by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge
Zondervan, 5300 Patterson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530, 192 pages, 2010, $16.99.
—Reviewed by Wesley L. Handy, PhD candidate in applied theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Collin Hansen is a rising star in evangelical circles. In addition to regular contributions to Christianity Today, he serves as editorial director of The Gospel Coalition. John Woodbridge is a lodestar, widely published and long-time professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. These stars converge to demonstrate the invaluable role revival plays in the health of Christianity.
Biblically, the authors argue that revivals are special acts of God resulting in an invigorated church. Church history, they maintain, has born this out, from Edwards in the eighteenth century to Graham in the twentieth. In each case, they argue, stories of other revivals inspire Christians to seek God for revival.
Through this pattern of sharing and seeking, revival spreads beyond the West. Thus, the authors argue: “The fledgling churches in Asia and Africa once found inspiration in stories of revival from the West. Now, as the global church grows deeper and wider, let us listen for their stories of God’s grace and find inspiration to ask the heavenly Father for a special effusion of his Holy Spirit” (p. 186). In light of eight chapters of stories, the authors implore Christians to seek a “God-sized vision” which may bring about revival.
Each chapter is short and readable—the authors provide sufficient endnotes for inquisitive minds and even include an index. Moreover, they champion a thoroughly evangelical understanding of revival, with their emphasis on Jonathan Edwards well placed. Also especially helpful are chapters on the Layman’s Prayer Revival and the East Africa Revival. Overall, the book is well-written and worth the read.
There are weaknesses, however. With global Christianity growing, one expects more than two and a half chapters on Majority World revival movements. The reason for this neglect may be that the authors belabored to show how revival spread through the retelling of stories. In so doing, the authors do not give enough thought to other spiritual and non-spiritual factors (Mark Shaw, in Global Awakening, employs a five-fold rubric of revival dynamics).
There is danger of over-spiritualizing some causes of revival to the neglect of others through which God normally exercises his providential sovereignty. Another implication of this neglect is the perception that the heroes of Majority World revivals were missionaries or revivalist emissaries. Therefore, besides an excellent treatment of Festo Kivengere, other national Christians receive sparse attention. Balance is needed.
These criticisms do not tarnish the specter of the authors’ well-aimed focus on prayer, repentance, preaching the gospel, humble submission, and bold service (pp. 29–35; 182–186). This work is a helpful starting place on the subject of revival.
Check these titles:
Coomes, Anne. 1990. The Authorised Biography of Festo Kivengere. Eastbourne, U.K.: Monarch.
McDow, Malcolm and Alvin L. Reid. 1997. Firefall: How God Has Shaped History through Revivals. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman.
Shaw, Mark. 2010. Global Awakening: How 20th-Century Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.
EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 372-373. Copyright © 2011 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.