One hundred years after the Welsh revival of 1904 the heart-cry of millions is, "Lord, do it again!"
The eye-witness descriptions of the Welsh revival make our hearts burn as we are told how the glory of the Lord fell on church after church across the little principality of Wales. In time the revival had impacted much of the English-speaking world. The results were astonishing. The Welsh revival was to have an incredible worldwide impact.
Edwin Orr is thought by many to have the best knowledge of the history of revivals. He has written much on the subject as a recognized authority, particularly on the subject of the Welsh revival. He calls it "the worldwide awakening of the early twentieth century."
The twentieth-century started with the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit. May future generations observe that the twenty-first century started the same way! But for that to happen, we must become people of holy desperation. The warning is that living off our spiritual heritage without God's presence among us spells moral disaster and even real danger — such a revival as Wales experienced may be our last hope.
Revival: The Event
The Welsh revival began under the leadership of Evan Roberts assisted by the lesser-known Seth Joshua, and it lasted in its fullness at least three years. The number of converts directly attributed to it exceeds 250,000; others say that estimate is far too low. In Britain itself the largest halls were unable to accommodate the thousands who came to hear, seek, pray, and praise. Some churches had services twice a day for two or three years! Christians around the world were stirred by the news of what was happening. So as you see, the 1904 revival has indirectly inspired and blessed generations.
American Christians even crossed the Atlantic to see for themselves. One story is of an American pastor who arrived in Wales by train, getting off the train in the city of Swansea. He asked the first person he met, a conductor, "Could you tell me where I could find the Welsh revival?" "Yes sir," said the barrel-chested conductor, "it's going on beneath these brass buttons on my coat!"
Evan Roberts, a young evangelist and a Bible school student, was at the forefront from the very beginning of the spontaneous awakening. He was simple, unassuming, even shy, but possessed by a godly passion. Undeniably, he was the human instrument chosen by God. Possibly, the most unforgettable description of the great event goes something like as follows:
"Theaters had to close for lack of patronage, old debts were paid, restitutions were a common event, and longstanding bitterness was resolved. The pubs were seldom open, in the coal mines mules refused to work because they were so unused to kindness! It was not unusual for men to spontaneously gather on a street corner to praise God as they walked home from work, political rallies and city council meetings turned into prayer meetings. The revival grew and continued without advertisement or announcements or promotion — no offerings were taken, no organized choirs sang, and there was little preaching, for praise and testimonies were the chief features of the revival. Yet nothing ever came over Wales with such far reaching results."
Revival: The Essentials
The best biblical description of what true revival is has often been called a time "of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." It is no wonder that as we approach the 100-year anniversary of the Welsh revival, millions are now seeking God's face for such a display of His presence and power again. Lord, revive us again!
British revivalist P.V. Jenness observed: "Revivals are supernatural demonstrations of God's power. When will we learn to let God work in His own way? When will we spend more time in seeking to know what His way is than we do in devising human plans and methods which only bring us a sense of failure and loss? We need revival."
The value of remembering what God did in Wales is that it whets the spiritual appetites of authentic Christians for another such outpouring. "By my Spirit" becomes, more than ever, indelibly marked in our hearts as the supreme keynote of all true advances of the work of God.
We do not need to be reminded of our present spiritual need. Some churches in Britain and America have not felt the power of a widespread spiritual revival for decades. The moral standards in America and Europe have reached an all-time low. This is why we must be constantly crying out for a "Welsh-like" outpouring of the Spirit.
But also, we must all be re-taught about the nature of true revival. It is vital that we have not only an historical appreciation, but a biblical understanding. We must see this clearly in Scripture in the light of His face. A biblical understanding enables us to pray in more precise terms and with devoted purpose.
As we reflect on this centennial year of the Welsh revival, we must balance our thoughts. On the one hand, revival is the sovereign work of God, and yet on the other it is totally misguided to think that God will revive a people who cannot find time to seek His face and do not urgently desire a fresh touch of heaven in our society. Where is this longing seen today?
The Welsh revival featured an unnumbered host of people who longed to see and sense His glorious presence. The Welsh revival gloriously demonstrates that when revival in its fullness comes, God can undo in an hour the work that took Satan over a century to do!
Like the people of Wales of a hundred years ago, we must join now to seek God's face for authentic revival in our time. Remember, God will not only judge us by what happened of Kingdom value during our lifetime, but also for what could have happened if we had believed, labored, and passionately longed for a display of His glory. Isaiah announced, The Lord has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations … (Isaiah 52:10). Oh, how we need that now!
Let us clearly understand — in asking, "Lord, do it again," we must prepare to have our spiritual horizons stretched, for true revival means we are open to the Holy Spirit to act in the most powerful ways He chooses! It is too easy for us to pray for revival, yet find ourselves obstructing Him no matter how sincere our concern might be. Evan Roberts groaned before revival broke, "Lord, bend the church." Brokenness and repentance are essential; they beckon God's Spirit to come. We must be willing to be bent into the master plan of God. We must be responsible and gladly pliable.
I am sure if revival came, evangelists would have to totally revamp their schedules and rethink their priorities. God must dictate the agenda!
I'm sure churches would have to cancel normal activities for months on end to be in the full heart of it and in the full flow of His command to: "Go!" God awaits that attitude from each of us.
Many of us believe revival to be God's intention at this hour of history.
True revival is the prayerful longing of those who desire to see the Kingdom of God extended for His glory. There is a heart-cry to see millions of people delivered from the domination of darkness and made into children of light. Moody was correct, "Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure."
Revival and Evangelism
Revival is "the coming of the Spirit in full flow of His power." There can be no revival apart from the Holy Spirit's activity. As in the Welsh revival, whenever the full impact of the Spirit's presence was experienced, large-scale conversions occurred.
It is true that evangelism is not revival, but effective evangelism — enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit — is the crowning glory of revival.
Whenever the Spirit moves in freedom, there is always a great increase in evangelistic fervor. This is often accompanied by seasons of intercessory prayer for the lost, and in answer, it seems God always raises up evangelists anointed by Him to fully reap the great harvest. Revival miraculously heals the hurts in homes, but another certain fruit of revival is a rekindling of missionary vision and urgency as a new generation of Christians openly plead, "Lord, send me!"
In the Welsh revival, as in all true revivals, there was a release of fresh love and compassion among God's people, a longing to make Jesus known, and a liberal sharing of resources to see people's needs met. Revival produces a demonstration that God cares, and it is seen through His people as they express love and powerful compassion and Spirit-prompted social action.
The story has often been told of the unforgettable funeral of General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. The overflow congregation of mourners had left London's greatest church for the internment. A sexton clearing the building found a lone Methodist preacher on his knees at the altar where the casket had rested. He was sobbing from the depth of his soul, "Lord, do it again! Lord, do it again!"
As we celebrate this anniversary year, we too should remember what God wrought through the mighty Welsh revival and cry out with sobs, "Lord, do it again! Lord, do it again!"