John Van Gelderen
One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy majesty, and of Thy wondrous works” (Ps. 145:4, 5). Thankfully, former generations who experienced God’s mighty acts have spoken of those wondrous works that we might be reminded of the glorious honor of [God’s] majesty. Revival accounts glorify God and stir us to seek God’s face to do it again. Let’s focus on three pages of 20th-century revival history.
We’ll begin with the 1921 East Anglia revival in northeast England. Hugh Ferguson pastored the London Road Baptist Church in the fishing village of Lowestoft. The following is an excerpt of a thrilling move of God:
The outstanding feature in the life of the Baptist Church prior to the revival was the weekly prayer meeting. This was held in the schoolroom on Monday evenings with an attendance of up to ninety people seeking God for a great manifestation of His power, especially among the growing number of young people who were attending the services and Bible classes. The people prayed in this way for two years. One member, who had prayed most fervently, died just before the revival began. Prayer reached a crescendo early in 1921.
God then led Hugh Ferguson to invite Douglas Brown for a “mission” (meeting). Anticipation and crowds grew the first few nights. Regarding the third night, we read the following testimony:
We had the church packed in the evening. When our brother had delivered his message, he told the people he was going into the vestry and would be glad to see any who wanted help or desired to surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. I shall never forget that night as long as I live. Our brother passed through the deacons’ vestry — up a little stairway and into the pastor’s vestry — and he had not been there many minutes when first one came, and then another, and then another. I showed them the way into my little vestry, and then I came down the stairs into the chapel. The people were singing that grand hymn
I hear Thy welcome voice,
That calls me, Lord, to Thee:
For cleansing in the precious blood
That flowed on Calvary.
As I entered the church again and stood looking at the people, brother Edwards paused for a moment and asked if there were any others coming into the inquiry-room. We had been praying for “showers” that night and He gave us a “cloud-burst.” They came from all parts of the building and filled the deacons’ vestry. It was just like waiting outside some theatre; there was one queue down this aisle and another down that. I went to Douglas Brown and said, “What are we to do? You cannot deal with these people one by one!” So we just opened the schoolroom and in they came — fifty or sixty people to start with. Some of the Christians had the good sense to come with the anxious and help them. I got them together in the schoolroom and began to speak to them in a company. I had been speaking for only a few minutes, the door opened and another batch came in, and all was confusion for a few minutes. Then I tried to speak to them again; and again the door opened and another batch came in. It was a wonderful sight. We got those who had definitely surrendered to Christ to keep on one side; and those who had difficulties we put into classrooms with a good Christian worker to help them and deal with them. Presently there was quietness, and that night between sixty and seventy of my dear young people, those we had been praying to God for — young men and women, from the ages of fifteen to twenty — some sixty or seventy of them that night “passed from death to life” (Stanley C. Griffin, A Forgotten Revival [England: Day One Publications, n.d.], pp. 14, 22).
Within three months, a thousand souls were converted! The revival continued well into 1922, affecting northeast England and Scotland, with literally hundreds more converted.
One of my favorite accounts of revival is the Lewis Awakening of December 1949 to 1953 on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland. The preparation of the intercessors, a few ladies and men, is most remarkable. The declarer of truth used of God was Duncan Campbell. As the revival continued, Campbell left briefly to Northern Ireland for a conference. The following is one of many glorious accounts of God’s wondrous works, taken from Duncan Campbell’s biography:
“But Duncan, you can’t possibly go! You’re booked to speak at the closing meeting. The people will be disappointed.” It was Easter Monday, 1952. Duncan had just given an address … when he was suddenly arrested by a conviction that he should leave at once and go to Berneray, a small island off the coast of Harris with a population of about 400 people. Sitting in the pulpit he tried to fight off the insistent urge but the urgency only increased. Eventually turning to the chairman he said: “I must leave the Convention and go to Harris immediately.” Objections were valid enough … but Duncan was unrelenting: “I’m sorry, I must obey the promptings of the Spirit and go at once.” He left the pulpit to pack his case and the following morning flew from Belfast to Scotland. On Thursday morning he reached Harris and took the ferry to Berneray. He had never been there before and knew no one on the island. The first person he met was a sixteen-year-old boy. “Could you direct me to the manse, please?” “The manse is vacant,” the lad replied. “We have no minister just now. The men (the elders) take the services,” and pointing to a house on the hill, added, “One lives up there.” Duncan glanced from the hill to his suitcase, then back to the boy. “Could you please go and tell him that Mr. Campbell has arrived on the island. If he asks what Mr. Campbell, tell him it’s the minister who was in Lewis.” Ten minutes later the boy came back to say that the elder was expecting him, accommodation had been arranged and a service already intimated for nine o’clock that night! God had gone before. Three days earlier when Duncan was in the pulpit at Bangor, this man was praying in the barn. He had been there most of the day. God had given him a promise: “I will be as the dew unto Israel,” which he laid hold of in faith, assured that revival was going to sweep the island. More than that, he was confident that God would send Duncan Campbell. His wife could hear him in the barn: “Lord, I don’t know where he is, but You know, and with You all things are possible. You send him to the island.” So convinced was he that God would bring him in three days time that he made the necessary arrangements for a mission [meeting]. The first few services were uninspiring. Duncan felt tired and spiritually out of breath, but the elder adamantly affirmed that revival was at hand. One evening as they were preparing to leave the church the old man suddenly took his hat off, pointing excitedly in the direction of the congregation which had just left the service: “Mr. Campbell, see what’s happening! He has come! He has come!” The Spirit of God had fallen upon the people as they moved down towards the main road and in a few minutes they were so gripped with the subduing presence of God that no one could move any further. Amid sighs and groans from sin-burdened souls prayer ascended to God on the hillside. The entire island was shaken into a new awareness of God as many lives were saved and transformed during the following days. In this movement … the results were … deep and abiding (Andrew A. Woolsey, Channel of Revival: A Biography of Duncan Campbell [reprint, Edinburgh: The Faith Mission, 1982), p. 139-141).
Revival is of God, but God has chosen to work through human agents who come into union with His promises by faith. The following account beautifully illustrates this truth from the life of James A. Stewart, used of God in Eastern Europe just prior to World War II:
One day in a northern city of Eastern Europe … I was concerned because, for no apparent reason, God had suddenly sent revival. In other cities and countries it usually comes after several weeks or even months of throne ministry. But here on the fifth day, the heavens were rent asunder, and we were deluged with heavensent blessing. One thousand believers packed the church building each morning for Bible study. Thousands heard the Gospel in the evening in a larger auditorium. So great was the hunger for the Word among the unsaved that there was no room for the believers in the evening service. I asked them to go to their own churches and pray and not take up the seats which should be occupied with unsaved. The spiritual distress among the unsaved was great, as the Sword of the Spirit stabbed their hearts night after night. It was midnight and after before I could leave the building. I was greatly disturbed in my mind and could not sleep, being at a loss to explain the “open windows” (Mal. 3:10). I had arrived unheralded and unknown, only by the invitation of the Holy Spirit. The meetings had commenced on Friday night with some seven people at a prayer meeting! One evening the Lord very kindly allowed me to discover the secret of the blessing. Being afraid that I would not have sufficient power of the Spirit to proclaim the Evangel to the thousands who had gathered, I made my way to the basement of the auditorium in order to have a few minutes more of prayer. I began to pray in the darkness, but it was not long before I felt an overwhelming sense of the majesty of God. I knew right away there was someone else in the large basement, praying. I quietly put on the light, and there I saw at the extreme end of the basement some twelve sisters, flat on their faces before God! They were totally unaware of my presence. They were “inside the veil,” touching the Throne, by the power of the Spirit, while upstairs God was working mightily among the unsaved. OH, FOR GOD TO RAISE UP A MIGHTY BAND WHO WILL DARE TO BELIEVE GOD FOR REVIVAL (James A. Stewart, Opened Windows [Asheville, N.C.: Revival Literature, 1958], pp. 104-105).
In brief, the accounts given here reveal the ministry of intercession from lives of faith, the preaching of the Word, and the mighty spiritual manifestation of the presence of God, leading the saints to a restoration of spiritual life and the unsaved to a reception of eternal life. Oh how we need true intercession today!
May God use these few pages of revival history to inspire us to seek God’s face to once again reveal His mighty acts so that we might have fresh testimonies of God’s wondrous works to tell to the next generation.
John R.Van Gelderen is a full-time evangelist and president of Revival Focus Ministries.
(Originally published in FrontLine • September / October 2001. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)