Against the backdrop of the deep darkness that is encroaching our land, I see thousands of fires burning brightly.
But they are not the fires of riots and violent protests.
They are holy fires, fires of spiritual outpouring and revival.
They are not here yet – at least not in large numbers and fully ablaze. But they are here in incipient form. And for some years now, with my inner eye, in my spirit, I have seen these holy fires burning.
There have been revival movements in America in the past that had one particular hotspot to which people made pilgrimage. A prominent example would be the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles (which began in 1906), helping to birth the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, which now numbers more than 600,000 million adherents worldwide.
Believers flocked to these meetings from around the world, with missionaries being sent out from Azusa Street to many nations.
More recently, from 1995-2000, believers from more than 130 nations traveled to the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida, and missionaries were sent out from there (through the ministry school that was raised up) to many nations.
As a leader in the Brownsville Revival from 1996-2000, I was an eyewitness to this extraordinary spiritual phenomenon, where the crowds would form beginning at 6:00 AM, waiting for the doors to open at 6:00 PM. The service would then start at 7:00 PM and last until midnight or later. This happened most nights of the week and went on for years. (For the account of an impartial journalist, see here.)
Those were glorious, almost indescribable days, days that I long to see again.
But in my heart, I do not see an exact repeat of this coming. Instead, I see thousands of hubs across the country. I see thousands of watering holes where people come to repent and get right with God, to be refreshed and renewed, to be saved and filled and delivered.
I see this happening in countless church buildings, tent meetings, home gatherings, campus fellowships, and open-air rallies.
I see young people flocking by the millions, just as happened to lost sinners (like me!) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This became known as the Jesus People Movement or the Jesus Revolution. It even caught the attention of Time Magazine with its iconic cover story of June 7, 1971 depicting a hippie-like Jesus and announcing the Jesus Revolution.
Just 5 years earlier, in the cover story published April 8, 1966, Time boldly asked in stark red letters against a black background, “Is God Dead?”
Time now had its answer. Absolutely, categorically not! (For a great account of what the Jesus Revolution looked and felt like on the ground, weaved together with Pastor Greg Laurie’s own conversion story, see here.)
In recent years, I have ministered in some of these hot spots here in our land. I have seen buildings packed. I have seen young people worshiping fervently. I have seen the Spirit moving.
And none of this happened because I was there speaking. Instead, I had the privilege of participating in what was already taking place. The fires are getting hotter!
One pastor told me that in his city, administrators from some middle schools (I’m referring to public schools, not Christian schools) reached out to his church. The kids were in such bad shape that the school officials asked this pastor to send young people from his congregation over to help. And they are seeing results!
In the days to come, if we humble ourselves and pray, if we will repent of our sins and get our own houses in order, I believe scenes like this will multiply across every state and city in the land.
People are hurting.
They are lonely and fearful and stressed.
They have lost hope in the system and don’t know where to turn. Traditional religion leaves them dry.
Their other spiritual searches have left them empty. Secularism doesn’t fill the void.
But when they encounter the true and living God, be it in a traditional setting with liturgy or a charismatic setting with spontaneous worship, many of them will come running. And when they are transformed, filled with joy and freedom and purpose, with bondages broken, depression gone, and no sense of guilt of condemnation, their friends and loved ones will come running too.
In 1801 during the Second Great Awakening in America, in what was called the Cane Ridge Revival, an onlooker described what he saw as 20,000 people from the sparsely populated frontier region came together for a 6-day camp meeting:
“I stepped up on a log where I could have a better view of the surging sea of humanity. The scene that then presented itself to my mind was indescribable. At once I saw at least five hundred swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens.”
“On Sabbath [Sunday] night I saw above one hundred candles burning at once -- and I saw, I suppose, one hundred persons of all ages from eight to sixty years at once on the ground crying for mercy. . . The sensible, the weak, learned and unlearned, the rich and the poor are the subjects of it.”
Now, multiply this by the thousands, and that is what I see coming across the land.
Many will reject what God will do, as happens with every revival and visitation, including prominent church leaders. But many others – even more – will embrace it, having experienced for themselves the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus.
May we be found ready and waiting when the Spirit moves, and may we prepare the way even today by deepening our devotion in prayer, in worship, in the Word, in compassionate outreach and service, in personal repentance, in expectation and faith.
It’s time for the fires to burn!