2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, `there’ is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.
Revivals, that is, genuine Divinely ordained seasons of the activity of God among men, have a universally unusual character. Normal activities and behaviors give way to the tangible influence of God’s Holy Spirit, whose inspiration brings a freedom of expression, emotion, conviction, worship, and other variations from normal experience.
Students of revival have observed certain patterns in the development of these social/spiritual events, one of which is the strong tendency of men to apply structure to the unfettered activity of the Spirit. Time and again, revival gives way to human intervention, which yields such phenomena as denominations, ministries, organizations, etc. The glorification of significant agents of God, preachers, teachers, or prophetic voices produces these institutional expressions, which begin to lose the vitality of the original revival, and eventually actually inhibit or severely limit the Divine enthusiasm engendered by God’s real presence.
Consider that the birth of the Methodist church did not begin until John Wesley, the great revivalist, had actually passed away. Wesley had never intended to break from the Church of England, but when the Church defrocked him, he was forced to preach outdoors, and his anointed life produced an open-air revival affecting thousands. Wesley himself did not form the Methodist Church in England, others did, turning the revivalist into a denomination after he died.
William Booth was a prominent Methodist evangelist and later was barred from preaching in 1861 from all Methodist congregations. He and his wife began tent meetings in Whitechapel in East London. He soon formed the “Christian Revival Society,” which later became “The Salvation Army.” The rest is history…
The delicate balance between order and freedom is easily upset. What we know is that humans tend toward taking a level of control, which eventually inhibits the work of the Spirit of God. God’s work can look “messy” when He is upsetting the status quo in order to get our attention and draw us to Himself during these Divine interruptions we call “revival.” But He knows how to build His church, and we don’t. He told us to make disciples, not build His church. True revivals give us more souls to work with, bless and build up. That’s a good thing.