Christian Living

Spiritual Life


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:       

·   The status of revival in the contemporary church.       

·   Ongoing revivals in Africa and India.    

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:       

·   Find your place in God'’s current wave of revival.       

·   Support revivals in progress through prayer and finances.

Where Do We Stand in the Church?

Key Scripture: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:13-14).

A Church Under Siege

The church of Jesus Christ around the world has increasingly come under siege in recent years. The rise of secularism and New Age thinking in the West has promoted a deep mistrust, even rejection, of Christian values. In China and the Islamic world, Christians continue to be persecuted for their faith, and mission activity remains restricted in many countries. Yet the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has given the church there its first freedom in generations. With the ability to proclaim the gospel, Christians are seeing the fruit of decades of intercessory prayer finally occurring right before their eyes. Revival is breaking out in country after country formerly under communist domination. Leaders cannot be trained fast enough to shepherd the growing congregations. The following account tells the remarkable story of a man God used to bring revival to his land through this historical transition.

Revival in Romania

Born in northern Transylvania in 1952, Laszlo Tokes enjoyed the advantages of a devout Christian family. His father, a pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church, had been promoted to deputy bishop. Following in his father’s footsteps, Tokes began studies at the Theological Institute in Kolozsvar at age seventeen. At that time the government under the leadership of Communist dictator Ceausescu began to resettle Romanians in formerly Hungarian areas. The elder Tokes spoke out against the relocations and the takeover of church hierarchy and college faculties by the Communist Party. Meanwhile, Laszlo and two friends fought for changes in leadership of the student body at the Institute. From that time on, Tokes was under surveillance from the Communist secret service, the Securitate. He found that his profound Christian beliefs made his life perilous in an atheistic atmosphere.

After graduation, Tokes became an assistant pastor in two Reformed churches. He began to meet weekly in Dej with one hundred twenty students for biblical and cultural discussions. Tokes continued to be harassed by the Securitate. He began to write letters to the bishop complaining that church property had been confiscated, and few hymn books, service books, or Bibles were available for use. But Bishop Nagy, who worked for the Party, formally criticized Laszlo, finally defrocking him. Later the elder Tokes was dismissed from clerical duties for coming to the aid of his son.

Dictator Ceausescu was determined to produce more workers by mandating that every woman have at least four children. He drained the country of its natural resources, and many families already lived in poverty. Because parents could not afford the extra financial burden, the government opened large orphanages to accommodate them. Thus the state gained possession of thousands of Romanian children. The Communist government was strangling the life out of Romania’s families, churches, and educational institutions.

The indomitable younger Tokes began a letter campaign. He protested to everyone — from the bishop to Ceausescu himself. Finally, due to pressure from the outside and Ceausescu’s desire to appear friendly to the Western world, Laszlo was reinstated in his ministry in 1986. Meanwhile, Laszlo Tokes had taken a bride. The couple moved to Timisoara, where he became an assistant pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church. Pastor Leo Peuker, also a loyal Party member, performed minimal church duties. The congregation was not allowed to meet in the church for Bible study or fellowship. Peuker would not allow Tokes to preach or participate in any church functions nor meet with the presbytery. Furthermore, he had relegated Tokes and Edit — now pregnant — to one room with no heat or bathroom. Months later, however, Peuker died of a heart attack. Laszlo Tokes, now a delegated supply pastor, moved into Peuker’s apartment and went to work.

In 1987 Tokes restored the catechism, introduced new services of worship, held special celebrations of religious holidays, and began two Sunday services. People who had been away for years began to come back. Tokes’s activities for young people drew them in great numbers. The congregation was coming together as a unit for the first time. Furthermore, Tokes invited other churches to join them in celebrations. As a result, Bishop Laszlo Papp, an informant for the Securitate, warned Tokes numerous times to stop these activities — but he persisted.

In 1988 Ceausescu relocated forty thousand residents of Bucharest to make room for apartment buildings and his palace. Entire communities — people, culture, art, and architecture — disappeared. Tokes called on the churches to appeal to the state to stop the destruction. At the same time in Canada, Tokes’ brother Istvan was lobbying for the Hungarians in Romania. He helped a camera crew enter Romania, where they filmed Tokes in his church. In the clandestine filming, Tokes informed the world of the atrocities committed in Romania. The film was smuggled out before the authorities could arrest the photographers.

When Tokes continued to speak out, he was formally dismissed by the bishop. He refused to leave his pastorate because he knew that it was illegal for the church to request it. Tokes exiled himself for eight months in his apartment — leaving only to preach and tend to the needs of his congregation. News of his predicament reached the West. On July 26, 1989, a Hungarian television program (illegal in Romania) showed the film that had been smuggled out of the country. People in Romania and the West realized what was happening in the church. From that time on, the Securitate waited outside Tokes’s door. After an attack on his family, Tokes sent their son Mate to his grandparents for safety. Friends smuggled in wood and food. All the pastor’s appeals were turned down; he was to be evicted on December 15, 1989.

Because of the crowd outside Tokes' apartment, the Securitate did not evict him. By the next day the city mayor came promising no eviction if Tokes could make his congregation go away. But by this time, Tokes realized that this was not only his church but the whole city of Timisoara rising up against injustice.

In the Opera Square people gathered with candles, filling the open area to capacity. They were singing “Awake, Romania,” a national song prohibited by Ceausescu. They began to shout, “Down with Ceausescu! Down with Communism!” Uniformed militia opened fire on the crowds gathered there. Scores of children ran for sanctuary to the church at the end of the square. Because the doors were locked, they were martyred in front of it. Out in the square, brave Romanians shouted, “God is alive!” Perhaps no one will ever know exactly how many gave their lives that night for the cause of freedom. But it was the beginning of the end for Ceausescu. The rebellion spread, and the dictator was forced to go into hiding. Both he and his wife were apprehended and executed, ending his reign of terror.

In 1990 Laszlo Tokes was made bishop of the Reformed Church. In his installation speech, Tokes encouraged Christians to organize new congregations and build new churches. He enjoined them to follow the example of Nehemiah: “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” (Neh. 4:19-20). The complete story of Tokes’ successful struggle can be found in his autobiography (with David Porter) entitled The Fall of Tyrants and published by Crossway Books in 1990.

Hindrances to Revival

As we have witnessed in Laszlo Tokes’s life, occasionally the church itself can be a hindrance to revival. Sometimes Christians express a desire for revival or ask why one has not begun, forgetting that they may be the obstacle. One barrier to revival is tradition. Christians may cherish tradition so much that any change, whether it be the order of service, the manner of serving communion, or even the color of choir robes, is considered inexcusable — touching off heated debates and hurting relationships. Another big hindrance to revival is impatience. In some churches, a minister who fails to conclude his sermons by noon is in danger of being replaced. Thus many Christians have enclosed the moving of the Holy Spirit within their own limited time frame. If the Lord is going to act, it must be during one of the Sunday services — or at least at Wednesday night prayer meetings. Accompanying the love for brevity is a need to be comfortable.

Many Western Christians expect the environment to be comfortable and the sermons soothing. Sermon topics should be entertaining and palatable, never confrontive. Sermons should not require reflection or self-searching. Preaching about sin is permitted, so long as the preacher sticks to the more visible ones such as murder and robbery. However, adultery, greed, and gossip are not so readily accepted by an upward, mobile society. Therefore, the pastor’s role in revival is crucial. Even Bible-believing pastors who preach on sin and hell can hinder revival. Evangelism or missions activity may be neglected. Or evangelism may be preached but never practiced, for some pastors never personally lead others to Christ.

Another hindrance reflected both in pastors and laypersons is the neglect of God’s Word. Studying the Bible builds faith and is necessary to understand what God has done in the past so that His plans for future revivals can be discerned. Closely associated with Bible study is prayer. Many Christians have never learned to pray other than in emergencies. Intercessory prayer is a lost discipline in the church, and the concerts of prayer that have laid foundations for past revivals are only recently beginning to reappear. This dearth of prayer in our lives will hold back both personal and corporate revival. History affirms that all great revivals have been undergirded with the prayers of the saints (Acts 2:42-47).

Asbury College Revival

One such revival took place on a college campus in 1970. Many revivals of the past began with only a handful of dedicated prayer warriors who wanted to see revival in their schools. Then when the Holy Spirit moved on them in power, revival happened. In much the same way revival began on the campus of Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. As the students sat in a chapel service praying at ten o’clock in the morning, the Holy Spirit began to move in power. It was a spontaneous movement in which those in attendance responded with repentance, joy, weeping, praise, and witnessing. The altar was overrun with those praying and repenting. Some have described the Asbury revival as another great awakening, for the moving of the Spirit did not end in that service. News spread quickly. Pastors of churches begged witnessing teams to visit their churches. As teams went out to churches far and near, the story was the same. Whole congregations made public confessions. For the first time, many were able to share their needs with others; they were able to forgive and be forgiven. At every place the teams visited the altars were filled with repentant, praying Christians. Even though the Asbury revival did not reach a large geographical area, the Holy Spirit truly moved and people responded in revival.


The Lord always moves in the hearts of His people before revival begins. The proper response to such divine initiatives is prayer. For those who pursue righteousness, persecution may result — Laszlo Tokes, a case in point. Although persecution does not always accompany revival, obedience is always a major element in its success. Both the Romanian and the Asbury revivals share these two common elements — prayer and obedience. Without them revival cannot occur! 

Life Application: Mohawk evangelist Tom Claus mentions the great need for revival on Indian reservations today. Poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, and violent crime are pervasive social problems among Native Americans. In what practical ways can you minister to Native Americans in your area? Are you interceding that revival will break out among the tribes in your region?

Where is Revival Today?

Key Scripture: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).

After reading of revivals in the past, Christians often ask, “Is revival still possible today?” The answer is a resounding YES! Revivals are going on all over the world. Reinhard Bonnke, a German evangelist, has concentrated his evangelistic efforts on the continent of Africa. But he has also witnessed revivals in Germany, Denmark, Finland, India, Australia, Singapore, and England — seeing multitudes healed and saved. John Gilman, using the unique medium of motion pictures, is reaching millions with the gospel in India. God’s Spirit continues to move, and revival is sweeping the world!

Reinhard Bonnke

Reinhard Bonnke was born in East Prussia in 1940 to a devout Christian family. By the time Bonnke was five, his soldier father had been captured by the British. His mother, four brothers, and sister had to flee before the retreating German troops at the end of World War II. After a separation of three and a half years, the family was reunited. After accepting the Lord at age nine, Bonnke practiced preaching out in an open field with his friend. He seemed to have a depth of spiritual devotion that his parents did not understand. When Bonnke was ten, a lady in his church prophesied that he would be breaking bread before thousands of black people. Bonnke realized early in life that God was calling him to Africa.

When Bonnke went away to college in Wales, he began a faith walk in which he depended on Jesus for all his resources. After graduation he began evangelistic work in Germany. Later he and a friend pioneered a church in Flensburg where he met and married Anni. The couple settled down to pastoral work for eight years. In spite of the church’s protests, Bonnke resigned as pastor and travelled with his family to Africa. One of the countries he visited was Lesotho, where he found poverty, few industries, and a spirit of helplessness. Bonnke received permission from his mission board to make the move to Lesotho. By this time, the Bonnkes had three children. Living in the depressed area was not easy for them. But they stayed six years while Bonnke evangelized. A few people were saved and some baptized, but ministry was a grinding job. If fifty people came to a meeting, Bonnke was overjoyed.

When an opportunity presented itself to invite a well-known healing evangelist to preach to the community, Bonnke was thrilled. He looked forward to seeing many healings and salvations. A huge crowd showed up at the well-advertised meeting. But after preaching a good sermon, the visiting evangelist felt that something was missing. The sick were sent home without being prayed for. Bonnke was expecting him to pray for healing the next day. But the Holy Spirit had already directed the man to go home. Bonnke was left to preach — and to pray for healing. The Lord reminded him that the power was not in his words, but was in the Word. The anointing of God was so heavy on Bonnke that day that his interpreter collapsed in tears at the presence of God. The evangelist had a word that blind people would be healed — and they were. One woman, unable to reach the stage, passed her crippled son from one person to the next until he reached Bonnke. As power surged through the two of them, Bonnke set the child down. Everyone watched amazed as the boy ran across the stage. A roar of shouts and praises rose up.

In 1975 Bonnke launched Christ For All Nations (CFAN). That same year the team had a revival in Botswana where by faith they rented a stadium. By the end of the campaign, the stadium was filled to overflowing. Bonnke asked one of the workers to pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. About a thousand people responded to the call, and each one fell under the power and rose again speaking in tongues.

During a final crusade in Swaziland, Bonnke realized that he was at the mercy of the weather. So he began to pray for a larger tent that would hold five thousand people. However, God promised him one with twice the capacity. And in spite of many difficulties and great expense, God provided all the equipment they needed. Bonnke never had to beg for money. The big tent, which seated 34,000, was dedicated in February 1984 with a crowd of approximately 50,000 people in attendance. Just six months later though, the roof of the big tent was destroyed in a fierce windstorm.

Christ For All Nations went ahead with a highly publicized crusade in spite of the incident and foreboding weather that threatened right up to the day of the crusade. As intercessory prayer went up, the weather changed abruptly and people began to gather. Twenty-five thousand showed up the first day — and by the 19th day 75,000 crowded into the park. According to their records, 29,000 responded to altar calls. Moreover, the area, which was known for its violence, did not have a single crime reported during the revival. Bonnke’s remarkable story can be read in Plundering Hell to Populate Heaven by Ron Steele (copyright © 1987, 1988, Dove Christian Books). He continued to concentrate his gospel crusades in Africa. His new strategy was to take his refurbished big tent along the eastern coast and continue outdoor meetings on the western coast. Bonnke realized that the people of Africa not only need the gospel, they want it! The harvest is truly ripe for picking.

John Gilman

John Gilman was born during World War II in Ashland, Virginia. While a senior in high school, John dedicated his life to the Lord. After graduation he attended Bob Jones University in South Carolina, a school which emphasized evangelism. During his second year at the university he married Caroline Wood, his high school sweetheart. Soon after graduation, they and their infant son John moved back to the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. Three years after Gilman’s return to Virginia, God gave him a vision for missions. In the vision he saw a movie screen depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. All the while John was working at the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), he was thinking of how to use modern communications strategies to fulfill his role in the Great Commission. He broached the subject of evangelizing unreached peoples through film several times to his associates at CBN. But God made it plain to Gilman that the vision was for him — not CBN. A book given to Gilman by a neighbor helped to crystalize his vision. Reading Andrew Murray’s classic With Christ in the School of Prayer had a profound impact on his life. He decided that a film should be made of the life of Christ to be shown in India.

After speaking with some Indian Christians, Gilman was convinced it could be done. He set out to do it himself. But first, he traveled to India to study the Christian ministry of Ernest Komanapalli and the Indian movie industry. It was at great personal and financial sacrifice that he made a second trip. His wife and two sons stayed in America. But the trip was more than successful, for he found a film had already been produced, which used an all-Indian cast. Convinced that "Oceans of Mercy" was the film he needed, John Gilman set out to find the producer. Vijay Chandar, one of India’s top actors, had produced the film — and played the role of Jesus. Although a Hindu, Chandar confessed that Jesus had made him do the film. In response, Gilman told the actor that Jesus wanted him to have it as an evangelistic tool. Chandar agreed, and that was the beginning of a revolutionary mission — Dayspring International.

Gilman’s strategy was to continue showing the film in theaters in the cities. And he wanted to use mobile teams to show the film in 567,000 villages in India. Because the illiteracy rate in India is seventy percent, a film is the best way to reach the masses. When Gilman finally obtained the film, he had a local tailor sew white bedsheets together to make a screen. The first showing resulted in almost insurmountable difficulties. First a light bulb burned out and the weather was ominous. Gilman rebuked the rain, and it stopped the moment the projector started. As soon as the film was over, torrents of rain fell. The people were so impressed with the film that hundreds accepted Jesus and were baptized by a local pastor the next day. (Dayspring uses local pastors and laypersons for follow-up.)

Gilman discovered that indigenous film evangelism works better and faster than any other method in planting churches. After vicariously suffering with Jesus on the cross, people are drawn to salvation. He pinpoints five reasons why his film is successful: (1) its message is consistent, (2) its presentation is dramatic, (3) its imagery is colorful, (4) it incorporates music, and (5) it holds attention.

Gilman’s dream has finally been realized. The life of Christ has been shown to over thirty million Indian people, resulting in more than three million accepting Christ as Savior. Hundreds of native churches have already been established. But this did not happen overnight nor come about easily. The film had to be translated into Hindi, a popular Indian dialect. Funds had to be raised to buy the film rights. And vans, projectors, and generators had to be purchased. A great outlay of prayer, time, energy, and sacrifice were necessary to make it successful. Militant Hindus and Muslims have attempted to sabotage the project by destroying the equipment and beating team members. Today Dayspring International continues to show the film to over one million people per month. Multitudes are coming to Christ.

Later plans for Dayspring included a film of the life of Christ using all Chinese actors. And Nigerian Christians expressed a desire for "Oceans of Mercy" to be filmed with an all black cast. Opportunities for film missions are limitless. Gilman recounts the story of his exciting ministry in his book They’re Killing An Innocent Man (copyright © 1991, Creation House).

For young people who are interested in missions, Gilman shares these words of encouragement: “It’s easy to get in gear with the great message of the gospel. There is nothing accidental or haphazard about salvation. This is the God who sees ahead and makes provision. He’ll empower you, give you resources and supply your needs” (They’re Killing An Innocent Man, p. 120). And John Gilman has proven that to be true!


John Gilman’s “Twelve Great Principles of War,” gleaned from his study of military strategy are necessary for revival on the mission field. They are summarized from They’re Killing An Innocent Man, pages 173-87:

  • Have a clear objective
  • Believe in the cause
  • Obey your Commander-in-Chief
  • Be prepared
  • Assemble a massive force
  • Keep your forces mobile
  • Keep your troops well-supplied
  • Concentrate your power
  • Use the element of surprise
  • Take decisive action
  • Stay on the offensive
  • See the victory as already won

Both John Gilman and Reinhard Bonnke have followed these strategies in their war for souls on the mission field. As a result, God is moving in revival and millions are coming into the kingdom of God.

Life Application: During the twentieth century radio and television have played a major role in disseminating the gospel message. Has religious programming had any positive effect in your spiritual life? If so, list some benefits and how you think the media can be used in world revival. Do you support any media ministries that God is using to preach the gospel around the world?

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read. Select the correct response based on the lessons and concepts of this chapter.

1. Much of the current explosive growth among the church worldwide is taking place among non-__________ peoples.



2. The largest churches in the world today are in __________ .



3. In the 'forbidden countries' to become a Christian carries an automatic __________ sentence.



4. __________ percent of the unreached people-groups, nations, and world-class cities of the world can be found in the 10-40 Window.



5. The primary learning mode of this generation is __________ and participation.



6. It is doubtful whether the world can be witnessed to in a single generation.



7. Historically the promise of Pentecost has been fulfilled time and time again.



8. Proof that another Great Awakening is on the way is the pattern of American __________, the perspective of global revival, and the promise of God's Word.



9. There are stirrings of the Spirit in all sectors of the globe today.



10. American history has been written in __________ of spiritual renewal.



11. In 1950 a spirit of revival revitalized the Christian college campus, predicting the coming social earthquakes.



12. National __________ for human sin prepared the way for repentance and spiritual revival.



13. It takes at least one generation for the cycle of the Spirit to make a full revolution.



14. Whenever there is a true spiritual awakening, the leaders and the people become advocates for the __________ .



15. In true revival the balance between supernatural intervention and human initiative has been a point of contention.



16. In a Great Awakening, the cultural conflict must be moral and the social tension must be __________ .



17. Awakenings are usually restricted to a single culture and class.



18. The cycle of the Spirit is not complete until the society is transformed.



Get more than a Sunday sermon. Get to know others seeking God’s guidance and wisdom for life.
We are here to help and encourage you! Send a prayer request now, or call 1‑800‑700‑7000
Can God change your life? God made it possible for you to know. Discover God's peace now.
Download the free myCBN app. Share your prayer requests, receive prayer and pray for others!
Living the Christian life is a journey. Discover steps to bring you closer to Christ.
Give Now