As the world seems to fall apart around us, even as the pandemic winds down, many of us have been crying out for a move of God. We have been for a long time. Some of us have prophesied the coming of a move of God greater than any history has seen. These are things I’ve thought about and prayed into for all of my 45 years of professional life as a pastor.
Three terms get tossed around in all of this. Outpouring. Revival. Movement. An outpouring is simply when the Spirit of God descends in power. He pours Himself out. It can happen in a single meeting for a moment or it can happen over a series of weeks and months. Exciting things happen in an outpouring as people give their lives to the Lord and we see miraculous healings and other manifestations. In an outpouring, the Presence of God is real and tangible.
We charismaniacs speak a lot about revival and we tend to apply the term broadly to anything from a single meeting in which we want to see something happen to something sustained that sweeps generations and nations. But basically the word means that something that was dead has come to life or something that was old has been revitalized. I’m not too interested in that. I want to see the new things God is creating and doing.
For too many people, “revival” calls up images of tent meetings, shouting, hollering, hype and a list of manifestations like falling, laughing and shaking. All of that is fine with me. I love those things when they happen, but the Lord told me at the beginning of the great Toronto Blessing outpouring never to measure the presence of His Spirit by what I see with my eyes. Sometimes our preconceived notions of what it will look like and how we measure His presence can blind us to what God is actually doing. So, for a lot of reasons I don’t really like the term, “revival”.
The day of Pentecost wasn’t revival. It didn’t revive anything that was dead. It was something entirely new and out of the box. It was an outpouring of the Spirit of God in a form no one had ever seen or anticipated. When Peter preached to Cornelius, the Roman centurion’s household, the Holy Spirit fell, but not in revival because there was nothing that had died and needed to come to life. It was a new thing for Cornelius’ household, an outpouring of something they’d never seen before.
So we don’t need revival, but we do need an outpouring. What many of us long for is actually a movement sparked and fed by an outpouring – and therein lies the problem and the heart of the battle in the spirit realm over our culture. A movement is when such a powerful wave sweeps through a culture as a whole that it catches up multitudes of people in its power and carries them into the kingdom of God.
In the days following Pentecost, a movement swept thousands of Jewish people into the kingdom of God. It happened because of the outpouring but it was made possible as a movement because in Jerusalem there was a shared Jewish culture and identity. The connections were easy and ready for the Holy Spirit to use. The result was Acts 2:47, “And the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved.” That was a movement!
The last real movement to impact the culture of the western world was the Jesus Movement from approximately 1969 through the early and mid-70s. It was a time when young people like me at that time shared a culture that in many ways united us. Most of us had been raised in Sunday School, so we knew what we’d departed from and what repentance meant. Those who hadn’t been raised in church had nevertheless grown up in a culture saturated with an awareness of Judeo-Christian influence and were aware of the prominence of evangelists like Billy Graham and the message they preached. We had a foundation as a generation.
There was the war in Vietnam that we as a generation mostly opposed. We mostly shared a rejection of the culture of conformity our parents had imposed on us and that they sought to preserve. We united around an explosion of musical creativity unprecedented in history. We became a generation of protest against war, against racism, against conformity and unfortunately against some principles of morality we should have hung onto. Into that shared culture came an outpouring of the Spirit of God. It became cool to be Christian and hundreds of thousands of young people were swept up in it, giving their lives to the Lord, facilitated by the common culture of our generation. We could be reached as a generation because as a generation we shared a sense of culture, connection and purpose.
The enemy of our soul is no fool and, seeing the impact of the Jesus Movement and what had made it possible, he began the task of dividing us as a culture – segmenting us into broken groups isolated from one another and often hostile to one another – in order to prevent another movement from happening. Now each segment has been led to suspect and hate every other segment. Where once during the time of the Jesus Movement we as a generation had united around opposition to racial segregation and prejudice, we now see a resurgence of ever more vile racial hatreds and division. The LGBTQ community has gone to war against those of us who stand by biblical standards of sexuality. The political far left and the political far right are at one another’s throats at a depth not seen in my lifetime. Youth culture has fractured into more isolated groups than I can count or understand.
We need a movement, but in order for there to be movement there must be a sense of shared culture and identity so that interpersonal connections, relationships and cultural awarenesses become the bonds that draw people. Through those connections, when an outpouring comes, others can be swept in through those connections, through those shared identities and shared concerns. Our society is now much too fractured for that kind of a movement to take root and grow. We’re not going to see the nation as a nation swept up in a movement like the Jesus Movement.
So what do I see? What is the hope? What is the Lord’s strategy going forward? I have long said that we would not see a great nation-changing movement of revival, and for all the reasons I’ve stated. I have given one additional reason. Society around us has made a firm decision concerning what it will be, and it doesn’t include God. That decision won’t be unmade. So what do I see when I speak of a great unprecedented outpouring of God’s Spirit?
What I’m seeing around the nation and in other places are sparks of outpouring scattered about by the hand of God. In various places fires are being lit. These lead to what I have seen coming for many years. In the midst of growing darkness, lighthouse churches and ministries will emerge and are even now appearing. Some have been active for a while already. These are places where the Holy Spirit is being poured out in the Father’s heart. In these places God is free to move and act sovereignly to manifest His glory and to heal broken lives and broken bodies. These are places where the presence of God can be seen and felt.
As increasing numbers of people experience the truth that sin doesn’t work, suffering is increasing. Lighthouse churches and ministries shine in a way that can be seen from a distance. They get a reputation as places of love, mercy and healing so that people know where to turn as destruction mounts. A great harvest of souls is coming as God raises up and strengthens these places of His manifestation. I often call them islands of glory in a sea of mud.
This means that we must pray for and labor at strengthening local church fellowships where God is spreading those sparks I’ve mentioned. If we can’t avoid using the term, “revival”, then I say it’s time for the church to revive, to come alive and to respond to what God is sending fresh and new. Let God be God. Let Him move in whatever way He chooses, regardless of the disruption to what has been considered comfortable or orderly. There was little on the day of Pentecost that could have been called comfortable or even orderly. Onlookers accused them of being drunk and out of control.
Pray for these lighthouses of the Presence to emerge. Pray for those just now emerging to be strengthened and expanded. Pray for their leadership that they would be steeped in the selflessness of the cross and infused with the Father’s heart in Jesus. Then watch what happens in the coming years. No plan of the enemy can succeed. We get to win!