Last year I had the privilege of teaching a ten-lesson course at the church I pastor on the topic of “Revival – Past and Present.” As the primary resource for the class (other than the Bible) we used Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge’s book A God-Sized Vision, Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir (Zondervan, 2010). I highly recommend the book and encourage you to read it for the following reasons:
1. The authors are well qualified to write on the topic of revival. John Woodbridge is the esteemed research professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, having taught there for over forty years. Collin Hansen is the capable editorial director for the Gospel Coalition. Both of them have published best-selling books and numerous articles in various journals and magazines. They’ve obviously done their homework for writing this book. Each chapter includes a list of endnotes, referencing several published works that can be consulted for further study on that chapter’s subject.
2. Hansen and Woodbridge handle the complex and sometimes controversial topic of revival with balance and grace. While acknowledging that some of what has been called revival doubtless was not, they nevertheless believe that revival is a legitimate, biblical phenomenon that has occurred repeatedly in Church History and that Christians today do well to prepare for and seek. The authors are of the persuasion that bona fide revival is something that God graciously brings about rather than something that people work up on their own. But unlike some books on revival, Woodbridge and Hansen are gracious in how they speak of and represent proponents of the opposite view from their own.
3. The first chapter of this work does an excellent job of laying out a biblical foundation of revival, introducing the two main camps of thought on revival (sovereignly brought about by God or initiated by man), and defining what true revival actually is. Genuine revival is shown to have its roots in Bible times, not just in subsequent Church History.
4. Chapters 2-8 of the book describe a number of major revivals that have taken place in various parts of the world during the past three centuries:
- The First and Second Great Awakenings in North America (1730s-1740s and 1790s- 1840s).
- The Prayer Meeting Revival in the United States, Northern Ireland and South Africa (1857-1860).
- The Global Awakening in Wales, India, Korea and North America (1900s).
- Revivals in China and Manchuria (1900s-1930s).
- The East Africa Revival (1920s-1970s).
- North America’s Evangelical Boom (1940s-1950s).
I was delighted to learn much more through this book about how God has worked in mighty reviving power not only at different times in my native country but also in other parts of the world.
5. This volume presents these revivals in an engaging and manageable fashion. The book provides a popular-level overview rather than a detailed scholarly analysis of these periods of significant spiritual awakening. Each chapter moves along at a brisk pace, with plenty of fascinating personal narratives (involving various key players in the revivals) and helpful statistical summaries to keep the reading interesting.
6. The book’s Conclusion suggests several practical ways we contemporary Christians can prepare for and seek a God-wrought revival in our own day. Doing so will strengthen our current “routine” service for the Lord even as we look for an exceptional stirring of His Spirit among us.
7. Many modern Christians know very little about the mighty revivals that God has brought at various times and places in the past. This volume is a handy way to gain an overview of those extraordinary spiritual awakenings and to be encouraged by them.
8. Some may be tempted to think that revival cannot take place today because conditions in society and the Church have reached such a low moral and spiritual ebb. This book reminds us that’s precisely when revival has often come in the past – when conditions had become excessively dark and discouraging. Such desperate circumstances motivated God’s people to cry out to Him for a gracious, mighty moving of His Spirit that would address and correct the overwhelming difficulties being faced.
I think you’ll receive, as I have, significant spiritual encouragement and benefit from reading A God-Sized Vision, Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.
About the Authors:
Collin Hansen (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is editorial director for the Gospel Coalition. Formerly an associate editor for Christianity Today, he is the author of Young, Restless, Reformed and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision. He has written for Books and Culture, Tabletalk, Leadership, and Christian History and Biography. He has appeared as a commentator on Fox News, and his work has been featured in Time magazine.
Follow Collin’s blog at The Gospel Coalition.
John Woodbridge (PhD, University of Toulouse, France) is research professor of Church History and History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he has taught since 1970. He was previously a senior editor of Christianity Today and is the author of Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal and coauthor of Letters Along the Way. He is the editor of Great Leaders of the Christian Church and coeditor of works including The Mark of Jesus. Woodbridge is the recipient of four Gold Medallion Awards.
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie