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The Blessings and Burdens of Revival: George Jeffreys: A Revivalist, a Movement and a Crisis, by Neil Hudson

Jeffreys believed there was no need to pray for revival to come, it was present, evidenced by unexpectedly successful evangelistic endeavours

Jeffreys did not go into detail to expound his meaning. However, the significant point is that he believed he was the harbinger of revival and that the churches with which he was involved were experiencing revival. There was no need to pray for revival to come, it was present, evidenced by unexpectedly successful evangelistic endeavours. According to this understanding, Jeffreys could legitimately refer to his own large meetings as revivals. In reporting his evangelistic success, he was eager to indicate that this was not simply the work of a successful evangelist, it was revival. In an article in Confidence in 1913, Boddy quoted from a letter that Jeffreys sent him concerning services he was holding in South Wales. Jeffreys assured him that the scenes he was witnessing were those of ‘a real Apostolic Revival’.18

However, it became clear that all the pastors within Elim did not readily accept Jeffreys’ view of the immediacy of revival. Most did not see the same results in their evangelistic endeavour as Jeffreys did. Few had been as affected by the Welsh Revival and so, Jeffreys’ view notwithstanding, there were numerous articles written in the denomination’s official magazine, the Elim Evangel, discussing the cause and nature of revival, although few direct answers for its apparent absence were offered. So whilst Jeffreys was declaring that revival was present, many of his own constituency were attempting to define the concept of revival and explain the necessary pre-conditions in which revival would take place. One of the reasons for this difference in expectation resulted from Jeffreys’ understanding of the relationship between revival and successful evangelistic endeavour. He believed that when evangelistic meetings attracted large crowds with people professing conversion this was evidence of revival. This contrasted with the prevailing expectation that revival would be something greater and more embracing than regular evangelistic services. Lancaster, a significant figure in the denomination in the post-war period, explained this differentiation between successful evangelistic campaigns and revival.19 Revival was ‘a spontaneous movement of the Spirit of God, which transcends organised events and embraces whole communities, even nations, with an overwhelming sense of the presence of God, leading to deep conviction of sin and widespread conversions.’20

He pointed out that the Welsh Revival remained a primary model for Elim’s expectations of what could happen in the future. The significant difference between Jeffreys and the other ministers in Elim was that Jeffreys saw no need to extend one’s hopes into the future, he believed he was seeing the same events in his ministry that had been witnessed during the Welsh Revival. Whilst Jeffreys continued to evangelise, declaring revival to be present, churches were acknowledging that they could not produce a revival in their own strength. Their emphasis centred on the preparations that could be made in prayer, so that the church would be ‘right with God’. Prayer was a key factor; that more churches had not seen revival was often assumed to be because of a lack of prayer.21

Jeffreys believed that when evangelistic meetings attracted large crowds with people professing conversion this was evidence of revival.

However, if revival did not happen after prayer had been offered and evangelism undertaken, church members could become discontented. It was thought that there must be a reason for the delay in revival. The options for this delay were limited. Since the presupposition was that God wanted the church to be in a state of revival, either the church was not what it should be or the pastor was somehow inadequate in his ministry. Whatever the reason for the delay, there was always a possibility that the people could become discouraged. Canty suggested that this failure to see revival materialise ultimately encouraged ministers to concentrate on their pastoral ministry, as opposed to an evangelistic one. The search for revival was too elusive, whereas, in comparison, the ongoing work of the pastorate was clearly defined.22

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Category: Church History, Fall 2012, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Neil Hudson is a Pentecostal pastor who has worked in local churches, theological colleges, and is currently working with the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity as a church consultant and trainer. His most recent book is Imagine Church: Releasing Whole-Life Disciples (IVP, 2012).

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