Christian Living

Spiritual Life


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

·  The pattern, or cycle, of awakening

·  Guidelines for personal revival  

·  The agents of cultural revival        

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

·   See our society within the context of revival history

·   Experience personal revival  

·   Participate in contemporary movements toward revival

The Cycle of Awakening

Key Scripture: “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit” (Lev. 26:3-4).

In the last chapter we focused on the principal features and conditions of revival. By studying these aspects, we can comprehend the details of revival’s effects and results. Another way to understand the impact of revival is to study its wider historical and cultural implications. This may be accomplished by surveying the “big picture” of awakenings through history. Accordingly, this chapter will focus primarily on revival as God’s instrument for broad cultural renewal and renovation. Professionals develop graphs and flow charts to determine trends and patterns in a variety of areas. If we were to develop a flow chart of revival history, what patterns would emerge? We would notice a recurring sequence of events: (1) cultural crisis or corruption, (2) spiritual coldness and “death,” and (3) subsequent dramatic “resurrection” through divine intervention. The flow chart would demonstrate, therefore, that revival occurs in a cyclical pattern. This pattern reflects human history itself. Spiritual decline began with the Fall as Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And He has been intervening in the lives of men, women, and nations ever since to bring spiritual restoration. Because of the tragic yet inevitable disintegration of faith in the church and society, God’s interventions are essential to the ongoing ebb and flow of human history as it moves toward culmination in the return of Jesus Christ. As we understand fully the cyclical nature of revival, we can look at our own cultural crisis in a new light. We do not have to accept our pressing problems with defeatism. Instead we can recognize them as a signal that revival is desperately needed, and that the current decline may lead us to a coming awakening. This knowledge thus brings us great hope in the midst of the present cultural crises. Let us look more closely at the cycle of revival.

The Cycle of the Spirit

Dr. David McKenna identifies five stages in the pattern of revival: (1) cultural conflict, (2) personal conviction, (3) mass conversions, (4) the establishment of a biblical consensus, and (5) social transformation (CGA, pp. 44-49). As we examine each of these stages, we will also draw on the insights of other revival historians. Cultural Conflict Cultural conflict occurs when society undergoes a major change or changes (for example, cultural weariness, new technologies, a philosophical shift, or war), and moral issues and crises arise from the change(s). Society is consequently disrupted, and traditional ways of dealing with change become obsolete. According to McKenna, the cultural conflicts which have characterized awakenings in the past are: political freedom (First Great Awakening); philosophical clashes (Second Great Awakening); social needs (Third Great Awakening); and theological issues (New Century, or Fourth Great Awakening). Cultural conflicts and their resulting revivals may be clearly observed in a diagram developed by revival scholar Earle E. Cairns in An Endless Line of Splendor (pp. 20-21). In this chart (see next page), Cairns summarized the conflicts (defined as periods of decline, spiritual coldness, and crisis) which have preceded revivals and renewal from the First Great Awakening to the evangelical awakenings of the twentieth century.  

  • Revival from the Great Awakening to the Present: Anglican, Lutheran, and Puritan decline, European Wars Great Awakening
  • (1726-1756): Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards European and Revolutionary Wars, deism, frontier life Second Awakening
  • (1776-1810): College revivals, camp meetings War of 1812-1814, Transcendentalism, Revivalistic Evangelists
  • (1813-1846): Finney, Baker, Nettleton Slavery, controversy, industrialization Global Ecumenical Lay Prayer Revival
  • (1857-1895): Moody, Jones, Confederate Army revival Liberalism, evolutionism Global Revival
  • (1900-1939): Pentecostals, Revivalistic evangelists, Torrey Sunday World Wars, neo-orthodoxy and radical theologies Evangelical Awakenings
  • (1945- ): Revivalistic evangelists, Fuller, Graham, Palau, Charismatic revival  

This pattern of historical decline followed by awakening clearly shows that God is intimately concerned about His creation and its spiritual state. He is extremely attentive to the condition of human societies. And He is aware of the crises and corruption which cause cultural decay and confusion. Although we may comprehend this pattern, we probably do not apply such knowledge to our present crisis in society. Yet failing to apply these truths has a powerful influence on our cultural perspective. Failing to recognize the Lord’s concern for our society and His desire to restore it, we may simply give up when it begins to degenerate. But this is not God’s way. He may allow societies to reap the desolation they have sown, and He may punish them for their disobedience. But He ultimately calls people back to Himself in forgiveness and reconciliation. In addition, we sometimes have a double-minded perspective toward cultural reform because we tend to observe current events with an apocalyptic perspective. We believe today’s news is leading to the end of the world and the coming of Christ. (Many believers throughout history were convinced that the events of their day were leading to Christ’s return.) Because of this, some may wonder why society is worth redeeming in the first place. But such a view reflects an ignorance or misapplication of the Scriptures. While the return of Christ is a distinct possibility in our own time, cultural decline and even global war and disaster do not necessarily mean the world is ending. As in the past, our present difficulties may be a prelude to a new period of history initiated by a powerful, far-reaching revival. Even if we are in the final hour, that does not change God’s concern for the restoration of both individuals and nations. And so, whether we are ushering in the return of Christ or a new historical period, we may be confident that God desires to pour out His Spirit and to bring spiritual renewal to many. In the course of human history, revival is inevitable because of the sovereignty of God. Christ has already won the victory over sin and evil on the cross. And God is not going to let evil reign continuously, even on this earth. His power and grace will overrule it, to His glory and our salvation.

Personal Conviction

The second cycle or stage of awakening is personal conviction. McKenna points out that cultural conflict causes overwhelming stress on individuals. This burden brings people to spiritual conviction and conversion as they recognize that turning to God is their only answer. The current stress that people are experiencing is the inevitable result of a culture that has lost its moral bearings and is beset with social ills and with fractured relationships and institutions. Yet these social crises are not meant to destroy us, but to cause us to return to God and to call on Him for help. Because of the current situation, many around us are experiencing personal conviction. The critical question is whether this conviction will lead to hopelessness, or whether individuals will turn to God in repentance for salvation. While personal conviction is a crucial stage for nonbelievers, it is also a vital one for Christians. God is calling us to repent of our own sins and spiritual apathy, and to seek personal revival (to be discussed in the next section). And He is calling us to pray for unbelievers who are currently undergoing conviction, so they will also repent and find peace in God. There is another important feature of personal conviction. When Christians come to the end of their own strength to solve society’s problems, and earnestly turn to God for help, they are drawn into intercessory prayer for both individuals and society. It is not only cycles of decline which usher in revival, but cycles of prayer as well. Elana Lynse, in her book Flames of Revival (p. 48), recorded specific historical instances in which intense prayer led to awakening:

Cycles of Prayer 

  • 1727: Moravian Prayer Vigil (duration: 100 years)
  • 1727: Frelinghuysen, New Jersey
  • 1734: Jonathan Edwards
  • 1739: Wesley, Whitefield
  • 1792: Concert of Prayer (duration: 50 years)
  • 1800s: frontier revival, formation of missionary societies, Charles Finney
  • 1840: YMCA, the great 19th century of expansion
  • 1858: The Noon Prayer Hour (duration: 25 years), C.H. Spurgeon, Salvation Army
  • 1873: D.L. Moody, China Inland Mission, YMCAs flourish; era of lay ministry expansion
  • 1905: "Year of the Holy Spirit"(duration: until WWI) Worldwide awakening; birth of Pentecostal denominations
  • 1914 on Decades dominated by rally evangelism Tabernacle evangelists, Billy Sunday
  • 1950s: Eisenhower Awakening, Billy Graham
  • 1960s: Counter-revival
  • 1970s: Jesus Movement

Revival therefore is not characterized by short-lived, half-hearted prayers; rather it is distinguished by the lengthy, intensive periods of intercession that precede it. The vision for revival must be sustained by subsequent generations. Just as we may pray for years before seeing a loved one come to the Lord, we must also be committed to praying for years for revival. Yet God will ultimately honor these diligent prayers and bring revival to society. In addition, perseverance in prayer not only initiates revival, but also maintains it. Once awakening comes, we are not to stop praying, but should continue interceding for the full work of revival to be accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Mass Conversions As noted in Chapter 7, one of the features of revival is the quantity and diversity of people who are converted. Clearly, large numbers of people are drawn to the Lord. But these large numbers include people of various social classes, backgrounds, ages, and ethnic groups. This is because the Holy Spirit is not elitist. He is not class or race conscious, but truly inclusive. This was a chief feature of Pentecost and the early church. Only when human institutions take over after revival does prejudice and exclusiveness surface. But the work of the Holy Spirit always brings spiritual unity and harmony among people. The significance of mass conversions is twofold. First, in drawing large numbers of people to Himself, God shows His deep grace and mercy toward the lost and needy. Second, mass conversions are necessary to bring about the last two stages of the cycle of revival: biblical consensus and social transformation. There must be a general cultural consensus — an acceptance of biblical standards and principles — for a society to emerge genuinely renewed from its spiritual crisis.

Biblical Consensus

When a society becomes disjointed because of cultural stresses, moral uncertainty sets in, leading to cultural confusion and decline. The rejection of standards of right and wrong undermines the foundation and cohesiveness of society. Moreover, the church is often affected by this moral instability as well. Yet the cycle of revival demonstrates that a return to biblical truth by believers leads to awakening. Scriptural truth and anointed biblical preaching are also evident during revival. This has a stabilizing effect on society. When the converted populace is taught the Scriptures and begins to live according to God’s word, the foundation and cohesiveness of society are restored. People again have a common belief in morality and agree about what constitutes a healthy culture. As a result, a biblical consensus in a society ties a culture of diverse peoples together. This is what occurred with the First Great Awakening, and led to the unification of the country before the Revolutionary War. But a return to biblical truth is also the basis for healing societal wounds, as scriptural principles are applied to contemporary problems. With church renewal and mass conversion come renewed minds in Christ and a redemptive view for the troubled culture. Next, biblical solutions for contemporary needs are developed and implemented. This is the case in all true revivals. However, we perhaps see it most clearly in the Third Great Awakening, in which social reform was sweeping and characterized both the awakening and the decades that followed it.

Social Transformation

The cycle of revival comes full circle with the transformation of society. Cultural conflict and individual stress are alleviated as the redemption of society begun by an awakening is translated into positive social change. Such acts include giving to the poor, assisting widows and orphans, educating the people, caring for the sick, and healing broken lives and relationships. Revival inspires new and effective ways to address social problems based on biblical principles of justice and mercy. And social transformation is pervasive. It affects all areas of life, and all institutions, or infrastructures, of society including homes, churches, schools, government, business, and media. Many examples of this type of social change have been noted in the previous chapters on the history of revival. The following is a concise outline of the cycle of revival:

  • Decline, spiritual coldness, cultural conflict and crises
  • Personal conviction
  • Intense prayer by individuals and groups
  • Mass conversions in awakening
  • Return to biblical truth which addresses contemporary problems
  • Social transformation

The Current Cultural Conflict

Since awakenings in the past have been preceded by identifiable cultural conflict, we may well ask the question, “what is the nature of the current decline in the United States?” Experts have different answers to this question. Some suggest we are experiencing a crisis of cultural authority, in which we lack a common vision for the good of all people. This is a major cultural concern, and reflects the absence of a biblical consensus. We will examine this problem in a discussion of America’s current “culture war” later in this chapter. And yet, a lack of a “common vision” contributes to what McKenna suggests is the defining issue of our day: “economic freedom” (in the full biblical meaning of the term “economic”). He refers to the stewardship of all our resources: “people, money, space, time, knowledge, and energy” (CGA, p. 109).  Meanwhile, the stewardship of people’s lives continues to be debated. Issues concerning the value of human life are highlighted in racial injustice, abortion rights, fetal tissue experimentation, the “right to die” movement and euthanasia, and genetic engineering. The plight of the poor and homeless is also a concern, especially since 40 percent (13 million) of those living below the poverty line are children. The management of time is also a concern. Because of the stress of home and work obligations, numerous books were published in the past decade on time management and “taking control” of our lives. And environmental concerns have moved into the mainstream of society, though the extent of the problem is still controversial. Regardless of our own personal stand on these issues, they are defining much of the current public debate. How our country will ultimately treat these critical areas of life is uncertain. Thoughtful Christians will need to address them from a scriptural standpoint, because the economics, or stewardship, of our lives and of creation is a central biblical theme. McKenna (CGA, p. 110) lists a Christian agenda for economic freedom which is drawn from a biblical understanding of stewardship:

  • Assure the sanctity of human life from conception to death.
  • Share our abundance with the poor at home and abroad.
  • Preserve the quality [of] our physical and social environment.
  • Guarantee the economic, social and moral future of our families.
  • Require the ethical application of the ideas and inventions of human knowledge.
  • Conserve the irreplaceable sources of natural energy.

While economics in its larger context of stewardship is a critical concern of our times, the overall nature of our current cultural malaise may not be adequately defined until years from now when the wider spiritual and historical context can be examined. But it is becoming clear that whatever the nature of our problems, biblical solutions that are honest, compassionate, substantial, and long-lasting cannot ultimately come from a particular political party. They can only come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through cultural renewal and awakening.


The recurring cycle of revival occurs for a purpose. The decline of society and the ensuing crises force people to come face to face with the dysfunctional lives they create for themselves when they neglect God or rebel against His ways. With the stress of cultural conflict, individuals are drawn to repentance and deep prayer. And then, in the sovereignty and timing of the Lord, awakening breaks out, resulting in mass conversions, a biblical consensus, and social transformation for the healing of the land. 

Life Application: Have you ever participated in a rally or march that advocates biblical values? What spiritual effect do you believe such involvement produced? How do you believe Christian activism will affect the coming revival?

Personal Revival

Key Scripture: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Heb. 12:11-13).

Personal revival is an essential element of the conditions of awakening. And in the cycle of revival, it is what bridges cultural crisis and mass conversion. Therefore, it is absolutely critical in preparing the way for a general revival. Personal revival begins with spiritual discipline: yielding to the conviction and prompting of the Holy Spirit, and living in faithfulness, integrity, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. Hebrews 12:10 explains that “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” Discipline is not generally a pleasant experience, but as we learn and grow from it, the life of Christ becomes manifest in us and we are prepared for the widespread revival God wants to bring. How do we seek revival in our own lives? We must first acknowledge that God knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves, and that He is aware of the areas we need to correct and change. Therefore, we must ask God to show us our true spiritual condition and reveal the deficiencies in our lives. This is not to bring condemnation, but rather to manifest His holiness and to free us from sin. Holiness is one of God’s major goals in revival. He desires that His people be holy, because He is holy (Lev. 11:44), and that holiness permeate society. The Lord is concerned with our character and the state of our hearts. We are often concerned primarily with our accomplishments. While He desires that we be productive and do good works, we must first serve Him with pure hearts.

Guidelines for Personal Revival

It is sometimes hard to understand our role in seeking personal revival. Wesley L. Duewel, in his book Touch the World Through Prayer, pp. 174-77, provided some excellent guidelines to help us determine when it is time to pray for personal revival. These guidelines are specific and can help us to address honestly this issue, and not gloss over it in a superficial way. Personal revival is needed:

a. When you sense a spiritual listlessness, a continuing lack of spiritual appetite for the Word, prayer, and the fellowship of the church.

b. When God’s Word seldom truly blesses you; when you only rarely hunger for more time to read and feast on God’s Word; when you seldom sense the Spirit speaking to you as you read God’s Word.

c. When you sense a lack of deep humility, Spirit-born graciousness, and loving patience.

d. When you lack real compassion for people suffering and in need; when you feel little true concern for people without Christ, and little sense of personal responsibility for God’s presence and blessing in your local church or group.

e. When prayer is more of a duty than a joy; when God seldom places on your heart people who need prayer; when you seldom truly sense God’s nearness when you pray.

Duewel also listed five specific ways to seek personal and corporate revival:

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your hunger.
  2. Ask God to give you His prayer burden for revival.
  3. Ask God to give you some promise to claim by faith.
  4. Humble your heart before God in prayer.
  5. Ask God to lead you to a prayer partner. Then agree in prayer.

Some additional guidelines for personal renewal include checking your relationships with family members, friends, other believers, your employer, even your “enemies.” Do you need to forgive, restore a broken relationship, bring reconciliation, right a wrong? We often examine ourselves in this manner in preparation for communion. We also need to survey our hearts in the same way as we seek personal revival.

A Renewed Outlook

The Lord uses young people in revival because they have “sensitivity to conflict, optimism for the future, openness to the Spirit, energy for action and a readiness to die” (CGA, pp. 66-67). Contrariwise, “Adults are not so flexible” (p. 64). While this is often the case, people of all age groups should ask themselves: “Am I so set in my own ways that I would not be open to a new leading of the Holy Spirit in my life? Am I pessimistic about life and the direction society is taking? Am I sensitive to the underlying needs and distress causing our societal decline?” As we pray about personal revival, we should ask God to give us the same qualities He is able to draw upon in many young people. These qualities prepare us to be used by God in an awakening. We must be open to serving the Lord and being flexible to His leading. Also, we should ask God to give us a redemptive view of society, and how its problems may be solved through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the principles of Scripture. We may be led by God to initiate and implement a new method or community effort for caring for the poor, the outcast, the disabled, the lonely. Christianity Today (“True Awakenings,” March 8, 1993) reported on a team, John and Gail Wessellses, who sing songs for people who are in comas. These songs of worship and praise to God minister to the spirits of those who cannot communicate or function. This is an example of the compassionate response to people that the Holy Spirit wants to multiply in our society.

Emptying Ourselves and Satisfying the Needs of the Oppressed

In seeking personal revival, we also need to develop a quality that is not emphasized much in our modern culture. It is the example described so powerfully in Philippians 2:7 where “Christ Jesus . . . made himself of no reputation” (kjv) or “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (rsv). Isaiah 58:10 underscores this attitude and way of life, stating we are to “spend [ourselves] in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” As Christ gave up His life for us, so we need to give up our lives for others. Emptying ourselves in love and self-sacrifice for others comes from an intimate relationship with the Lord and a total yielding to His nature and purposes. This kind of personal revival will transform our lives and our culture. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).


Personal revival involves personal cost. It means dying to ourselves and allowing the Lord to resurrect us in His image and in His life-changing power. Only then can God truly use us to redeem the culture. Let us be reminded again of the words of Dennis Kinlaw, former president of Asbury College: “To a revived heart, truth becomes more than an idea” (CGA, p. 49). To a revived heart, truth becomes the motivation for compassionate service and the realization of justice for the oppressed and forsaken in our society.

Life Application: As you rededicate yourself to the Lord, it is important to review your personal goals and priorities. In what ways are you spending your time? In what areas do you need to grow? What has God been prompting you to study in the Scriptures? What relationships has He asked you to build? Are you in the vocation or ministry God has called you to? Ask God to define clearly His calling and plan for you.

The Coming Revival

Key Scripture: “"Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?"” (Ps. 85:4-6).  

Our primary focus in this chapter is to look at the wider cultural implications of the coming revival. Broad societal renewal and renovation, accomplished through awakening and initiated by personal revival, influences major spheres of cultural life. It is also helpful to examine the powerful agents of change or influence through which revival transforms the culture. Winkie Pratney defines these agents of change as reformation, reconstruction, renaissance, and reconciliation.  


As A. W. Tozer said, “There is no revival without a reformation.” That is, a return to biblical truth and accountability occurs before an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in awakening. This corresponds to the features and cycles of revival we have been looking at, which reveal that the church’s return to scriptural truths as a prelude to revival. Reformation during revival also means, as Winkie Pratney states, a return to a “vital and neglected truth of God that is the key element under the Holy Spirit to transform and redeem a dying culture.”   A struggle for the reformation of our society — for a return to the solid values and beliefs of the Bible or the Judeo-Christian ethic — is a current emphasis not only in the church but in the culture at large. It has often been said by Christian leaders, politicians, and culture-watchers that we are in a “culture war.” Some in the media have even referred to it in a derogatory manner as a “holy war.” The values and beliefs based on Christian principles that most Americans formerly held have eroded considerably. We are continuously challenged by proponents of humanism and relativism, and who often demonstrate an intolerance for the Christian faith. The public debate on this crucial issue of values will no doubt continue. Its vigor perhaps foreshadows a return to an acceptance of standards (or at least a consensus that we need them) which will precede revival. The culture war should be regarded by Christians as both a warning and a motivation to return to biblical truth and its natural outcome — holy living. Often believers know the truth, but it makes little difference in their daily lives or values. This has been documented by pollsters George Gallup and George Barna with such regularity that it should shake our complacency, and cause us to repent and to obey to the Lord and His Word. If reformation does not start with the church, how can we expect it to happen in the rest of society? Reformation comes before, during, and after revival. The other three areas of change or influence — reconstruction, renaissance, and reconciliation — follow revival, and are its direct effects and results. Since we have previously looked at historical reforms in society, we will next look at a few examples of how some Christians are presently bringing cultural renewal through biblical principles and the power of the Holy Spirit. In historical perspective, they may even be considered part of the coming awakening. We need to pray for an increase in societal reforms by dedicated Christians who are experiencing their own personal revival.  


Christians sometimes differ in their views of how societal institutions should be transformed through biblical principles. Some rely more heavily on Old Testament laws and examples, while others look primarily to New Testament patterns, such as interactions between the early Christians and the Roman government. However, believers can all agree that social institutions are in need of biblical truth and the grace which comes from the gospel.   One organization that is seeking innovative and substantive biblical responses to troubled social institutions is Prison Fellowship Ministries, founded by Charles Colson. Prison Fellowship ministers to prisoners and their families through sharing the gospel, discipleship, and prison reform.   This organization has developed a redemptive view of the prison system based on biblical principles. Their philosophy is referred to as “restorative justice.” The premise is that when a crime is committed, it is considered an “injury” to the victim, the community, the government, and the offender. In response to this, restorative justice means that: the offender must be accountable to the victim, peace must be brought back to the community, and order restored through the government. To hold an offender accountable, he or she must pay restitution through community service and/or earning money to pay back the victim. Alternatives to traditional sentencing are also suggested, such as receiving help for chemical dependency and rehabilitation, including a work program. For those who need to be incarcerated, restorative justice would include working for wages during the prison term. This would enable offenders to pay for their incarceration, provide for their families, and pay restitution to their victims. In 1993 the North Carolina legislature adopted a prison reform plan incorporating a significant portion of the concepts of restorative justice. Other states have also shown interest in this program. Restorative justice is an example of the reconstruction of societal institutions through grace and truth. Prison Fellowship itself is also an example of how personal conviction and revival can have a tremendous impact on the culture. Since his conversion after Watergate, Charles Colson has initiated the prison ministry and has become a spokesman for church and cultural renewal.  


Winkie Pratney defines renaissance as a “restored sense of right and wrong.” And the result of renaissance is that “good taste comes back to the culture.” A revitalization of our society through awakening would be seen in commerce, government, the law courts, the media, and entertainment. It would influence the way life is depicted by the “gatekeepers” of society (primarily defined as the media), and what the general population thinks and talks about at home, at work, and at play. The disintegration of good taste and decency can be observed in all areas of life today, but particularly in the popular culture. Though we do not yet see a widespread resurgence and influence of Christians in the arts and media, there are dedicated individuals and groups who are committed to glorifying God through creativity, beauty, and communications. Here are just a handful of examples:  

  • “Ballet Magnificat,” an international dance group with an emphasis on worship.  
  • Ron DiCiani, Thomas Blackshear, and Robert Grace, artists who depict themes such as spiritual warfare, forgiveness, and family faith.  
  • The film China Cry based on the life of evangelist Nora Lam, which was produced through the efforts of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  
  • The meticulously researched historical novels of Bodie and Brock Thoene and the frontier-era novels of Janette Oke, which highlight themes of faith and the Christian life.  
  • The Christian Broadcasting Network, which produces television programs incorporating biblical insights into the news, current events, and entertainment.  

A true cultural renaissance will come in an all-encompassing way when revival restores a biblical consensus to society. Such a consensus must be espoused by those who create and produce art and media, as well as those who are their patrons and customers, to make a widespread impact on the popular culture.  


The Bible talks about the “ministry of reconciliation,” which God has given us (2 Cor. 5:18-19). The Lord wants us to communicate the message of forgiveness and spiritual restoration through Christ. Our society desperately needs the gospel of reconciliation to bring healing to many spheres of cultural life.   The news media broadcasts racial and ethnic strife and bloodshed from around the world. Many of us probably breathe a sigh of relief that “it’s not that bad here.” While we may not be engaged in civil war as other countries are, we tend to overlook the very real strife in our own country. We need reconciliation in so many aspects of our culture. Not only among racial groups (blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians), but in our marriages and families, and with the disenfranchised in our society, such as the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and the physically and mentally challenged. Even many political conservatives and liberals need to be reconciled rather than “writing each other off.” And we especially need unity and reconciliation in our churches and between denominations. The Lord wants to break down traditional barriers between people and to bring reconciliation for the healing of our nation — not for the preeminence of one group or another, but for the benefit of all of our society. We need to stop thinking in exclusive terms, and seek God to unite our country in reconciliation.  

One light for reconciliation is Wellington Boone of New Generation Ministries, whose story is told in the November/December 1993 issue of Ministries Today magazine. In the interview entitled “Racial Reconciliation: The Possible Dream,” Boone shares a redemptive view of the plight of blacks in America (based on the life of Joseph) which brings healing and hope. That this ministry focuses on and has a tremendous impact on college campuses is no accident. As McKenna’s account of revivals on college campuses reveals, students are the impetus for awakening and social change. Lastly, this entire area of reconciliation must be considered in the light of spiritual warfare. John 10:10 says that the enemy comes “only to steal and kill and destroy.” A cultural trend toward the polarization of races and classes is breaking down cultural unity, understanding, and cohesiveness. We must fight this in the spiritual realm — with prayer, praise, and the binding of Satan, in order to break through the strongholds of prejudice, rebellion, discord, envy, selfishness, and pride. The battle for reconciliation will not be easily won. But this country will be transformed as the power of the Holy Spirit and the gospel of reconciliation permeate the culture. Reformation, reconstruction, renaissance, and reconciliation are major influences in the awakening and transformation of a culture. The contemporary examples we have examined are making an impact, but they are only a hint of the kind of social reform that occurs in revival. These four areas of change and influence are focuses for prayer and intercession as we pray for revival. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land” (Ps. 85:6, 9).  

Is Revival Near?  

The January 1992 issue of Moody Monthly magazine included the article, “Is Revival Near?” by David R. Mains, director of the Chapel of the Air radio ministry. Mains, who has written several books on spiritual renewal, wrote: “We are experiencing the prelude to what could be the greatest spiritual awakening North America has ever known” (p. 19). He cited a resurgence in six areas in the church as an indication that revival is near: (1) a deep hunger for worship; (2) prayer movements; (3) a return to simple, powerful preaching based on the Word of God; (4) increased ministry, especially by women; (5) an emphasis on the necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (evangelism); and (6) young people coming to a high level of dedication to Christ.   In the article, Mains recalled his discussion with renowned revival historian, the late Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who said that the preparation time for national revival is generally ten to fifteen years. Mains concluded with a caution that we should not give up praying, even though we might not see immediate results. “I believe we can see another great day of the Lord in the coming months or years. But this is a crucial moment. If the awakening is delayed too long, God’s people may lose their motivation to keep praying” (p. 21). Mains’' message is that revival may be near, but we cannot give up too soon. What a tragedy it would be if, so close to revival, we then “halted” the work of the Holy Spirit because of our unbelief and lack of persistence in prayer (Luke 11:5-13)!  

The struggle over values may, as stated earlier, be a sign that revival is coming. The culture war is often gritty and controversial, as Christians go head to head with social evils, such as poverty and abortion. Yet, despite its difficult and disputed aspects, could social protest also lead to awakening?   In the April 6, 1992 issue of Christianity Today magazine, the headline to an article read, “"Revival Fires Still Burn After Wichita’'s Hot Summer.”" The “hot summer” referred to was the grueling six-week abortion protest organized by Operation Rescue in Wichita, Kansas in 1991. At the same time this “Summer of Mercy” was taking place, an evangelistic youth outreach called Locker to Locker was being planned. The abortion protests gave this effort new life as denominational barriers were broken down, and new commitments were given to the youth outreach. In February 1992, over a thousand Wichita youth came to know Christ at a coliseum in Kansas. Cindy Baldwin, one of the organizers of Locker to Locker said, “Revival is coming to Wichita. No doubt about that” (p. 77).   While some have disputed the connection between the abortion protests and the young people’s commitments to Christ, what is clear is that formerly isolated churches in Wichita unified for both evangelism and social concern. This trend will continue in Kansas and elsewhere as churches realize their full calling to carry out the Great Commission in all realms of life. (The experience in Wichita is another possible indicator of the link between social battles and spiritual battles.) When the church starts being the church, this is a sign that renewal is occurring. And church renewal can lead to a general awakening.

Finally, the precedent of history is on our side as we desire to see revival in our day. As McKenna has underscored, revivals have occurred at the end of the last two centuries. These awakenings began on college campuses (as well as other locations). And so, as we anticipate a coming great awakening, we need to pray especially for college students both at Christian and secular campuses. And we must pray for the whole church — that we will renew our love, commitment, and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and be used by Him to usher in a revival for His glory that accomplishes His divine purposes in human history.


As we anticipate revival, we are not to expect that God will work in exactly the same ways as in the past. It is entirely likely, now that we have seen what God has done in history, that he will do something new and extraordinary in the future! He may do something that transcends all our prior conceptions of revival, because he is sovereign and almighty. He will bring glory to himself by meeting spiritual and cultural needs in necessary and appropriate ways for our contemporary society. Yet a new work of God will always retain the essential character and goals of revival, because a work of God always reflects his nature. If we are privileged to participate in a coming awakening, we will see a powerful reflection of the sovereignty and grace of God, a multitude of salvations, and the transformation of our society, and even of other nations around the world.   In conclusion, what are we called to do in preparation for revival? Pray, pray, and pray some more! Commit ourselves to personal revival. Live a life of integrity and faithfulness to God. And ask God to lead us in reaching out with the gospel and in reforming society which in turn will rebuild our nation, so that it reflects the mercy and character of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now is not the time to give up; rather now is the time to press forward.   

Life Application: To become an instrument of revival, integrity is a prerequisite. List some areas in your life where your integrity is being challenged and perhaps compromised. How can you reverse this erosion of your values? If you do not, the failure to regain the moral high ground will neutralize your witness among non-Christians.

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. Historically, revival touches the extremes of society, the upper and lower strata.



2. Much of what is publicly charitable and socially compassionate in society has __________ roots.



3. Biblical repentance is threefold: repentance from idolatry, personal iniquity, and social __________.



4. A consequence of revival has been the founding of Christian colleges.



5. The collegiate network of Christian students __________ a natural instrument for a great awakening.


Is not

6. If denominational hierarchies fail to respond to changing human needs and rising moral concerns, __________ will naturally arise.



7. Great awakenings need prophetic leaders.



8. The issue of free __________ versus determinism has been at stake in each awakening.



9. In the past leadership came out of cell groups where they learned __________.

Spiritual discipline

Mutual accountability


10. The rise of radical self-interest affects the denominational loyalty of churchgoers.



11. The coming generation __________ drop out of the church altogether.


May not

12. Without a vision, there will be no renewal.



13. Cultural transformation begins with __________ transformation.



14. There is little risk today of compromising biblical truth.



15. __________ freedom is the breakthrough in our century that will parallel the political and social freedoms gained by past awakenings.



16. America's basic beliefs in God remain as strong as ever.



17. Persons aged 18 to 24 are the __________ religious group in the nation.



18. College educated youth in America __________ reject religion.


Do not

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