Many who grew up in Baptist life equate revival with structured daily church services featuring a special guest preacher or emotionally charged meetings with a big evangelistic push.
Terry Long, director of missions for Choctaw County Baptist Association and author, believes that real revival is something altogether different.
Long wrote “When the Fire Falls: Ten Characteristics of Genuine Revival” to review actions that either precede, accompany or follow a true revival. “When the Fire Falls” weaves in historical accounts of great revivals with these ten attributes.
However, this isn’t a how-to book. Long is clear that leaving the word “the” out of the subtitle was deliberate.
“I didn’t want to imply that these are ‘the’ 10 characteristics of revival as if there can be no more, as if these are the only ones, as if there’s an order to them. It’s just characteristics I’ve seen as I’ve studied biblical, historical revival, and as I’ve seen in my own life,” Long explained.
The 10 aspects that Long discusses are repentance, brokenness, reconciliation, joy, lordship, prayer, the Word, worship, soul winning and awakening. Major revivals often share other common traits, such as not being centered around a popular evangelist; gathering together spontaneously; corporate worship; and sharing personal testimonies, which makes the revival organically spread.
Though the above traits are common in genuine revival, one component is always present — an individual or group earnestly praying.
Quoting 19th century pastor and missionary A.T. Pierson, Long said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”
However, that prayer doesn’t have to begin with a group. It can also begin with one person crying out to God.
Quoting British evangelist Gipsy Smith, Long explained that true revival usually starts with a small group, but it’s not necessary.
Smith said, “Find a piece of chalk and find an empty room. Go into that room and shut the door. Draw a circle on the floor with that chalk, kneel down in that circle and ask God to start revival right there.”
Long’s cry for revival didn’t involve a closet or a circle. Instead, Long prayed at the foot of a cross.
As a teenager, before leaving to preach in other states for about 20 years, Long had been part of large youth rallies in his county with 400 to 500 people attending. Upon coming back, he discovered a big change.
“Those churches had dried up. The ones that had been on fire were struggling to keep the doors open. Some of them had closed the doors. The county was nothing spiritually like it was when I was there as a teenager,” he recalled.
God put a burden on Long’s heart to pray for revival. He felt led to put up a cross at an intersection and pray there for the next 100 days.
During those 100 days, 30 people were saved and about 2,000 visited the cross for prayer.
Though he didn’t feel qualified to write a book about this experience, he told the story to many. It took those he had told 8 1/2 years to convince him to write about it. His book “100 Days at the Cross: One Man’s Journey to Understanding the Power of the Cross of Christ” is the result.
Long still doesn’t consider himself a writer, but he knows God loves to take ordinary people and do amazing things they couldn’t have imagined.
Both books have come out of his heart and his burden to share about revival.
Long is adamant that Christians need to do their part, both individually and in groups, but God is the One who chooses the time and place to send His fire.
‘A fresh work’
“Revival is in the heart of God. It always begins there. He’s sovereign. And yet on earth, where we see God pouring His Spirit out in revival, is in places where men and women have taken their sin seriously, have gotten clean before God and have cried out to Him for a fresh work in their lives. That’s where God chooses to drop this thing of revival.”
Quoting another British evangelist G. Campbell Morgan, Long said, “We cannot organize revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.”
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