Longing for Revival | Book Review

At various times, I have experienced periods of intense spiritual growth. I have also participated in extended occasions in church life where the adjectives more and better describe the congregation’s experience of God and of effectiveness in mission, respectively. Both are examples of revival.

Revival seems like a strange term to many Christians today, a word from another age or place. They acknowledge that revival happened back then or is happening somewhere else, but they don’t see it happening right now, right here. They don’t feel it happening in themselves either.

Worse, the term revival provokes suspicion in some minds because of its association with anti-intellectualism and emotionalism. This suspicion isn’t new. In his 1876 autobiography, Charles Finney described as a “burnt district” certain areas of central and western New York. “Taking what they had seen as a specimen of a revival of religion,” Finney writes, “they felt justified in opposing anything looking toward the promoting of a revival.”

But once you factor out the strangeness of and suspicions about the word revival, it still names what all Christians want, individually and corporately: more of God, and better effectiveness in mission. We all long for revival.

Revival is the work of God’s Spirit. We can’t gin it up, but we can prepare to receive it. How to do so is the subject of Longing for Revival by James Choung and Ryan Pfeiffer. Choung is vice president of strategy and innovation for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (USA). Pfeiffer is next gen pastor at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, California. They divide their work into three parts.

Part One asks, what is revival? It is, in their words, “a season of breakthroughs in word, deed, and power that ushers in a new normal of kingdom experience and fruitfulness.” Word, deed, and power express the gospel in different ways: word as “biblical preaching and teaching”; deed as “compassion and justice”; and power in “miraculous or explicitly supernatural ways.”

Different revivals begin with an emphasis on different expressions. The Great Awakening is remembered for its preaching, the Second Great Awakening for its activism, and Azusa Street for its signs and wonders. Yet, the authors contend, “Revivals, as they mature, move toward the center. They exhibit word, deed, and power in love.” A focus on one of these expressions to the detriment of others “can stunt revival in our hearts and communities.”

Part Two asks, how do you prepare for revival? It outlines four essential practices: consecration, calling, contending and character. These are especially the practices of those who lead revivals. “Revivals are first experienced, and then given away,” the authors write.

Consecration consists of “making ourselves available to God so he can make us holy, and set us apart for his holiness.” Calling nourishes a “holy discontent” with the way things are. “It’s a provocateur against comfort, prodding us toward an alternative vision of what God can do.”  The consecrated and called engage in contending, which isn’t contentiousness! Instead, it is “learning to pray in such a way as to not give up” — spiritual warfare, in other words, “fighting with God’s power and not with our own.” Finally, character. “Revival leadership invariably takes us on a path of confrontation with the status quo, and that means our character will be tested by both the praise we receive and the rejection we suffer.” Too often, revivals falter because their leaders fail this test.

Part Three asks, how do you lead revival? One noteworthy insight is what the authors call the “Mystery and Strategy Paradox.” In any revival, there are experiential elements (“mystery”) and organizational elements (“strategy”). According to the authors, a “holistic” revival majors in both mystery and strategy. When it majors in mystery but minors in strategy, it’s “experiential.” When it minors in mystery but majors in strategy, it’s “pragmatic.” When it minors in both, it’s merely “social,” a gathering of amiable people with no greater passion or purpose.

There’s an old gospel chorus that, if you pray it and live it, will lead beyond no greater to more and better. It doesn’t make an appearance in Longing for Revival, but it’s a fitting coda nonetheless:

Revive us again; fill each heart with They love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, Hallelujah, amen!
Hallelujah, Thine the glory, revive us again!

Book Reviewed
James Choung and Ryan Pfeiffer, Longing for Revival: From Holy Discontent to Breakthrough Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review appeared in the March-April 2020 issue of Influence magazine and is posted here with permission.

How God Turns a Mess into a Masterpiece | Influence Podcast

Last Tuesday, Rick DuBose began his tenure as general treasurer of the Assemblies of God (USA). I interviewed him for the Influence Podcast over at InfluenceMagazine.com. We talked about the process God uses to turn our messes–personally, congregationally, socially–into masterpieces. Take a listen!

Review of ‘Catch the Wind of the Spirit’ by Carolyn Tennant

Catch_the_Wind_350Carolyn Tennant, Catch the Wind of the Spirit: How the 5 Ministry Gifts Can Transform Your Church (Springfield, MO: Vital Resources, 2016).

In Ephesians 4:11–12, the apostle Paul wrote: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” These five ministries played an obvious and fundamental role in the Church, according to the apostle, yet they are the occasion of no small amount of controversy today. Do the apostolic and prophetic ministries continue to operate today? If so, do they constitute offices within the Church? Should we call specific ministers “Apostle So-and-so” or “Prophet Such-and-such”?

Many classical Pentecostals believe that too much emphasis has been placed on office and more emphasize should be placed on function. In other words, the question should not be whether such-and-such a person bears the office and title of apostle or prophet but whether apostolic and prophetic functions are taking place in the Church. This emphasis on function is the position of the Assemblies of God. It is also the emphasis of Carolyn Tennant in her new book from Vital Resources, Catch the Wind of the Spirit. “The vast majority of teaching on this [subject] has focused on church leadership,” she writes. “I’m firmly convinced, however, that God is focused upon the ministry currents that each person is supposed to oversee. He means for the whole church to get involved.”

What are the five currents Ephesians 4 identifies? Tennant outlines them this way:

  1. Seeing people come to Christ (The Powerful Wooing Current)
  2. Ensuring new believers learn to follow Him closely and mature into what He desires them to be (The Radical Forming Current)
  3. Caring for His disciples in the body of believers so they may stay health, and connected, and know they are loved (The Synchronized Choreography Current)
  4. Providing direction for the church: correcting and restoring, affirming and encouraging (The Housecleaning Directional Current)
  5. Pushing back the darkness and taking new territory for the kingdom of God (The Miraculous Sending Current)

Each chapter describing these currents is paired with a chapter describing, “what kind of people are needed to oversee the current and where they might be in our churches.” Tennant seems indifferent to whether these “overseers” are church offices filled by paid ministers, and she pays careful attention to “misconceptions” that frequently attach themselves to the ministries of apostles and prophets. Here are the “overseers” for each of the currents above, respectively:

  1. The Evangelist
  2. The Teacher
  3. The Pastor
  4. The Prophetic Servant
  5. The Apostolic Emissary

Tennant clearly longs to experience the renewal and revitalization of North American churches. She is thoroughly Pentecostal in both theology and practice. (If you doubt that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to believers today, make sure to read the story she tells on pages 160–162 about the Spirit sending her to talk to a man in the parking lot of a run-down strip mall. It’s like a contemporary version of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.) In addition to sharp biblical insight and poignant personal anecdotes, Tennant highlights the Spirit-filled missionary endeavors of St. Patrick and other Celtic missionaries in the early medieval era. That’s a surprising move, given how many Pentecostals, charismatics, and evangelicals view the state of the early medieval Church. On the other hand, when you see how downright “Pentecostal” those missionaries could be—including St. Patrick’s experience with speaking in tongues—you realize that the connection between a vibrant experience of the Spirit and power for mission to the world have always gone together, both biblically and in Church history.

I’ll wrap up my review by quoting Tennant’s concluding words:

When God is free to move, as He is in revival, the Triune God brings a fresh flow of each and every current. The Trinity has been working in every one of them all along from the beginning, and the Three are all desirous of pouring out even more upon us. Will we receive it?

That’s a very good question.

P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon review page.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: