slingshot that shoots people out to fulfill the Great Commission once they leave the building.
We must rethink revival and ask a different question: “How do we get more people into the church?” The Great Commission will never be fulfilled from the pulpit because it does not require people to come to the church, but for the church to go into all the world. Instead of asking, “How do we get more people into the church?” we need to ask, “How do we get the people who attend our church to go out into their world?” 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 change 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. Revival is not a series of services it is supposed to be a sustainable culture.