Definitions of revival differ as greatly as definitions of church because the definitions conform to consequences expected and desired by various distinctives. People wish to assume that any move of God will be characterized by more of the emphasis to which they ascribe. These definitions of revival feed exaggerations and excesses, assuming “if God sends revival, it will come through us to prove we are the ones who are right.”
More likely, revival will demand immediate reset of the priorities and emphases of everyone’s distinctives because revival is about restoring God’s purposes, not man’s distinctives.
In any case, revival cannot move into awakening if it becomes a validation of the very thing that separates God’s people into doctrinal idolatries. Revival isn’t about any one of the flavors and formations justified by “we are the ones carrying this torch.” Revival revives God’s purposes for a people and place by restoring what God has always wanted for them, and He begins by restoring what He has always wanted His Ecclesia to be.
When that happens, the Ecclesia Jesus builds displaces the strategically positioned authority of Hades, and the general population of a region experiences greater kingdom influence.
- Revival restores kingdom leadership in a way that God’s purpose for any people or place dominates the region.
The phrase in Acts 19 that describes what the events of Paul’s apostolic work produced – the “ in this way” or “this is what happened because of this” – speaks of dominating the arena of spirit with “the word of the Lord.”
“In this way, the word of the Lord gained momentum through supernatural power and took dominion.” (Acts 19:20)
That is restoration of God’s purpose, the best definition of revival, through the development of kingdom leadership.
What people say of a people or place, what hell says of a people or place, or even what church says of a people or place cannot determine its purpose. What God says of a people and place alone can reveal the redemptive purpose. “The word of the Lord” reveals God’s heart and intentions for a people or place, and the adversary works to replace that purpose with an “anything but that” methodology.
False gods serve to create false purposes, practices, and principles to blind people about what is true about God, kingdom culture, and “the word of the Lord.” The spiritual condition that dominates a region must be changed, and the kingdom of God alone can shift a spiritual atmosphere.
Paul spends his time developing kingdom leaders, persuading and training them about “the kingdom of God” from his apostolic center, and during that time of kingdom establishing and expansion, authentic Ecclesia happens. The “in this way” story describes how kingdom confrontation with the prevailing spiritual conditions of Ephesus shift people into kingdom by evangelism, but the “in this way” undeniably describes more than “when we get everybody born anew our work is done” scenarios of simplistic evangelicalism. (We cannot really say that God revived the Ecclesia at Ephesus since there was no Ecclesia until Paul established the kingdom.)
When people are born anew, they can see and enter the kingdom of God. When kingdom expands and establishes the what-God-wants for a people and place, God’s purpose becomes a pervasive and persuasive spiritual force. The general population becomes increasingly more aware of God, and the push back against hellish authorities unveils their spiritual eyes.
Revival of God’s purposes through kingdom establishing leadership shifts the dominant spiritual condition so the general population becomes increasing more aware of God.
I like to ask leaders in a region, “What would your city look like fully transformed and restored to God’s redemptive purpose?” I have yet to discover four or five kingdom leaders anywhere with such revelation as the blueprint for advancing God’s purposes. Little wonder that revival seldom becomes awakening when our definitions of revival shift from revelations of God’s purposes to our experiences and distinctives.
- Revival of God’s purposes confronts embedded and sacred cultural behaviors.
Revival produces riot. As people embrace kingdom culture, they alter their personal behaviors and beliefs in ways that threaten the existing culture. They offend and challenge the prevailing, embedded and sacred culture. They become a threat. They are persecuted. They remain faithful. Their commitment intensifies the confrontation. They become an affront to “a way of life.” They gain influence through their confrontation because they represent the God of heaven.
Revivals of existing emphases and doctrinal distinctives seldom become Awakenings because they actually exacerbate what separates the people of God. Revivals of any flavor or aspect of christianism, orthodox or not, Biblical or not, evangelical or not, seldom produce awakening because they fail to confront the prevailing spiritual condition that dominates the existing culture. Instead, they establish subcultures. They develop their own language and give meaning to terms that explain their shared behaviors and experiences; they value certain emphases or manifestations as markers of authenticity.
God’s analysis of authenticity differs from subcultural distinctives that drive mini-movements. He is pleased when a mini-movement produces a kingdom movement, but a kingdom movement immediately the mini-movement into a greater expansion of the kingdom culture instead of annexing a specific neighborhood for its memorials.
No mini-movement alone can confront the cultural norms in a way that advances revival into awakening. No human unity can produce this wave of restoration. Only a kingdom culture can confront the existing substitute of hell for the purpose of God. That kingdom culture has oneness with the King. It has no political agendas to promote intercession, prophetic, apostolic, or one flavor of revival over another. Any mini-movement that fails to become an offering to the King, purified by sacrificing it to His kingdom movement, becomes a source of false distinction, confusion to the spiritual purposes of the King.
The mini-movement began as an authentic assignment, but the assignment became an exaggeration when leaders determine to establish it as a distinctly different message or emphasis. Exalting it to a necessity, it became a distraction. Any kingdom subculture serves to distract from “the word of the Lord” as much as the sacred beliefs and values of the work of hell that usurps God’s purpose. Instead of confronting that pervasive spiritual condition, the mini-movement becomes an alternative, but the only valid alternative to existing culture is kingdom culture.
When the culture of the kingdom meets the culture of a region, revival and riot ensue. It is naïve to assume anything less can produce Awakening. While our history of revival and Awakening usually recounts the aspects of the move of God that confirm our viewpoints of how God does stuff and His priorities, moving revival into awakening has always required all the authentic aspects of kingdom we tend to separate into mini-movements. Defending the necessity of our mini-movements markets exaggerations of the original assignments until the “if only’s” produce mini-movement wars. The “if only’s” syndrome simply says, “If only everyone would do what we are doing, then…”
Only when kingdom culture expands does “the word of the Lord” gained momentum through supernatural power and dominate.
- Revival redefines “church” as an aspect of kingdom, so kingdom Ecclesia can confront the prevailing spiritual condition.
Purpose produces strategy. God has both a “what I want” and “a way to get it God what He wants.” Both aspects of this advancement come by revelation. Revival has so many definitions and false expectations because there are so many definitions and false expectations of “church.” Immediately revival comes, every one of the definitions will be challenged, church leaders begin an analysis aimed at maintaining something God mostly ignores as incidental, and people divide along the lines of their substitutes for authentic kingdom.
Mere unity cannot fix this dysfunction because unity requires a common commitment to something other than the purpose of God, else unity does not occur. In order to unify, some agreeable definition for God’s purpose that presents opportunity for agreement must be offered, but the agreeable definition is not “the word of the Lord.” It is whatever compromise of commonality that produces unity.
Only when revival of God’s purpose shatters the structures of distinction can a revelation of “the word of the Lord” for a people and place become dominate. Without it, miracles, signs, and wonders, would confirm something “other than,” promote a person, principle, or a purpose other than His.
Revival cannot become Awakening without altering the dominating spiritual condition that removes the veil of blindness. Making more and more people aware of a mini-movement does not produce kingdom momentum, and the confrontation it creates between mini-movements constructs defenses for their differences, and the people of God spend their time the superiority of their distinctives by exaggerating them. As a result, God’s people confront one another instead of the prevailing spiritual condition. They wish to change other mini-movements instead of changing the existing culture.
In this way, a veil blinds the church as much as it blinds the culture it is assigned to transform.
- Revival produces leaders whose success is measured by the kingdom norms.
Early on, the apostles discovered the necessity and validity of having leaders who could maintain ministry of a shepherding nature. “Protect and provide at a personal level” was obviously important, and the leaders who would be assigned to this would be leaders with wisdom and power. (Most people have come to assume these leaders were deacons, but the word is not used in the context at all.) They set these leaders in place because they knew they could not make this valid aspect of kingdom the priority of kingdom. They did not call it a distraction to the Ecclesia, but they did see it as a distraction to their priorities. In other words, they met the need with the leadership dynamics Jesus bestows upon the Ecclesia. Caring for people is a valid kingdom norm but a long way from the totality of the kingdom!
The apostles made kingdom norms the priority of the Ecclesia. They measured success with a standard of “what the King wants” in order to sustain the momentum of kingdom advancement. In this way, revival of God’s purpose for Israel grew, confronted the existing culture (that killed Jesus), and revival and riot marked the moments of its maturity. The resulting persecution dispersed them into other cities.
When Paul arrives in Ephesus, his efforts entail training, activation, fathering, and expanded assignment. Paul defines kingdom leadership development for Awakening Revival. The Ecclesia assembled kingdom leaders to expand and establish kingdom culture. (When I say, “leaders,” I assume that because kingdom is God’s leadership in the earth, every citizen is a leader in this sense.)
Revival without kingdom norms cannot produce Awakening. Awakening comes from spiritual momentum, not mini-movement momentum. That is, Paul did not invest himself in a subculture. He trained leaders who could confront the existing culture through spiritual authority and power. While taking care of God’s people remained a valid consideration, it was never the success standard of leadership. That is, maintaining something was not what created momentum.
Suddenly set into modern situations, this focus upon leadership development would quickly morph into a different enterprise because the momentum gained by Paul’s ministry would be shifted to administrative bureaucracy and kingdom leadership immediately minimized or redefined by that structure.
Instead of revival restoring purpose, it would be consumed by subculture called “church-anity.” The training would be shifted to maintaining a good Sunday morning show and showing. Spiritual babysitting would dominate the expenditures of energy and resources. Spiritual entertainment would replace the training school discipline that produces personal transformation and maturity. Some odd form of “its our turn now” would take over the move of God as people assumed revival had arrived to validate their agendas. (I mean this is the prevailing spiritual condition of the modern form of church.)
Paul produced radical people. People burned their darkness in public. Extraordinary miracles marked Paul’s leadership. (Inferring ordinary, every day miracles marked the movement?) Holy Spirit set elders with expertise and experience in place with specific counsel and warning about the effort of hell to destroy the Ecclesia, but the kingdom expanding and establishing enterprise continued even after Paul left the area. Ephesus became the center of Christianity for more than 200 years when John visited the city later on.
Paul produced leaders unafraid of persecution and intent upon living the culture of the kingdom when doing so challenged the fabric of their city’s economic, political, and religious ways. Paul did not produce leaders adept at accommodating cultural trends, because he trained them to establish kingdom culture. He produced leaders bent upon testing the prevailing spiritual conditions at the expense of their own wellbeing, to do the right thing to their own hurt.
Ecclesia assembles to establish, expand, explain, and energize the kingdom of God on earth. Within that kingdom culture – defined by love – kingdom remains the focus. Kingdom leaders must have the strength of will to maintain God’s definition of “church” and perpetuate the development of kingdom leaders in every area of society. When Awakening arrives, the temptation to turn apostles into shepherds and warriors into health club workers must be overcome.
By the time John enters the Revelation vision, all of Asia Minor has experienced the dominating spiritual condition of “the word of the Lord.” When Jesus walks among the cities, His focus remains upon the Ecclesias responsible to expand and establish His purposes for those city-states. When you hear the words of Jesus to the seven Ecclesias, you can also hear His presuppositions about their kingdom purposes: that is, Jesus views the norms of the kingdom as the measuring stick of success for the Ecclesia.
- Revival and awakening differ in leadership dynamics, so revival shifts the leadership development mode to preparing for Awakening.
A shallow, simplistic naiveté accompanies discussions of revival where definitions of “church” do not include kingdom. I remain in shock at the level of immaturity about elementary concerns in our forums that resemble discussions about thumb sucking and bed-wetting among first-time mothers. I hate diaper rash too but it isn’t the concern of revival!
Revival becomes about winning souls, Glory, power, miracles, and an end to our pet peeves. Period. The accumulation of believers, as a definition for church growth, leads to such a definition. Oddly, the very Gospel preached for winning souls calls people to enter the kingdom of God, but the definition of revival seldom includes kingdom purpose. When “being born anew” brings people into “church,” the definition of success alters to fit that conclusion, and the leadership dynamics necessary to the accumulation of believers becomes the higher standard of excellence. Souls come into the kingdom and are prepared and positioned to function in the Ecclesia.
Revival has no such accumulation assumption, and Awakening simply blows the assumptions into obscurity! They leadership dynamics of revival prepare people for a leadership in an Awakening, not for maintaining accumulations of believers.
Nothing of the present infrastructure accommodates Awakening when that infrastructure assumes the accumulation of believers as the highest understanding of “church.” Preparing leaders to expand kingdom by confronting the existing culture says something to new converts seldom voiced by evangelicals. Paul’s leadership development strategy produced an Ecclesia dominated by leaders with influence, both spiritual and cultural, to spark a riot. I’m not saying riot is the sign of good leadership! I’m saying Awakening threatens the prevailing spiritual condition in ways that produce riot.
I’m not saying God saved people with cultural influence in Ephesus as much as I’m saying Paul produced leaders with kingdom influence that made an impact upon the culture. Big difference! If you don’t have leaders with kingdom influence, it is your job to make some!
I’m saying that kingdom leadership with regional influence marked the Awakening in Asia Minor, that it was more than a revival of God’s purposes when the general population became more aware of God, and that Paul’s leadership preparation took the greatest advantage of that change of spiritual climate. How many such leaders can the kingdom hold? How many such leaders should the kingdom want?
The argument that this measure of success will bring neglect to hurting people holds little water because the kingdom leadership dynamics Paul produced provided shepherding oversight. Kingdom leadership includes shepherding leadership. An Awakening will not do away with shepherding leadership but will redefine Ecclesia and leadership in ways that reset priorities beyond “the protect and provide” parameters of shepherding.
Neglect of people isn’t our biggest concern. Neglect of kingdom expansion is! Many of the issues to which we ascribed faulty or weak shepherding have more to do with a pandemic dearth of leadership development: we are treating leaders like sheep and neglecting to mature leaders in their functions. The modern church has false expectations for Ecclesia that produce mobility akin to vagabonding. People wander about looking for something other than the kingdom of God.
When the King’s agenda becomes ours, we operate in a revelation of His blueprint for His people and develop the leaders He has called and gifted so they can represent Him. Jesus calls and gifts His people. The dynamics of kingdom leadership necessary to Awakening come when we reset our leadership development to that blueprint revelation. Jesus always has the most appropriate ideas about kingdom. He is the King! That is, the King has a strategy for every person that fits perfectly into His strategy to restore His purposes to a region. So, our leadership development must respond completely to that strategy.
Modern leadership development seldom answers to this revelation blueprint to prepare and position members of the Body for function. So, it seldom has a design for developing leaders who can influence a region.
The infrastructure of leadership development will shift dramatically when revival focuses upon God’s purposes for a people or place. That shift in leadership development moves revival into Awakening, not the expansion of care and comfort modules. In fact, revival can never become Awakening by defining the ministry of Jesus with shepherding dynamics alone.
The metaphor of “God’s people as sheep” is a metaphor explaining a behavior for which Jesus provides a leadership dynamic. It is not to be taken as the working model for leadership development. Instead of thinking, “a few professional leaders for a massive flock,” we should be thinking “more leaders who require little shepherding because they have matured into cultural warriors.” (The sense of “warrior” here is spiritual in that positively pressing for God’s purposes produces confrontation with entrenched spiritual forces that oppose Him.)
Kingdom culture provides for the needy. Period. So does pagan culture. The distinction between these cultures begins with the motivation for care and comfort. Since culture is shared beliefs and values, kingdom influence enlarges and enhances the care of the needy by preparing for a response at a personal level. It always has and always will. Pagan cultures build upon the neediness of the needy as a means of controlling them and further establishing the power of their leaders at the expense of the needy. Kingdom cares for those truly needy while developing people capable of maturity to care for themselves, to mature in personal leadership.
Ecclesia should be dominated by kingdom leadership development! Producing kingdom leaders should be our measurement of success more than the accumulation of believers. We are called to confront existing cultures and prevailing spiritual conditions so that “the word of the Lord” for that people and place gains momentum through supernatural power and dominates.
Revival should produce leadership development structures so revival can both produce and feed the momentum of Awakening. Revival is always about the restoration of God’s purposes more than the revitalization of mini-movements, doctrinal distinctives, or spiritual emphases. Continuing to assume that mini-movements, with subcultures of exaggerated emphases, will produce a kingdom movement ignores the reality that all these mini-movements must become sacrifices. The greater kingdom movement suffers when mini-movements become recruitment distractions that parallel the restoration of God’s purposes.