Front Page

Series Theme:  Learning to Pray for the Church

(Return to Contents)


PART FIVE: Seasons of God


These notes are an attempt to catch an overview of what we will call ‘seasons of God' to help focus our praying for the Church. Observe,

•  Regular Times
•  Times of Restoration & Renewal

•  Times of Revival


•  ‘Seasons' are simply different observable times or periods of church life, where the Lord appears to work in different ways. Our breakdown of the three we have here should not be seen as fixed because each one, as they develop (1 to 3), may have seeds of the next. 

•  We should also note that in history so far, renewal or revival have occurred in parts of the church while other parts (often the majority) remain untouched – for the moment. We also need to note that different countries around the world may have had different experiences and so we will focus here mainly on the UK or the West.

•  It is also worth observing social or technological factors that have opened the door for God to move, e.g. Johann Gutenberg invented printing by movable type (with the Gutenberg Bible produced about 1456), & William Tyndale produced the first English New Testament in 1525. The rest is history!


1. Regular Times


Regular = usual, normal, typical.

These are the times we experience most of the time. Having said that, an examination of church history shows little pockets of life seem to have existed throughout the two thousand years of church history.

Characteristics of Normal or Regular Times might include:

•  churches continuing their usual practices of worship, preaching etc., but with no strong drive to grow, mature & equip believers, more a 'continue business as usual' lifestyle,
•  evangelism in greater or lesser measure, but rarely very fruitful,
•  every now and then God raising up individuals who stand out,
•  most individual Christians are content to simply ‘attend church', ‘participate in church life' and perform the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, bible reading etc.


2. Times of Restoration & Renewal


Restore = bring back that which was missing, and tends to focus on the word.

Renew = to stir afresh the life of the church, and tends to focus on the Spirit.


Restoration tends to refer to bringing back missing biblical doctrines and these soon develop into changes of practice or behaviour.

Renewal tends to refer to a renewing-of-life work of the Spirit.

Let's illustrate this:


(a) Biblical Stirrings


‘The Reformation' fired up by Luther in 1517 nailing up his 95 theses, was initially a rejection of the worldliness and corruption that had permeated the Catholic Church, and also of unbiblical doctrines such as purgatory and indulgences, and the reformers increasingly rejected the role of the Pope as the intermediary between Christ and mankind.

Perhaps the primary principles released through the Reformation were i) salvation by the free and undeserved grace of Christ and ii) the priesthood of all believers.

Protestantism was born and ever since has given rise to a number of movements and denominations and missions. The Reformation restored Scripture to its proper place in the life of individuals and the church.

Key Figures: Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, John Calvin, John Knox etc.



(b) Holy Spirit Stirrings


The following are some of the significant moves of God over the past century or so, whereby He restored various aspects of biblical church life:


i) The Azusa Street Revival


In Los Angeles, it started in 1906, and brought out into the open the place and role of the Holy Spirit, which had already started to be considered in some ‘holiness churches'.

Pentecostalism was born resulting in the formation of Pentecostal churches & denominations which spread worldwide. This teaching and experience restored the Holy Spirit to His proper place, but mostly stayed within Pentecostal churches (Assemblies of God, and Elim Pentecostal in the UK).

Key figure: Charles F. Parham


ii) The Charismatic Movement


This state continued until, in the 1960's, a change came which someone described as, “individual believers seeking the Father for his promised gift of the Holy Spirit.” Out of his came a fresh awareness of the existence, experience, function and role of ‘the body of Christ' as formed and created by the Spirit. The Charismatic Movement was born with emphases on personal Spirit-filling and gifting, and our place within the body being taught and experienced in new ways. Unlike Pentecostalism the charismatic movement did not create new denominations but Spirit-filled believers continued their experience within their existing denominations.

Some Key charismatic figures: Dennis J. Bennett (Nine O'Clock in the Morning), and later John Wimber (forming the Vineyard churches) in the USA, Colin Urquhart, Michael Harper, (Fountain Trust) David Watson, Charles Clark, in the UK.

Some key teachers in the UK: Dennis Clarke, Campbell McAlpine, Arthur Wallis, Lance Lambert, Stanley Jebb, Alex Buchanan)


iii) The Restoration Movement


This continued from the 1970's going on to the early 1990's when the Restoration Movement spread from the States putting a new emphasis on apostles and prophets and other Eph 4:12 ministries, that in turn bolstered teaching on a) the work of the Spirit, b) life in the body of Christ, c) personal discipleship and d) accountability.

This tended to flow through the house groups that arose as an expression of the charismatic movement, into the House Church Movement. This in turn became more formalized in various ‘Streams' who, although denying they were denominations, grew, had their own buildings, conferences etc. and took on a distinct denominational feel.

This movement restored a biblical perspective on Eph 4:12 ministries and their out workings– teaching, releasing, encouraging, empowering, the ‘body of Christ' for life and service.

Some key figures: Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, and Don Basham, (in USA) Arthur Wallis, David Lillie, Bryn Jones, John Noble, Gerald Coates, Terry Virgo, George Carleton and David Mansell, Barney Coombs, Roger Forster (in UK),

(Argentinean Juan Carlos Ortiz also came to brief prominence, known for his discipleship teaching)


iv) The Toronto Blessing


In the 1990's a new wave of Holy Spirit activity burst out across the world with the phenomena referred to as the Toronto Blessing, where the Spirit, sovereignly it seemed, broke in on individual believers as they gathered, experiencing a new sense of the power and presence of God, and brought a new joy and a new freedom to the people of God. It was not revival and mostly did not appear to stir evangelism into being. It was first and foremost a restoration of the wonder of being God's children.

Some Key figures: John and Carol Arnott, Randy Clark & Rodney Howard-Browne,  (both of Vineyard), Benny Hinn, Eleanor Mumford (UK), Bill Johnson, Nicky Gumbel.



Thus we have considered the following works of God to restore vital elements to the Christian Church:

•  The Reformation that brought the Word of God to the fore in the life of believers.
•  the Azusa Street Revival that brought to Holy Spirit back to the general life of the Church,
•  the Charismatic Renewal that brought Holy Spirit relationships back to individuals, with a new understanding of body ministry and house group close fellowship,
•  the Restoration Movement that brought Eph 4:12 ministries to the fore, and individual discipleship and accountability and fresh Holy Spirit life which they called for.
•  the Toronto Blessing that brought fresh HS power and new joy and freedom to individuals in their relationship with the Lord.


And Yet….

Rereading the writings of some of these times, they seem like glimmers of light from the past that have now been diffused into the life of the Church where, for the most part, they appear to have lost most of their power, their life, their spontaneity and their vitality. It appears that in the West at least, the world seems to have half drowned the Church and the potential of all these moves of God have been either forgotten or simply dissipated.



3. Times of Revival


Definition: (Duncan Campbell speaking about the Hebridean Revival)

“let me tell you what I mean by revival. An evangelistic campaign or special meeting is not revival. In a successful evangelistic campaign or crusade, there will be hundreds or even thousands of people making decisions for Jesus Christ, but the community remains untouched, and the churches continue much the same as before the outreach. In revival , God moves in the district. Suddenly, the community becomes God conscious. The Spirit of God grips men and women in such a way that even work is given up as people give themselves to waiting upon God. In the midst of the Lewis Awakening, the parish minister at Barvas wrote, "The Spirit of the Lord was resting wonderfully on the different townships of the region. His Presence was in the homes of the people, on meadow and moorland, and even on the public roads." This presence of God is the supreme characteristic of a God-sent revival. Of the hundreds who found Jesus Christ during this time fully seventy-five per cent were saved before they came near a meeting or heard a sermon by myself or any other ministers in the parish. The power of God, the Spirit of God, was moving in operation, and the fear of God gripped the souls of men - this is God-sent revival as distinct from special efforts in the field of evangelism.”


When does a revival come? When God determines it is right. Often it appears He came in power at society's low points. “Sometimes God will delay revival breakthrough to send us deeper into His will. For if breakthrough comes too early, with its accompanying fruit, we may not be spiritually mature enough to tend God's harvest.” (Mark Sayers- Reappearing Church).



And So


The Prayer Dynamic: In the lifetime of some of us, Martyn-Lloyd Jones was known in the 1950s, apart from his preaching, for his burden to pray for revival. Many others have similarly had such a burden, some have prophesied revival was about to happen, but seventy years after M-LJ it has still not been seen in any measure. God has moved in a number of places in the UK and USA and elsewhere, but not in the measure observed in the numbers and nature to which revivals in history testify. Signs and wonders have been known but rarely, it seems, have they been accompanied by evangelistic fruitfulness, and applications of the lessons brought by the renewals above, seem to be few indeed.


Lessons from Revival? As Duncan Campbell pointed out, a revival is not an evangelistic campaign but a sovereign move of God that impacts whole communities as well as the Church. Those who study past revivals know that there is always a danger that human endeavours creep in, or human divisions take place and the revival will slowly fade away. When we pray, it must be not only for revival to come, but that we will learn from past human mistakes in an endeavour to minimize the possibility of spoiling the work of God.


Do we need Revival? The question has been asked and, indeed it does appear as a short cut to deal with the ailments of Western society, but to do that it would need to be nationwide on both sides of the Atlantic, if not further afield as well. The Lord, of course, knows best and we only speculate in a desire to more accurately catch what is on His heart to enable us to pray accordingly. As has been pointed out, however, the various renewals we have documented have acted, in a small way at least, to restore biblical elements of the Church, even if they have either been missed by parts of the Church or been dissipated by modern life.


Possibilities? A simple solution seems to be that we just need to seek the Lord afresh (and wholeheartedly) and seek to be obedient to all the revelation these renewals have brought, so that we make ourselves available for Him to take and use us properly (in accordance with His revealed word) to transform the Church, transform our communities and nations and thus the world. If finds He is unable to get that response from us, then praying for revival appears the only solution.


Our calling? It must surely be:


1. To Pray and keep on calling on God. “Then Jesus told his disciples… that they should always pray and not give up.” (Lk 18:1) For this we will constantly need to declare our reliance upon Him and call on Him for His grace and His Spirit to prevail.


2. Do whatever we can to put right the various things we have identified that are not right with the churches with which we are involved today: “obey everything I have commanded you,.” (Mt 28:20) with no excuses. (Use the earlier Parts and check – does my church match up to God's standards; what am I to do?)


3. To do all we can – prayer, studying his word, obedience – to remain faithful in the face of the world's unbelief. “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)


4. Prepare our hearts to be both equipped and available for when He does produce a harvest that will call on all the present workers: “I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa 6:8)


God has come and restored an awareness of the importance and place of His word and His Spirit, and the outworking of Eph 4 ministries, which in turn create a challenge to believers and the Church to grow, mature, be equipped and empowered and fulfilled within the body. Will we let Him use all of this to equip the Church to be the world-changing force He has designed it to be?



Return to Contents