Tim Keller has a good post seeking to address the question: How do seasons of revival come?
After discussing briefly whether we can have any influence at all over whether revival happens, he then carefully discusses “some factors that, when present, often become associated with revival by God’s blessing.” He mentions four from William Sprague’s Lectures on Revival of Religion:
- Extraordinary prayer
- A recovery of the gospel of grace
- Renewed individuals
- The use of the gospel on the heart in counseling
Keller points out that Sprague “studied under both Timothy Dwight, Edwards’ grandson, at Yale and also Archibald Alexander at Princeton” and that “the Princetonians – the Alexanders, Samuel Miller, and Charles Hodge – did a good job of combining the basics of revivalism with a healthy emphasis on doctrine and the importance of the church.”
He then adds two more observations:
First, “revivals occur mainly through the ordinary, ‘instituted means of grace’ – preaching, pastoring, worship, prayer. It is a mistake to identify some specific programmatic method (e.g. Billy Graham-like mass evangelism) too closely with revivals.”
And, second, after mentioning Whitfield and Wesleys “new method” of open air preaching, he adds: “I’m ready to say that creativity might be one of the marks of revival, because so often some new way of communicating the gospel has been part of the mix that God used to bring a mighty revival.” Very interesting.