Seeking God for Revival: South Africa and Beyond

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

Revival is a time when heaven comes closer to earth. It is when the glory of God again becomes visible in the lives of men, women, families, churches and community. The greatest attraction of heaven is not the streets of gold. It is not the tree of life. It is not the angels and the fellowship with others of the faith. It is the constant presence and glory of our Lord. Revival is when we taste something of this constant presence of God on earth and in our everyday life.  

“When revival becomes a reality, it is always manifested in a devotion to be like Jesus.” —George Frizzel

The word revival has a variety of meanings for Christians today. For some it simply means a series of meetings; some think of revival as a time when people place their faith in Christ and receive him as saviour and Lord. Other people have used the term to describe a spiritual awakening during which large numbers of people are converted. 

So what is genuine revival? The word, revive is made up of two parts: re, meaning “again,” and vive, meaning “to live.” Thus, revive means “to live again, to come or be brought back to life, health or vitality.” Revival is a time when spiritual life and vitality are restored in the hearts and lives of Christians. Revival is a return to spiritual health after a period of spiritual decline into sin and broken fellowship with God. Revival is for God’s people when they need to repent from their sins, be forgiven and be restored to life, spiritual health and unbroken fellowship with God. 

Personal revival occurs when an individual is restored to unbroken fellowship with God. Revival in the home occurs when family members are restored to unbroken fellowship with God and the Lord Jesus is once again the head of the home. Revival in the local church, community and nation is a sovereign act of God and occurs when God restores the spiritual health and vitality of his people on a much larger scale. Revival results in:

  1. A new awareness of the glorious presence and holiness of God. Today it seems as if we have lost our awareness of the Lord. This is clearly visible in the way we live, our conversations, the places we visit and the way we easily justify ourselves, instead of repenting from our unrighteousness. During the 1904 revival in Wales, a reckless sinner entered into the chapel of Gorseinon during a service. When he opened the door he was overwhelmed by such a tangible awareness of God’s presence that he yelled, “Oh, God is here!” He was so convicted that he could neither enter the chapel nor walk away.
  2. A new and deep conviction of sin, our own sinfulness and our unrighteousness as we see ourselves in the light of God’s glory.
  3. A heartfelt repentance from sin that results in a turning away from sin, returning to God and a changed life at home, in church and in the community.
  4. A new spiritual hunger to hear the word of God (whether through preaching or reading) and to pray (spending time with the Lord). Unbroken fellowship with God brings us closer to his heart and his desire.
  5. A new concern for the lost. This usually leads to outreaches and evangelism resulting in spiritual awakening among the spiritually dead and non-believers.    

Spiritual Awakening
“A revived Church is the only hope for a dying world.” —Dr. Andrew Murray

Spiritual awakening occurs when large numbers of non-believing people (or a whole family or a large percentage of people in a church or area) experience new birth in Christ in a short period of time. Spiritual awakenings are not just times of mass decisions for Jesus Christ; indeed, decisions may not always reflect a new birth. In a spiritual awakening people’s lives are changed radically due to a heartfelt conviction of sin and repentance. It may also result in a changed family, church, society, city or nation. The following are examples of what may occur in a spiritual awakening:

  • Bars and taverns close down for a lack of business
  • Police and law-enforcement personnel face a drop in work due to dramatic decreases in crime.
  • Businesses receive money and merchandise back from thieves, employees and shoplifters who are seeking to return stolen goods.
  • Foul language is replaced by civil and wholesome talk.
  • Evil practices cease and are often outlawed.
  • Private and public acts of immorality decrease dramatically.
  • Marriages are restored and family life is strengthened.

Revival and Spiritual Awakening in South Africa
“Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind. We are useless.” —Charles Spurgeon

Today South Africa is facing a period of moral and spiritual decline that is increasing perhaps more rapidly than ever in our history. Many churches struggle with liberalism, humanism, sin and worldliness in the lives of their members; this greatly impacts and influences the Church. This impact is reflected in the prayerlessness, powerlessness, fruitlessness, critical spirit and lack of appetite for the word of God and the Church. It is also seen in the worldliness, self-justification and the life of spiritual defeat many Christians are facing. Church attendance is weak and membership is declining at the rate of eight percent annually; prayer meetings are poorly attended and non-existent in many churches. Very little if any evangelism, outreach or missionary activity exists. Few true conversions take place and the only signs of life are the many programs that are presented.

We have several mega churches with large memberships, lots of activities and many programs. However, the average spiritual life of believers and churches seems powerless against the growing coldness and spiritual apathy present today. There is little visible lasting change in either the home or the community. Even though we have close to thirty-four thousand churches from a variety of denominations, the Church as a whole seems to have little or no lasting effect upon the community. 

There is currently no revival or spiritual awakening in our country. Some local churches have experienced some movement and visitation of the Holy Spirit and the manifest presence of God. However, this is usually restricted to the local church. Yet there is a growing concern about the need for revival in our nation; there are churches, spiritual leaders and individual people crying out for revival and a fresh encounter with God that will actually change lives, behaviours, ethics, cultural norms and society itself. The majority of churches in South Africa are tired of struggling. They have tried many programs, methods and courses, yet have seen little lasting results.

One pastor of a mega church with several thousand members recently explained how the church leadership had tried to awaken their congregants to the spirit of God but that there was no lasting change. The leadership decided to go back to the basics and to help every member experience a close and intimate walk with God, living in daily obedience and unbroken fellowship. This is what made the difference. Individuals and some families are experiencing blessing; yet, this has not spilled over into the local church and community to date.   

More people are speaking about and praying for revival than ever before. Revival is now a common topic for churches, missionaries and evangelistic organizations. Some churches have started to schedule special meetings and crusades, preaching on various aspects linked to revival. People come together for prayer and thousands are crying out to God for a national revival and drastic change. The growing need for revival, the growing movement of prayer, discussions on revival and the increasing number of people crying out to God is a clear sign of things to come. 

Some prayer movements in South Africa now claim to have more than 200,000 intercessors praying for revival. The annual Global Day of Prayer had its birth in Cape Town. This year more than six hundred cities and small towns throughout South Africa are joining in prayer for South Africa and crying out for revival and restoration. About 181 countries joined this initiative in 2006. However, we are finding that although individuals are experiencing a closer walk with God, families and churches on the whole do not seem to be changed or restored. In spite of all our prayers, fasting, days of seeking God and evangelistic efforts, it seems as if the majority of our churches and communities are regressing. 

The problem is not with the darkness and sin; the problem is with us as God’s people. I pray that the Lord will help us to come back to his standards and experience his forgiveness, peace, presence and change. The problem lies not in the “humbling of ourselves before him” or “in praying to seek his face”; we do these things. The problem lies with the “turning away from our wicked ways.” My prayer is that the Lord will grant us his grace and power to respond to his promptings until he blesses us as a nation. 

Revival South Africa
Revival South Africa is an interdenominational organization devoted to spreading the message of revival throughout South Africa and abroad. Its mission is to create the atmosphere for revival through conferences and seminars, resources, preaching and teaching in local churches and schools of prayer. These are planned and organized in partnership with local churches in South Africa, Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States and several countries in Africa. The purpose of Revival South Africa is five-fold:

  1. To unite with various churches and organizations to promote the subject of revival
  2. To motivate believers to pray with one accord for revival
  3. To create the opportunity for believers of all churches to pray for revival
  4. To distribute information regarding the blessedness of previous revivals recorded in the history of the Church
  5. To create opportunities to spread testimonies, messages and resources regarding the consequences of revival in our land 

Heart Cry South Africa
“Heart Cry for Revival South Africa” is an outreach initiative and conference sponsored by Revival South Africa. It provides a time for those in leadership and others to come together and seek God for a genuine moving of his Spirit in reviving his people to the extent that it would impact our homes, churches, communities, country and world for Christ. It provides an opportunity to have a fresh, personal encounter with the Lord. 

Heart Cry 2005 was planned in several major churches and cities with keynote speakers from abroad. It consisted of several revival crusades, leadership training, church outreaches and two major conferences—one in the north and one in the south—in South Africa. More than one thousand leaders attended the southern conference. We praise God for the following:

  1. Spiritual leaders who came from sixteen different countries including North America, UK and Africa
  2. Spiritual leaders in South Africa who came from more than 120 churches and communities
  3. Several thousands of people praying and joining together for the need of our nations
  4. Hundreds of people responding to accept Christ during the stadium outreach in Middelburg
  5. Leaders and Christians confessing and repenting from sin
  6. Several local church crusades on revival scheduled for 2006 as preparation for Heart Cry South Africa 2007
  7. School of Prayer and outreaches scheduled for September 2006 in Shannon, Ireland
  8. First Heart Cry Conference on Revival in the Netherlands scheduled for 21-25 September 2006, as well as the opening of a website, office, staff and Dutch revival magazine
  9. Several missionary outreaches and conferences on revival scheduled for 2007 in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi

Several missionary organizations in North America and South Africa are partnering and joining hands for Heart Cry 2007. It will take place in August 2007 in South Africa and will consist of the following:

  1. Mini conference about revival in Natal
  2. Second mini conference
  3. International Heart Cry Conference for Revival in Pretoria
  4. Two leadership training conferences for six hundred pastors
  5. Twenty missionary teams from the United States working in local churches and communities preaching revival crusades   

If our nation and the world is going to turn from the rapid moral and spiritual decline we are in, people’s lives must change, families must change, churches must change, communities must change and nations must change. What would happen if believers were to get really honest about their sin and serious about pursuing holiness? Might we not once again experience the manifest presence of God in our churches? Revival starts with God’s people. Revival starts with you.

Dr. Francois Carr is executive director of Revival South Africa. He is senior editor of an English and Afrikaans journal on Prayer, Holiness and Revival, called Revival and HerlewinG. Carr is also the author of Revival! The Glory of God and Prayer for Revival and has authored several books in Afrikaans.