By Jerry Wiles — In 1995, Seoul, South Korea was the host nation for the Global Consultation for World Evangelization (GCOWE ’95). It was one of several gatherings connected with the AD 2000 and Beyond and the Lausanne Movement. During those meetings I had the opportunity of spending some time with Dr. Robert Coleman. Of the many books he has authored, he had just finished his latest at that time, titled The Coming World Revival. Dr. Coleman has written extensively over the years about revivals and spiritual awakenings. He has said, “Scripture seems to allude to a world revival, though this interpretation is by no means unanimous
Encouraging Prophecies and Promises
Habakkuk 2:14 tells us that a time will come when, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” It is another indication that we can expect a worldwide revival. There are increasing signs that we could experience that prophecy in our lifetime. Another amazing promise from Scripture is that the Good News of the Kingdom will be communicated in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (people groups), and then the end will come. There are many other prophecies and promises that should encourage all of us as followers of Jesus.
Conditions for Awakenings
Revivals and spiritual awakenings are in fact taking place in many parts of the world these days. There are also many parallels when we study the major revivals and spiritual awakenings throughout biblical and church history. They normally happened during hardships and difficult times. Significant movements of God have resulted in activating the Body of Christ and many turning to the Lord. There are many lessons and principles that should encourage each of us as followers of Jesus.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who is a biblical scholar and historian. He was sharing with me some of the conditions that existed just before the First and Second Great Awakenings here in the United States. Things were very bad. There was a lot of turbulence and disturbing developments. It is amazing when we observe the parallels between cultural issues and societal conditions between then and now. Moral and spiritual decline seems to set the stage for revival and spiritual awakening and increasing numbers of people coming to an awareness of their need for the Lord.
Whether they are defined as revivals, renewals, awakenings or movements of God, we have been blessed to experience several in the history of this nation. Many more have happened throughout the rest of the world. It has been a great blessing to have personally benefited from several movements of God in my lifetime. The Asbury revival and the Jesus movement (or revolution) of the early 1970s was one of those. As a college student at the time, I experienced a spiritual transformation and began to actively share the Lord and see many come to Christ. A key factor for me was having a new passion for sharing with others what God had done in my own life. It was certainly a personal spiritual awakening for me that became contagious.
Many articles and books have been written, as well as sermons and lectures, giving accounts of how the Lord worked during that period. There has also been an ongoing ripple effect that is still having impact today. Many believe that it was the turbulence of the 1960s that set the stage for that movement.
In the decade of the 1980s there were several pockets of awakenings and significant movements. A major prayer gathering of more than a million people took place in South Korea during the summer of 1984. It was just prior to the Summer Olympic Games in Southern California. There was a lot of prayer and preparation that went into the Olympic Outreach Coalition. More than 70 mission groups and denominations, and 1,800 churches in the region took part in that outreach effort. We heard reports the crime rate in Los Angles was the lowest during that two-week period than it had been in modern history. It was estimated that more than 1,000 people responded to the gospel every day during the Games. Dr. Ralph Winter, founder of Frontier Ventures, (then known as the US Center for World Mission} said, “It was the most lavish outpouring of effective, well organized, evangelical attention to any event in history.”
The 1984 Olympic Outreach was a catalyst and set in motion several other movements over the next several years that actually went worldwide. The Winning Way Coalition and the International Bible Reading Association were birthed during that time. 1990 was declared the International Year of Bible Reading, by a congressional resolution and a presidential proclamation was issued by President George H.W. Bush. A few other presidents and heads of state around the world also issued similar proclamations. Bible reading marathons and prayer vigils were conducted in various places around the world. They were launched on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, then to Berlin, Washington DC, and many other cities. College and university campuses also hosted Bible Reading Marathons and Prayer Vigils.
Impact in the Academic Community
In 1995, God sparked revival and awakening on college, university and seminary campuses. Beginning at Howard Payne University, as well as Houston Baptist University, the move of the Spirit eventually spread to more than 50 campuses around the country. Several articles and books were written during that season, giving account of how the Lord was a work. There was much brokenness, repentance and open confession that seemed to be contagious. All such movements are certainly accelerating the spreading of the gospel.
Impact of Orality Strategies
Over the past decade, through our orality training and church mobilization strategies with Living Water International, there have been several encouraging spiritual movements. We have received feedback where large numbers of people have come to Christ by telling Bible stories they learned at orality training events. Reports of disciple-making and church planting movements have accelerated in areas where we have conducted the training. Ordinary followers of Jesus learn biblical stories, the skills of asking questions, and then go about spreading the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Next Great Awakening
Increasing numbers of church and mission leaders are sensing that we could be on the verge of the next Great Awakening, and many are praying and believing for it. Renewals, revivals and awakenings can take on many forms of expression, and they may not look like past movements. They can be personal or corporate. It is wonderful to be part of a corporate move of God. However, we do not have to wait for some sweeping move of God. He is ready and prepared to renew each of us as we seek Him with our whole heart.