Home Pastors What Is Revival? A Guide for Gen Z

What Is Revival? A Guide for Gen Z


Last week I received an email from Zoe, one of our newer and younger team members here at Dare 2 Share. She wanted to know about the Asbury Revival. Actually, she wanted to know about “revival” in general. Here’s the e-mail she sent me:

Hey, you should write a blog defining ‘revival.’ Most of the discourse I’ve seen online is debating whether this is a revival, and it seems that most everyone has a different definition. It might also be helpful for people around my age group (25 and younger), who have never seen or experienced a revival firsthand. I think there is a generational gap between people who have seen ‘revival’ and those of us who have no personal experience with this sort of movement or concept. Personally, the word revival doesn’t mean anything to me—it seems like a fictional term. It feels like a term older Christians use for whatever they see fit.

I think Zoe is right.

Revival in the Rearview Mirror

Those of us who are older are probably much more familiar with the terms “revival” and “awakening” than the younger generation. I’m so old (although I prefer the word “classic” or “vintage”) that I remember the tail end of the Jesus Movement and all of the Jesus-loving, bell-bottom-wearing hippies of the early ’70s!

But I’m also somewhat familiar with revival on a personal level. I saw a version of it sweep through my violent, inner-city, bodybuilding, fist-throwing family and completely transform them from street fighters into street preachers. I began studying the whole subject of revival in my middle school years and have continued ever since.

Books about revival and awakening have always been on my reading list. One of my favorites is called George Whitefield: The life and times of the great evangelist of the 18th-century revival by Arnold Dallimore. This two-volume, 1,200-page tome is a deep dive into the good, bad, and ugly of the First Great Awakening.

For instance, did you know that the two primary evangelists, George Whitefield and John Wesley, were “frenemies” for most of their ministry careers? Whitefield, a full-on Calvinist (God chose us), and Wesley, an all-out Arminian (we choose God), started as friends and ended as friends, but for the bulk of their ministries, there was a whole bunch of tension between these two men of God.

Rumors were started, letters were written, sides were taken, and feelings were hurt. But in spite of “the bad and the ugly,” there was still so much good. Unbelievers were evangelized, churches were energized, and communities were Gospelized.

And, yes, there were extremes at times. This has been the case with almost every major spiritual awakening in the history of the church.

Both Wesley and Whitefield had to learn how to deal with the excesses and extremes of those who would show up to their services and demonstrate some rather weird behavior. Some believed that these excesses were of God, and others believed they were of the devil.

Theologians argued, tempers flared, and accusations flew.

Sound familiar?

But these excesses didn’t negate the awakening that was taking place. Yes, they had to be dealt with, but they didn’t derail God’s plan to transform a soon-to-be-nation for God!

Revival ‘in the Main’

Reporter Chip Hutcheson, in an article in Kentucky Today, shared some great insights from Tim Beougher, pastor of West Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville and evangelism professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Pastor Beougher is an expert on revival and gave this advice regarding Asbury after visiting there and seeing firsthand what was happening:

Throughout the history of revivals, critics have pointed to some type of ‘excess’ accompanying a revival and tried to argue that ‘excess’ discredited the entire revival moment and meant it wasn’t truly a work of God. Jonathan Edwards answered that criticism during the First Great Awakening by using a helpful phrase: ‘in the main.’ What is at the heart of the movement? What is happening ‘in the main’? There will always be ‘excess’ on the fringe, due to overly excited and not yet completely sanctified human beings and/or to Satanic opposition, but what is taking place ‘in the main’? That is a helpful grid to evaluate movements like that taking place now at Asbury.

We don’t want to let the extremes of revivals past or present distract us from the mainstream of what God is doing. We must focus on what is happening “in the main.”