A few days ago I finished a book that was sent to me by Reformation Heritage Press titled Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition. I reviewed it yesterday (you can read the review here), but I wanted to share some thoughts – some lessons – I gleaned from the book about revival.
- Remembering Revival is Important: Many of the stories about revival told in this book start with churches looking back at earlier times of revival and longing for the Lord to pour out his Spirit once again. Also, another feature of revival, (it seems) is that people really kept track of what the Lord was doing. That way they could look back and remember the Lord’s work.
- Revival Cuts Across Denominations and Traditions: One of the most encouraging thing that I saw throughout this book was how different churches and denominations were willing to set aside their differences and agendas in order to advance God’s kingdom. Whether it’s the Dutch Reformed working together with Presbyterians in New York or Scottish Presbyterians like Erskine working together with the Congregationalist Edwards and Baptists like Ryland and Fuller drawing inspiration from them, or even Irish Presbyterians and Baptists. So many groups were willing to work together for the sake of God’s glory. Hear the words of Andrew Fuller: “O, brethren, let us pray much for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon our ministers and churches, and not upon only those of our own connection and denomination, but upon ‘al that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” But revival doesn’t just bring unity…
- Revivals Draw Extreme Opposition: New lights vs. Old Lights, Coetus vs. Coferentie are just two examples of how revivals brought about and further entrenched division. Revial often draws opposition not only from those outside of the church, but also from those we tend to think are closest to us.
- Jonathan Edwards Might Be the Most Important Person in Early Modern Revivals: That is probably not something he would like to hear but its true, but you can’t talk about revival without talking about Jonathan Edwards and his writings. His work not only influenced his own Congregationalist churches, but it affected the Dutch Reformed churches of new York, Baptist churches in England, Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and of course Presbyterian churches here in the US. One chapter even goes as far as to argue that Edwards was really a Presbyterian and that the American Presbyterian denominations cannot be understood apart from him.
- Only God Saves but we are Still Called to do Work: Only God can do the work of bringing people to saving faith, yet among the revival stories in this book there is a deep sense of the church’s responsibility to prayer and more importantly to preach. This might seem quite obvious, but as we see in Andrew Fuller’s reforming work, this was not always a given.
Those are just a few lessons. I’m sure there is much more to be said. But if you want to read about and be encouraged about revival for yourself I recommend you pick up Pentecostal Outpourings.