In the course of writing my book about UK revivals, published this weekend, I came across a great 16-page pamphlet by W.E. Sangster entitled Revival: The need and the way. Although published as far back as the 1950s, it inspired me to include the following section in the Introduction.
Sangster was minister of Central Hall, Westminster, the greatest of the Central Halls of the Methodist movement. From reading his biography Sangster of Westminster, I have learned that his sermon on revival at a regular Sunday service was put into pamphlet form because it had had such an impact on his hearers. The content of the pamphlet then hit the headlines. Wording from it was printed in large type on the front pages of many national newspapers in 1953.
Here is what I have written on the subject:
Why past revivals matter
These major revivals were times that did the following:
- They were significant breakthroughs for the Kingdom of God. It is part of the Lord’s prayer to pray for God’s kingdom to come (e.g. Luke11:2).
- They involved thousands, if not millions, of people finding their way into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. A notable number of the new believers had been so steeped in sin or contrary thinking that many of them had been far beyond the reach of a local church.
- They affected communities, households and individuals for the better. Communities have been so deeply affected in times of revival that it is very difficult to imagine how else an ungodly nation can be turned around again. The common morality of the nation is lifted. Violence, slavery and virtual slavery, other crimes, abuse, prostitution, drunkenness, drug-taking, divorce, ill-health and debt are all reduced. Marriage relationships, public health, the quality and quantity of work done, and the payment of long-standing debts are all affected positively. Politicians, business people and journalists are obliged to be more reliable. The nation assumes a higher sense of destiny.
- They led to lasting social impacts, some of which have helped to shape and define the nation and its people.
- They can serve as a key for understanding much of the Christian history of the country.
- They point towards the primary place of God’s sovereign working in and through real individuals, indicating how God has opened up the national culture in the past.
- They show God’s merciful character in bringing refreshing from His presence. ‘And did those feet [of Jesus] walk upon England’s green and pleasant land?’ the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ by William Blake famously asks. There is a sense in which His feet have done just that many times (compare with Acts 1:1), though probably not in the way that Blake imagined.
- They can encourage, inform and inspire Christians everywhere to long for revival in their own situations.
My book Change of the Tide: Revivals in the UK, from which this extract is taken, will soon be fully available in paperback on Amazon.co.uk. It is already available for order there on Kindle.