Editor’s Introduction -- By: Jonathan Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 01:2 (Spring 1992)
Article: Editor’s Introduction
Author: Jonathan Armstrong

Editor’s Introduction

John H. Armstrong

Revival: What and Why?

The term revival is grossly misunderstood. A contemporary has written that “There never was a day in which the term revival needed to be more carefully defined.” At one time the term described great movements of God as in “The First Great Awakening,” which occurred in the eighteenth century. In our day the term has come to refer to everything from “a movement of God’s Spirit” to a series of protracted evangelistic meetings called “a revival.” We have inherited, especially from the nineteenth century, a whole body of “revival methods” which are to be used in order to reproduce the effects of a previous revival meeting or campaign. What are we to make of this? Would it be better to simply drop the use of the term revival altogether, if not the ideas which seem inevitably to accompany the term?

In our time we also have a group of earnest and doctrinally well-taught believers who suggest that revivals have been ultimately harmful to the overall ministry of the Christian church. They see excesses and doctrinal error which have attended past revivals and deduce, “What good would revival do for us today when the doctrine and present practice of the church is so far from that of the New Testament?” Revivals, they insist, have often brought some of the very errors that we now must seek to remove from the church.

On the other hand, a more widely held view is that we can and should have revival in our generation and in our churches, if we would only do the right things and use the right methods. For these evangelicals revival may be God’s gift, but it is a gift we can bring down from heaven if we meet certain conditions and follow the steps plainly put before us in Scripture.

In both of these responses we detect unwarranted excesses.

On the one hand we see a stress upon God’s use of the institution of the church through sound doctrine and proper practice. In this view this is all we really need. It is believed that the church, since it is an institution, principally needs constancy and stability. Revivals bring ferment and upset the programs and general day-to-day operational agenda of the institution. On the other hand, we have the extreme, so prevalent in America, of those who believe that revivalism is the same thing as revival; i.e., that methods and programs equal, or produce, God-given revival!

It is the conviction of this publication that the church is principally a community of believers brought into being by the reviving influences and power of the Holy Spirit. Every true con...

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