HOUSTON, TX (ANS) — Revivals, renewals and Spiritual Awakenings are in fact taking place in many parts of the world these days. There are also many parallels when we study the major revivals and spiritual awakenings throughout history. Revivals and spiritual awakenings in biblical times usually came during hardships and difficult times. Significant movements of God have resulted in activating the Body of Christ and many turning to the Lord. Throughout Scripture and Church history there are many lessons and principles that should encourage each of us as followers of Jesus.
Conditions for Awakenings
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a biblical scholar and historian. He was sharing with me some of the conditions that existed just before the First and Second Great Awakenings here in the United States. Things were very bad. There was a lot of turbulence and disturbing developments. It is amazing when we observe the parallels between cultural issues and societal conditions between then and now. Moral and spiritual decline seems to set the stage for revival and spiritual awakening and increasing numbers of people coming to an awareness of their need for the Lord.
A Personal Awakening
Whether they are defined as revivals, renewals, awakenings or movements of God, we have been blessed to experience several in the history of this nation. Many more have happened throughout the rest of the world. It has been a great blessing to have personally benefited from several movements of God in my lifetime. The Asbury revival and the Jesus movement (or revolution) of the early 1970s was one of those. As a college student at the time, I experienced a spiritual transformation and began to actively share the Lord and see many come to Christ. A key factor for me was having a new passion for sharing with others what God had done in my own life. It was certainly a personal spiritual awakening for me that became contagious.
The Ripple Effect
There is an abundance of information available about how the Lord worked during the Jesus movement of the 1970s. Many sermons and lectures have been delivered, and books written giving an account of how the Lord worked during that period. There has also been an ongoing ripple effect that is still having impact today. It seems that it was the turbulence of the 1960s that set the stage for that movement.
1984 Olympic Outreach
In the decade of the 1980s there were several pockets of awakenings and significant movements. A major prayer gathering of more than a million people took place in South Korea during the summer of 1984. It was just prior to the Summer Olympic Games in Southern California. There was a lot of prayer and preparation that went into the Olympic Outreach Coalition. More than 70 mission groups and denominations, and 1,800 churches in the region took part in that outreach effort. We heard reports that the crime rate in Los Angles was the lowest during that two-week period than it had been in modern history. It was estimated that more than 1,000 people responded to the gospel every day during that period. Dr. Ralph Winter, founder of, what was then, the US Center for World Mission, said, “It was the most lavish outpouring of effective, well organized, evangelical attention to any event in history.”
The 1984 Olympic Outreach was a catalyst and set in motion several other movements over the next few years that actually went worldwide. The Winning Way Coalition and the International Bible Reading Association were birthed during that time. 1990 was declared the International Year of Bible Reading, by a congressional resolution and a presidential proclamation was issued by President George H.W. Bush. A few other presidents and heads of state around the world also issued similar proclamations. Bible reading marathons and prayer vigils were conducted all over the world, from the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem, to Berlin, Washington D.C. and many other cities. College and university campuses also hosted Bible Reading Marathons and Prayer Vigils.
Further Impact in the Academic Community
There was another ripple of revival and awakening that took place, initially on college, university and seminary campuses in 1995. Beginning at Howard Payne University, then to Houston Baptist University and eventually, to more than 50 campuses around the country. It also spread to many churches and other places.
Awakenings in Asia and Africa
Over the years it has been encouraging to hear accounts of other revivals and spiritual awakenings that have taken place in Southeast Asia and East Africa back in the 1920s and 30s. Many books have been written about them, but there are also many people living today who were impacted and tell about those movements. The more we know the Scriptures and the history of the work of God in the world, the greater hope we can have that He desires to do it again.
Impact of Orality Strategies
Over the past decade, through our Orality and Church mobilization strategies with Living Water International, we have experienced several encouraging spiritual movements and impact. We have received feedback where large numbers of people have come to Christ by telling Bible stories that they learned at Orality Training events. Reports of disciple-making and church planting movements have been accelerated in areas where we have conducted Orality Training. It is not only pastors and church leaders that God uses in those places. Ordinary followers of Jesus learn biblical stories, the skills of asking questions, and then go about spreading the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Next Great Awakening
Increasing numbers of church and mission leaders are sensing that we could be on the verge of the next Great Awakening, and many are praying and believing for it. Renewals, revivals and awakenings can take on many forms of expression, and they may not look like past movements. They can be personal or corporate. It is wonderful to be part of a corporate move of God. However, we do not have to wait for some sweeping move of God. He is ready and prepared to renew each of us as we seek Him with our whole heart.