Revival vs. Revivalism

Today we want to talk about revival. We’ve gotten a number of requests from some on this recently. Much of this is the result of the state of our culture.

Here in Kenosha, we’ve been having so-called “revival meetings” or “revival gatherings.”

In light of the riots we had, there was a great desire for many churches and Christians to gather, and see change, hope, and revival in our city.

In our civic park (where much of the protesting and rioting took place outside the courthouse), there were worship concerts, where many people came to sing, pray, and so on.

There were a number of churches that organized this, and several pastors in the area spoke at some of these.

There was also a traveling worship guy named Sean Feucht (pronounced Foyt) who came to town. He’s been traveling around the U.S., apparently tired of the double standard, where protesters can gather in the streets, but churches can’t meet.

So he’s been organizing, and holding, “worship protests.”

He has amassed a rather large following.

He goes from city to city, and then asks a local preacher to come preach the Gospel.

So in light of Kenosha now being a household name in light of the riots, Sean came to our city and held one of his events. The stated goal was to help bring in renewal and revival.

The result of these calls for revival in our city have been met with mixed thoughts and feelings by the various churches and pastors.

Some pastors have loved it and strongly desire to see revival.

Other pastors have had a strong aversion to some of these efforts because they think the atmosphere at these “revival events” (Sean Feuch’s in particular) was too celebratory. Rather, they think the church in Kenosha should be more sober (and grieving) right now, because of racism and police brutality.

Our goal here is not to comment on the various perspectives from these pastors and churches, but it is to say that this idea of revival is happening in light of the recent events.

Further, there are revival and prayer efforts organizing at a national level.

These sorts of things are always around, but they seem to become prominent during times of crisis, or around election time.

For example, you can go to and you will see a national day of prayer and global repentance.

It was an event that took place on Sept. 26, where celebrities, and popular authors, speakers, and pastors led an online event centered around global prayer and repentance.

Again, you could do a quick Google (better, ) search and find many of these sorts of events taking place all the time.

The questions we get as pastors is; should we be part of this?

So we weren’t part of any of the events in our city. First, we weren’t asked to be part of it, but even if we were, we would not be part it—which is likely why we are never asked.

Second, we also got some inquiries as to whether or not we could sign up to host a virtual meeting for a global prayer event.

There was a genuine and honest frustration from some as to why we would not be part of this, nor support such a thing.

We found their questions and concerns to be honest.

So what we thought we would do is record some episodes on why.

And, like all things, that answer has to do with theology.

So while prayer and revival meetings sound like a worthy thing; and while global gatherings for repentance sound like a good thing, the question becomes, is it biblical?

Is this right, proper, and what God has actually called us to?

Further, is what these various organizations mean when they use the word “revival” what we mean when we talk about revival.

In terms of the global gatherings for prayer and repentance – the question we have is what does repentance mean in their mind?

Are we talking about the same thing?

Do we have the same biblical framework and understanding?

Are the motivations, and goals the same?

Are the things we’d be praying for the same thing?

In other words, when we gather with other churches in the city to pray for revival, restoration, and hope, are we even doing the same thing? Is there a true unity of mind, effort, and goals there?

Well the answer will ultimately come down to what is true revival, biblically? What is our part to play in revival; and how is it actually accomplished?

So we’re going to spend some time talking about revival, and specially, try to make a very critical distinction between true revival, and something called “revivalism” (which we would argue is, far and away, much of what is commonly taking place.

So what is revival?

Defining Revival

First of all, we want to give credit where credit is due.

If you’re looking for some good resources on revival, we would highly recommend “When God Moves” by John Armstrong.

Also, if you’re looking for some really good history on revival, Iian Murray’s “Revival and Revivalism” is excellent. He’s a very good church historian, and any of his writing would be worth your time.

But to give credit where it’s due, both of these books were helpful guiding our discussion on this topic, and so much of what we say can be drawn from those two resources.

Lexical issues:

First of all, the word “revival” as a noun is never used in Scripture, and that right there should cause you to slow down.

That does not mean that the concept is not seen in Scripture, but this should cause you to at least slow down.

Now the verb, “to revive” is used in Scripture.

In the OT, it’s the verb חָיָה (chayayh)which is the verb used to speak of making alive.

Literally, it is “to live.”

However, it is also used in the sense of “bringing back alive.” It refers to “breathing,” or causing something to once again breathe. So the idea of “revive” is certainly present in the term.

Ex.) 1 Kings 17:22“The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.”

So, here, the clear context is that of bringing physical life back to a child. Elijah prayed for God to bring life back to Zarephath’s dead child.

The same term is used in Ezekiel 37.

This is that famous passage, commonly referred to as the Valley of Dry Bones. Here, Ezekiel i