We who call ourselves Spirit-filled Christians are notorious for overusing the term “revival.” If we get a standing-room-only crowd in a church for more than three nights in a row, and those people end up swooning on the floor after the altar call, we start hyping things up and comparing the meetings to the First Great Awakening.
But what exactly are the signs of a genuine move of God? Lately I’ve been buried in Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians to find the answer to that question. After all, one of the most explosive spiritual awakenings in history took place in the Greek city of Thessalonica. It was a headquarters of ancient paganism (and just three hours from Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods), yet when the gospel was preached there it triggered a chain reaction of miracles and mass conversions.
Paul said of the spiritual explosion in Thessalonica: “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5a). A riot erupted, Paul was run out of town, and the new Christians were persecuted. Yet the attacks couldn’t stop them: The impact of this move of God was so forceful that within a short time the newly converted Thessalonians spread their faith throughout most of Greece (see v. 8).
So we could say that biblical revivals always include: (1) powerful preaching that brings heavy conviction of sin; (2) supernatural miracles that display God’s power and confirm the message; (3) notable numbers of true converts who share their faith aggressively; and (4) persecution from those who resist the gospel. But after reading 1 Thessalonians a few more times I noticed one additional hallmark of genuine revival that we often ignore: (5) remarkable, sincere love that nurtures the growing Christian church.
We all want the miracles. We long to see mass conversions. But we forget that New Testament revival doesn’t happen without New Testament love. I see this love manifested in some specific ways: More