Why Christian Revival & Awakenings Will Always Be Controversial

Christians are in danger of romanticising past revivals by forgetting the controversies and missing out on future moves of God by failing to learn the lessons of revival history. This is the conclusion of one revival historian after over a decade of studying moves of God. 

“In the Church, we glamorise past moves of God and forget the contentions that these outpourings brought about,” said author and revival historian Mathew Backholer. “This leads people to create a romantic picture of what a future move of God may be like; resulting in some rejecting the very thing they have prayed for when it comes.” 

After studying hundreds of revivals from every continent – by analysing old accounts, comparing reports, interviewing some of those involved and visiting sites of revival in many nations, Mathew Backholer believes those who object to moves of God today, do so for the same reasons previous generations ruled-out moves of God. 

“The Welsh Revival was highly controversial and unorthodox,” said Mathew Backholer. “Wesley’s meetings in Britain and Whitefield’s in America led to unrest and the Azusa Street Revival challenged cultural, religious, racial and national prejudices which were all held widely.” 

Revival history suggests those who rejected the great outpourings of the past, did so for common reasons each time – fear of God moving supernaturally, a dislike of physical manifestations, dread of being deceived, disapproval of the revivalists’ methods or ministry, and anger that ‘the peace’ was disturbed by preaching against sin, and calling for repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.

Whilst the Bible commands everything should be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40), we must remember the man who wrote this lived through the riots and revivals of the book of Acts, and there are always times of solemn commotion and Divine disorder (Ezra 3:13, 10:1). 

“Revivals are always controversial events,” said author Mathew Backholer. “The devil never sits back quietly as his kingdom is plundered and yet we as Christians should be careful to learn from history, so we don’t reject the next move of the Holy Spirit because of ‘the same old controversies’ that follow every move of God.” 

Mathew Backholer has summarised his findings in his series of books on Christian revival.