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Mission and Revival

Pentecost and Beyond

Not long after the ascension of Lord Jesus Christ came Pentecost (Acts 2). It was a time of revival when the Holy Spirit was poured out in the upper room. The brethren then went outside and Peter preached and those listening were ‘cut to the heart’ and around three thousand people were added to the Church. This could be declared as the true beginnings of the Great Commission, Jesus' command to, “Go into all the world…” and preach the good news (Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18). The 120 had waited in the upper room and had received their own enduement of power from on high and only then could they be witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Revivals have always given a thrust to evangelism and world missions and out of revival, lay-workers as well as men and women are thrust forth into fulltime Christian ministry; something which we are commanded to pray for - more labourers (Matthew 9:38).

In Acts 8 we see Philip the evangelists preaching in Samaria and revival breaks out as multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles that he did…and there was great joy in that city (Acts 8:5-8).

Missions in North Africa

According to tradition, six of the twelve disciples ministered in North Africa: Matthew and Thomas in Ethiopia, Peter and James the Less in Egypt and Jude and Simon in Cyrene (modern day Libya). Mark the Evangelist was the first Bishop of Alexandria (in Egypt) and in this renowned city; the first Missionary Training School was founded sometime around 150AD. Three great scholars, Panaenus, Origen and Clement became its principals. Within two hundred years of Pentecost there were nine hundred churches in North Africa. But when Islam came to the fore five centuries later; its sword subdued or martyred those who followed in the footsteps of the One came in the sandals of the gospel of peace.

Tertullian, Cyprian, Arnobius and Augustine were giants of the early Church and were all from North Africa. They encouraged missions across Africa and made the earliest translations of the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the Latin Vulgate. More than half of the twenty greatest names of the early Church from 150 to 400 and a like proportion of Christian writers of the same period were of North African descent.

Franciscan Revival (1210+)

From 1100 to 1300, two hundred each of Franciscans and Dominican monks lost their lives in missionary work across North Africa. St. Francis of Assisi, ‘The Apostle of Poverty’ preached to the Saracens in Egypt. Raymond Lull, a renowned medieval missionary, spent nine years in preparation, learning Arabic before he went to Tunis, (in modern day Tunisia) in 1300.

The Franciscan monks were not only inspired by Jesus’ words, “Go into all the word…” but by the Franciscan Revival (1210+) which gripped parts of Italy. It brought genuine converts to the Christian faith who forsook the pleasure of the world, to preach to the people of the world. On the 24 February 1209, whilst Francis of Assisi was kneeling before the altar in prayer, he felt himself seized with the power of the words, ‘As you go, preach saying, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand…’ (Matthew 10:7). From that moment on he began to preach in the streets and within a year revival broke out. Others were joined to him and they too became preachers of the gospel in the highways and byways and an order of rule was began in 1210 and revised in 1223 when he had around five thousand members! Francis himself went on several mission journeys traversing Italy and preached before the Sultan of Egypt.

Moravian Revival (1727)

It was more than five hundred years later that a revival broke out at Herrnhut (in modern day Germany) in the summer of 1727 - the Moravian Revival (1727) which led to dawning of the Protestant mission movement. The Moravians were originally from Bohemia, the native Czechs who had a reformation in the late fourteenth century under various Bohemian preachers and in the early fifteenth century under John Hus. They were also influenced by the writings of John Wycliff of England. He was the first translator of the Holy Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English and his followers – Lollards, were street preachers who preached the gospel across England. The Moravians had suffered persecution in Bohemia and Moravia for their Christian beliefs for two centuries until they decided to move to Herrnhut.

In January 1728, the Herrnhut church held their first missionary meeting. They studied different portions of Holy Scripture and participated in fervent prayer; in the midst of which the church experienced a remarkable enjoyment of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Moravian Missions began in 1731 and work was commenced in the West Indies in 1732 and out of the Moravian Revival began a prayer meeting which continued for one hundred years!

Jonathan Goforth, who saw revival in China and Manchuria (1906-1909 and 1915), quotes Bishop Hasse who wrote: ‘Was there ever in the whole of church history such an astonishing prayer-meeting as that which, beginning in 1727 went on one hundred years? It is something absolutely unique. It was known as the ‘Hourly Intercession,’ and it meant that by relays of [24] brethren and [24] sisters, prayer without ceasing was made to God for all the works and wants of His Church. Prayer of that kind always leads to action. In this case it kindled a burning desire to make Christ’s salvation known to the heathen. It led to the beginning of modern foreign missions. From that one small village community more than one hundred missionaries went out in twenty-five years…’

German historian of Protestant Missions, Dr. Warneck wrote: ‘This small church in twenty years called into being more missions than the whole Evangelical Church had done in two centuries.’ By 1757, Moravian missionaries were ministering in nearly every country in Europe and they went into Asia, South Africa, Australia and North and South America.

The Effect of the Evangelical Revival (1739-1791)

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was greatly blessed by having fellowship with Moravians. Aboard a ship to America, they encountered a great storm, but the Moravians were calm and collective and carried on with their hymns whilst other passengers feared for their lives. It was John Wesley, an ordained Church of England minister who said, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but I was not converted myself!”

Back in London he was greatly influenced by Peter Bohler, a Moravian and soon put his faith in Christ and knew that his heart was changed. The Evangelical Revival broke out in 1739 under George Whitefield and led to hundreds of circuit preachers riding around Great Britain and beyond preaching the good news – one quarter of the population were converted within fifty years.

Englishman William Carey, read a pamphlet by Jonathan Edwards, the American revivalist, entitled, The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation which led to the ministers of the Northamptonshire Association holding a monthly prayer meeting for the unreached people of the earth. Carey then read a pamphlet by Andrew Fuller’s and came to the conclusion that, “If it be the whole duty of all men, where the gospel comes to believe unto salvation, then it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the gospel to endeavour to make it known among all nations for the obedience of faith.” Out of this, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed (1792).

William Carey became known as the ‘Father of Modern Missions’ and laboured in India for thirty-eight years under the motto: ‘Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.’ Three years later the non-denominational London Missionary Society was founded.

It was sixteen year old Mary Jones who having saved for six years walked twenty-five miles, barefoot over the rugged Welsh mountains to Bala to buy a Welsh Bible which eventually led to the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. Thomas Charles of Bala who saw revival in his church in 1791, retold the story of Mary Jones to a group of ministers in 1802, proposing to start a society to print Welsh Bibles. Rev. Joseph Hughes response was, “I say if for Wales, then why not for the world?”

It was this society who sold 666,000 portions of Scripture to the people of Korea in 1911, mostly single gospels after the Pyongyang Great Revival (1907-1910).

George Müller and his Bristol orphanages in England which at their peak supported two thousand children and two hundred missionaries from the China Inland Mission were maintained by a life of faith and inspired four men to meet in Kells, Ireland, to pray for revival. Soon they began to see more conversions and in 1859 the heavenly fire fell and the Ulster Revival (1859-1860) began!

Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in 1866. Sixteen years before his death, he issued a pamphlet entitled: To Every Creature, part of which read: ‘The Masters words are ‘to every creature,’ how far are we fulfilling them...How are we going to treat the Lord Jesus Christ in reference to this command? Shall we definitely drop the title Lord as applied to Him?’ Before his death he had more than one thousand missionaries in every province of China and many of his workers had seen revival in their own mission stations!

Haystacks Revival 1806

Samuel J. Mills was born in 1783, the same year that William Carey was baptised. In the summer of 1806, Samuel Mills was part of the Haystacks Prayer Meeting at Williams College, America which was experiencing revival. This impromptu prayer meeting under a haystack where the students were sheltering from a storm, led to the founding of the first foreign missionary society in America which in 1810 was known as the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Samuel Mills became known as the Home Missionary Statesman as in 1812, he saddled his horse and explored the half settled West and South of the United States where he found the wants of 76,000 families without a Bible. On his return he trumpeted his finding abroad and returned to the east coast to organise missionary effort and Bible societies.

Missionaries and Revivals

God does not work without the cooperation of His Church; without the willing vessels of the members of the body of Christ. Whilst He does not need us He has always chosen to use us. Revival can only come to a nation when disciples of the Lord Jesus have entered a geographical location and began to evangelise that nation and persistently call upon God to pour out His Spirit from on high. Rev. Duncan Campbell of the Lewis Revival (1949-1952) in Scotland said, “God is the God of revival but man is the human agent through whom revival is possible.”

Charles Finney, nineteenth century American revivalist wrote: ‘It is altogether improbable that religion will ever make progress among heathen nations, except through the influence of revivals. The attempt is now to do it by education and other cautious and gradual improvements. But as long as the laws of the mind remain what they are, it cannot be done in this way. There must be excitement sufficient to wake up the dormant moral powers and roll back the tide of degradation and sin.’

Fulfillment of the Great Commission

The Bible clearly states that in heaven there will be people out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation standing before the throne of God (Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 7:9). That is why we are called and commanded to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19) to hasten the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12), because unless the gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations then the end cannot come (Matthew 24:14). As Romans chapter ten declares: ‘How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15).

Missionaries and Revivals

The reason why so many missionaries saw revival is because they were fully committed and surrendered to the will of the Master. They knew the Holy Spirit as a Person and had a deep intimate communion with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. They were men and women of prayer, hardened prayer warriors, many of whom had been inspired by the revivals of the past and had a hope for the future. They did not limit God and knew His all sufficiency, His all powerful compassionate nature, the One who is only too willing to quench him who is thirsty and to pour out His Spirit on a dry and thirsty land, because He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and has stated that He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.

Thus says the Lord: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29).

Some missionary pioneers paved the way for future revivals by their toil, intercession and blood, through martyrdom by the natives, death by disease or deprivation in the Master’s service.

Some of these pioneers who became revivalists were: David Brainerd and his love for the American Indians, John Beck who went to the frozen wasteland of Greenland, Robert Moffat in Kuruman, Southern Africa, Thomas Birch Freeman along the Gold Coast of West Africa, Adoniram Judson who laboured in Burma (modern day Myanmar), John Geddie from Novia Scotia in the evangelisation of the islands of the Pacific, John G. Paton for the New Hebrides and C. T. Studd of central Africa (Belgian Congo) who declared the objective of his mission organisation was to accomplish the evangelisation of the un-evangelised with the utmost urgency, with the motto: ‘If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.’

This article is largely drawn from Global Revival - Worldwide Outpourings by Mathew Backholer (2010). Used by Permission.

Recommended DVD: Great Christian Revivals

Revival Related Scriptures

‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Thus says the Lord: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).

‘O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do it for Your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many, we have sinned against You’ (Jeremiah 14:7).