I recently gave a talk on revival, and I want to share some thoughts from it. It’s difficult to find the right word for what we mean when we talk about revival. “Renewal” is almost too soft a word, and “revival” has too many dated connotations nowadays. But the older definition of revival is helpful. It refers to a time when the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit—not signs and wonders, but the conviction of sin, conversion, assurance of salvation and a sense of the reality of Jesus Christ on the heart—are intensified, so that you see growth in the quality of the faith in the people in your church, and a great growth in numbers and conversions as well.
In a revival, sleepy Christians wake up, nominal Christians get converted, and non-Christians get reached. A sleepy Christian may believe they’re a Christian, but they don’t have a real sense of God’s holiness, their own sin, or the depth of his grace. They may be a moralist or a relativist, or living inconsistent lives.
Nominal Christians may be going to church, but have never really been convicted of sin or received salvation personally. When sleepy and nominal Christians get revived, attractive and bold in their witness, people who would never have believed before begin to get converted.
So how do you wake up sleepy Christians and convert nominal Christians? Let me give you what I would call my modernized American versions of the kinds of questions I would ask people if I was trying to get them to really think about whether or not they know Christ. These questions are adapted from The Experience Meeting by William Williams, based on the Welsh revivals during the Great Awakening. He would ask people to share about these types of questions in small group settings each week:
How real has God been to your heart this week? How clear and vivid is your assurance and certainty of God’s forgiveness and fatherly love? To what degree is that real to you right now?
Are you having any particular seasons of delight in God? Do you really sense his presence in your life, sense him giving you his love?
Have you been finding Scripture to be alive and active? Instead of just being a book, do you feel like Scripture is coming after you?
Are you finding certain biblical promises extremely precious and encouraging? Which ones?
Are you finding God’s challenging you or calling you to something through the Word? In what ways?
Are you finding God’s grace more glorious and moving now than you have in the past? Are you conscious of a growing sense of the evil of your heart, and in response, a growing dependence on and grasp of the preciousness of the mercy of God?
Put together, that is a growing understanding of grace.