God Goes Where He is Wanted!
Pastor Alan Langstaff
Over the past 15 years there has been a series of Revivals at Toronto, Pensacola, Smithton, and more recently, Lakeland, Florida. The latter one was the first to be put on satellite TV around the world, as well as on the internet. It ended with the Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley stepping down amid rumors of moral failure. This resulted in many people heaping criticism on Revivals as a whole, and even becoming cynical about them.
As I have observed and studied Revivals in recent times, I have come to the conclusion that many people do not understand the purpose of Revivals, and consequently, expect certain things to happen which are not intended. I want to try to explain what the purpose of a Revival is, whether it be a large scale Revival like Lakeland or a local expression in a church or region.
THE PURPOSE OF REVIVALS
- There is one basic purpose of Revival – to revive our love for Jesus Christ. Revival is not primarily an evangelistic outreach, although souls will get saved. It is not primarily a healing and deliverance service, although this will take place. A Revival is to revive our love for the Lord and deepen our devotion to Him.
- When you understand this you will realize the next point – Revivals don’t build local churches. They don’t grow churches. They grow people (who in turn grow churches and ministries). Consequently, pastors who have sought to foster revival meetings as a way to increase attendance and bring growth to their church are usually very disappointed in the long run. The reason is, the dynamics that are at work in a season of revival are different than the strategy needed to build a local church.
- Another point to remember – Historically, Revivals don’t last forever. The Great Awakening at the time of Jonathon Edwards only lasted a comparatively short time. The great Azusa Street Revival that gave birth to the Pentecostal movement of the 20th Century lasted only three years. In the early 1980s a great Revival took place in a church in San Jose, CA that went on for a number of months. The interesting thing is that instead of the church growing, it eventually died. Nearly ten years after the Revival, I spoke to the son of the pastor and asked why this resulted. He told me there were three reasons, including (1) they went on too long, (2) they didn’t know how to exercise authority in the midst of Revival (there is a tendency to let anything happen, supposedly so you don’t quench the Spirit), and (3) they didn’t take care of their existing members (i.e. continue to pastor the sheep) and were more focused on the people coming to the revival meetings. (We are talking about Revivals in a local church.)
Because of the dangers inherent in Revivals, many pastors and people shy away from them and settle for more predictable ways of church life. The end result is that we have a church today that bears little resemblance to the dynamic church of the New Testament days. David Wilkerson declares, “There are three words that Christians do not speak anymore: Signs, Wonders and Miracles.” He goes on to say, “Add a fourth word to this list – Manifestations.” Yet, that is what God wants to do, manifest His presence and His power amongst us and bring revival to His people. One of the questions people often ask is, “Why is God’s Spirit moving so powerfully in other parts of the world and not so powerfully in America? Why do we get reports of signs, wonders, miracles and manifestations in places like Africa, Asia and South America and not so often here in America?” Well known author Philip Yancy gave this explanation: “As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God ‘moving’ geographically from the Middle East to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where He’s wanted,” (Christianity Today, Feb 5, 2001). Think about those words: “God goes where He’s wanted.” When He is really wanted, you have the potential for Revival to break loose.
THE IMPACT OF REVIVAL
To get back to the purpose of Revivals, I want to share how Revivals can impact individual lives in dynamic ways that result in them going on to grow churches and develop new ministries.
Doug Stanton is a long time friend of mine. When I was a pastor he ministered in my church many times. When he returned to Australia for a season, I went over there on three occasions and ministered with him. I have observed his ministry in extended Revivals in churches and also at his Revival Center meetings. I have seen the results of whose lives have been radically transformed as a result of having the love for Jesus revived. Recently, I was talking about this to some friends, and we began list off people we knew who had been touched by Doug’s ministry (www.dsmi.org) in times past and who were now pastoring churches, in ministry, or Christian businessmen who were now on fire for Jesus – all fruit that has endured.
Let me just give you one testimony from Terri Kruschke, who now lives in Ireland with her husband Eric.
Eric and I first met Doug and Karen in the Elk River, MN meetings in August 1995. Eric went to a meeting on a Saturday night as I was out of town, and then we both went the next night. My back had been seriously injured in a car accident in December 1993, and after MRIs and neurologist appointments, I had been given a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease in my neck and back. We had been praying and believing for a miracle for about a year.
After Doug’s preaching, I went up for prayer and I remember explaining the situation to Doug. He asked me, “Do you want to be healed?” and I said “Yes.” He prayed for me, and I fell face forward onto the ground and stayed there, crying and wailing for about 20 minutes. After I got up off the ground, Eric asked me how I felt. I said, “My back doesn’t hurt.” He picked me up and hugged me, which always hurt in the past, and there was no pain. It was a complete, instantaneous miracle, and we celebrated the rest of the evening. I also remember having to drive Eric home that night, because he was so overcome by the miracle that God had done in OUR lives. While I was the one with the physical pain, it had caused difficulty in our lives simply because of the limitation of activities we could do because of my injuries.
The next week (literally) we started as youth leaders in our church, and over the past 12 years we have had many opportunities to serve the body of Christ in ministry. We also followed Doug’s ministry through the time he was in Minnesota through the late 1990’s, having the privilege of playing with Karen and the worship team over the years, and have continued a relationship with him since 1995.
A few other “miracles” that have come from this healing…we have since had two children (Megan 8 and Nathan 5), which would have been a daunting task to undertake with permanent back injuries. We have been able to live very normal lives and have been very active in various Christian ministries, which would have been difficult with the amount of pain I was in, and which would have most likely gotten worse over the years. In August 2007 we moved to Ireland as “tent making missionaries” to follow the call of God on our lives. Finally, from a personal perspective, I am currently training to run in a marathon in Cork City in June 2009, which would have been simply impossible had I still been in my previous physical condition.
So, has Doug’s ministry impacted our lives? Absolutely. It was most assuredly a defining moment in our lives, and I believe it has changed the course of our lives and ministry. God absolutely used Doug and Karen in our lives in many ways over the years, and the teaching and ministry has helped us to become who we are today…which I would simply describe as people of faith, willing to believe that God can use ANYONE to bring the life of Christ to a dying world.
A FINAL WORD ESPECIALLY TO PASTORS
Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Just because there have been abuses at times and things have not always been done the right way in some revival services, don’t throw it all out. I like to say, “I would rather have a rough ride than no ride at all.” Have you noticed that many times pastors who have been revived in the past when their lives were changed seem to feel they and their people don’t need it any more? We all need Revival. Remember, Revivals are to revive our love for Jesus and our devotion to Him.
As I said – We all need that!