So what should change in a church when revival comes, so that the community will be impacted with the Gospel in the days ahead?
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
(The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, Verses 42 through 47)
When God sends revival to a congregation of the saints, there is a natural interest in prolonging the good effects of what has happened. One of the most important factors in extending the blessings of the revival is for the church to adopt what could be called “a revival M-O.” Probably one of the unfortunate aspects of my childhood was that I watched too much television. For a few years, the networks were airing a surprising number of detective shows, mysteries and crime dramas, and I watched a lot of them. Anyone who liked the crime shows would pick up some of the supposed police lingo, and one of the terms often used by television cops was the “m-o” of a perpetrator of crime. These letters abbreviated a Latin-based term for the criminal’s usual way of doing things, his modus operandi (means of operating). His m-o often led to a criminal’s apprehension as investigators came to recognize his usual method of doing what he did, and were able to connect crimes with crimes. Churches that have experienced a revival need to adopt a revival m-o, a revival-based way of doing things, in order to move forward in the way of revived Christianity. Often the lifelessness, carnality, worldliness, and barrenness of churches in an unrevived state are caused by operating in an unrevived way. So going forward in ministry in the new way requires a new m-o.
On the great Day of Pentecost, the church at Jerusalem experienced revival. Not only was that day the day of transition from the Old Covenant to the New, with the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in believers, it was a revival for the one hundred twenty who waited before God the ten days before the Spirit came. They were “filled” with the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), and not merely “sealed” with Him (see the significance and distinction between the two by studying Ephesians 1:12-14, 4:29-30, and 5:18). Not only did He come to dwell within them as part of the dispensational change, He took control of their lives and began to empower their witness for Christ. They experienced a revival. And the revival continued as the church adopted a revival m-o, described for us in Acts 2:42-47.
So what should change in a church when revival comes, so that the community will be impacted with the Gospel in the days ahead? Right away the renewed church should adopt as the “new normal” the following things that the Jerusalem church followed:
- Revival theology. The record says that they “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (according to Acts 2:42). That is what was supposed to happen. Jesus had told the apostles that, when they baptized new disciples, they were to “teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This was “the apostles’ doctrine (teaching).” A certain kind of doctrine goes along with revival, generates it, and moves it along. A very serious obstacle to revival in a church can be the doctrine that is taught. But the apostles’ doctrine was favorable to the faith that is behind revival, to expecting the supernatural involvement of God in church life (see verse 43), to the ministry of the Holy Spirit (note verses 4, 17-18, 33, and 38-39), and to bold evangelism (verse 40). A revived church will get a steady diet of revival theology from the pulpit. For more than a century now, many Bible-believing churches have been scared away from preaching on the Holy Spirit because of the false teaching on this subject that has been spread by the Pentecostals. But heresy about a certain doctrine is not effectively challenged by avoiding the subject. False teaching must be met with the truth. And spiritual Christians have always known and taught the basic Bible truths about the Spirit’s ministry, about faith, about answered prayer, and about the victory of Christ over sin and Satan, and a church today that will go forward in the revival mode must have this kind of teaching. Fatalistic preaching that says, for all practical purposes, that “what will be will be” and that whether we pray or believe or repent or not, God will do what He was going to do all along, quenches revival fires. We must learn again the truth about abiding in Christ (John 15) and about drawing nigh to God (James 4) and let it permeate all we do and say.
- Prayer meetings. They also continued in “prayers” (verse 42). Pentecost was preceded by ten days of prayer. And the prayer meetings continued afterward. Prayer and prayer meetings played a big role in the life and work of the first church. Find Peter and John going to the temple “at the hour of prayer” (in chapter 3). Find the church gathered for prayer in the face of difficulty and persecution (in chapter 4). Find them coming together for prayer again to heal and energize the Body for renewed evangelism after a trial of discord (in chapter 6). Find them gathered in prayer meetings all over town in chapter 12 to get Simon Peter out of jail, and to save his life. Prayer meetings were the means of the church getting things done, as Jesus taught them that they would be in Matthew 18:18-20. Every revived church will be empowered, guided, driven, and regularly impacted by prayer meetings. The pastors must learn to lead them in a spiritual and Biblical Matthew 18 way, and members must get into the habit of participating in them. New Testament churches engage in prayer meetings.
- Healthy church life. We find that the revived church at Jerusalem engaged in warm fellowship together (verse 42), observing the Lord’s Supper regularly (verses 42 and 46), bearing one another’s burdens (verses 44-45), and coming together often for church (verses 46-47). Church is really good for Christians if the church is on the right track (although we must heed the warning in First Corinthians 11:17-22). The church should pray and plan to connect the members’ lives and families together for ministry (read First Corinthians 12:12-27).
- Revival campaigns. For a while, they had church every day: “continuing daily with one accord” (verse 46). Eventually, the main meetings of Christians were held on Sundays (Acts 20:7), but sometimes, such as the days that followed Pentecost, they met every day. Such protracted meetings provide believers an opportunity to exhort one another regularly and raise the spirituality of the congregation (read Hebrews 3:12-13 and 10:24-25). So revived churches should plan to have special meetings to revive the revival.
- Fervent praise. All the time, the practice of praising God was common when believers gathered together. The church meetings were characterized by “gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people” (verses 46-47). They were happy and exuberant meetings, not dull and formal. The Holy Spirit “livens up church.” “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Church meetings should always be orderly (First Corinthians 14:26, 32-33, 40) but they should also be alive (verses 23-25). Attention must be given to encouraging praise and testimony when we come together, letting the Lord fill the room with joy and gratitude (Ephesians 5:19-20).
- True Christianity. It was the real thing that these Christians practiced. See how they loved each other in verses 44 through 47. Tradition must give way to scriptural reality.
- Ongoing evangelism. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” It was every day that the congregation took in new members who had just come to Christ. The harvest of souls that began at Pentecost continued as the evangelization of the city (Acts 1:8) continued. Both public and personal proclamation of the Gospel got the message of salvation to everyone in town (look up Acts 5:27-29 and 42). A revived church must operate as an aggressively evangelistic church, with everybody witnessing and bringing people to Christ every day.
When God sends revival to a church, the people and their leaders should take a good look at how they have been doing things. Ministry methods based mainly on public relations, hard work, manipulation, promotion, and worldly wisdom should be re-examined, and unspiritual philosophies and practices dropped. The mission of the church must be adjusted to match Acts 1:8 and the methods book of Acts. The people should learn to hold prayer meetings in order to cooperate with God and to get things done. The preachers must examine their teaching in the light of revival truth. The church should get ready for scriptural change, and be excited about it. Everybody should re-dedicate his life to the service of Christ, and lean on the Holy Spirit for the power to spread the Gospel in the town and to minister to the needs of the saints. Let’s have revival the way we are told in James 4:8-10, and plan to go forward on the higher plane to which we have been lifted!