What is “revival”? To be honest, I’ve heard this word so much over the past ten years, I don’t even really know what it means any more.
In some circles it’s just a tent meeting that you plan in advance and invite a special speaker. In other circles, it represents a pining for the great historical revivals to happen again. Still in other circles, it’s a sort of undefinable grassroots momentum.
At its core, the word revival means to bring to life again. It comes from the Latin viva which means “to live.” With the prefix re- we could say it literally means “to live again.”
Melissa and I have been in a kind of revival. We’ve been meeting with our church community in prayer and worship nearly every day for the past two weeks or so, and God is doing some really cool things. I also had the privilege to visit the Asbury outpouring with our apprentices last week.
At its core, I believe revival is ordinary people choosing to radically prioritize the presence of God.
Jonathan Edwards described revival as something like the acceleration of the normal work of the Holy Spirit. If that’s right, then I see that where people are radically prioritizing the presence of God over the things of normal life.
In Asbury, I saw thousands of people who called off work, missed important meetings, and ruined their routines to travel, just for a chance to see God move. God met them in that.
In our meetings locally, I see people blowing off other plans, letting their houses go messy, and allowing their kids stay up way too late way too often just to be there…just to experience the presence of God. God meets them in that.
If this is re-vival, I think it’s helpful to think about the original vival. Jesus, of course, gave away his viva (life) for and to the Church. Acts 2:42-7 really describes the output from that first vival:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
Here we see the radical prioritization of the things of God. These people literally gave up their former lives, their stuff, their time…all in pursuit of the presence of God.
What is or is not a “revival” is something for historians to debate after the fact. But to be “in revival” is a personal reality—to personally accept that call, to personally say “yes” to the things of God at any cost.
For Melissa and me, revival started three years ago during the original COVID lockdowns. Suddenly, there were no church activities, no soccer practices, no after-school commitments, no movie theaters…nothing. We continued to meet with our friends in our home and for the first time we had a community of people who had nothing to do but to seek the presence of God together. Ironically, it was largely not by our own choice, but God honored it nonetheless. We saw God moving and we saw people coming together in community in a way we had not experienced before. That time will forever live in my memory as a highlight of my life despite everything that was going on in the world.
Some of that revival, that personal prioritization of the things of God, stuck with us. This current revival season has reinvigorated and shined a light on the beautiful thing we have in this community.
It’s far from perfect, it’s made up of humans after all, but we are a community that regularly comes together in unity to say “yes” to God—to radically prioritize His presence. Not just once a week, but any time we can.
This radical community is one of my favorite parts about The Company. I get to show up everyday and hang out with people who said “yes” to the call of God on their lives, over everything else. I think that’s why we so regularly encounter the Holy Spirit in powerful ways.
Our writing apprentices have come to Zanesville from all over the country. They gave up their lives to pursue what God has for them. Man, that’s cool!
Our older apprentices left careers behind. Our younger students gave up a conventional “college experience” because they’ve decided what’s most important to them. They all travel far from their families, relationships, and leave most of their material stuff behind. That’s radical.
Truthfully, I’m not that interested in revival, I’m interested in perma-vival. I’m interested in building a discipleship community that radically prioritizes the presence of God as a permanent lifestyle, as a sustainable way of life. Not even just while you’re here, but something that never ends.
In an age of online classes and social networks, that’s why it’s so important that we offer an in-person discipleship program for writers. You may come for the writing (and that’s what you’ll get), but you’re going to leave with so much more.
I believe that God shows up when we prioritize His presence in community. We don’t get to tell Him how to show up or what to do, but He’ll be there. I know for sure because He promised He would, and I trust him. As recorded in Matthew 18:20, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
There am I among them.
What would it look like to radically prioritize the presence of God in your life today? Who could you connect with in-person to pursue the things of God together?
Try it. It just may change your life. You just may find “revival” wherever you are.
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