A hundred and fourteen years ago a 26-year-old former coal miner from Laughor in South Wales believed God was going to do great things in Wales and the world. His name was Evan Roberts and he was God’s chosen instrument to lead a massive revival that was to touch the world and kick start the Pentecostal movement.
Two of its most gifted leaders, Stephen and George Jeffrey’s, were converts of this revival, who went on to start revivals in Africa and start both Elim and Assemblies of God denominations in the UK.
From October 1904 to the middle of 1905 over a 100,000 people professed faith in Christ for the first time in Wales.
Much of the fruitful results came as a result of what today we might call Holy Spirit meetings, with testimonies, singing, intercessory prayer, preaching and invitations. Here are some words Evan wrote:
“Religion should be the happiest thing in life. Our fathers were gloomy and melancholy as though religion were a severe trial to the flesh. What they had missed was the joy of the Lord. They got themselves into a groove; we must get out of it. Some people wonder why we laugh and are happy at meetings. Well! Who would be happy except those who have love in their hearts… Look at this from the father’s point of view? Would a father be offended when his children laughed? No! Certainly not. But we are children in our Fathers house, happy and joyous. Our Father will not be offended.”
Evan was used to release a whole paradigm shift into the worldwide Church, as remarkable as the fresh revelation given to Martin Luther almost five hundred years before. It was to be another 60 years before mainline denominations would be significantly impacted by these changes, something Evan never lived to see. The truths Evan discovered and helped recover to the Church are what I want to share on briefly. Here are some of the practical truths that I believe we need to hold fast with if we are to accomplish great things as a church in this city:
- He gave priority to the leading of the Holy Spirit and culturally released the Church so that “everyone got to play”.
Evan endeavoured to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and, as with Jesus in John 5:19, he “did only what He saw the father doing”. This meant men women and children participated in what God was doing. This was revolutionary for churches used to a more formal approach to worship. It allowed the Holy Spirit freedom to release His gifts on congregations of people. Many of the converts went on zealously following the Lord, many being used to plant churches across the UK and the world, like the Jeffrey’s brothers. The number of churches planted as a result of this revival is staggering. Evans’s own sister married a convert of the revival and became a missionary to India.
He used testimonies as part of church services.
People would stand where they were and testify to what God had done in their life. Their stories of how God had met them released faith in others to where they were changed to believe that God would do it for them too.
He used music and singing, inside the church and open air, at large evangelistic rallies. New songs were written in the revival and groups of singers would accompany Evan to sing during the many services.
The music acted as a bridge builder in the revival as well as helping release the power of God. Billy Graham has used these principles to great effect in his ministry, as we have in a small way with our evening service.
He didn’t feel that what he was given was for him alone or even just his church and denomination.
Evan ministered cross-denominationally and again in line with his saviour Jesus, what he had freely received he freely gave away. He endeavoured to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility valued others above himself not looking to his own interest but to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3f). Evan’s heartfelt wish was that the Body of Christ with all its denominational structures be built up. In fact, if he heard prayers that centred upon a single church he was displeased as he felt it was outside the heart of God.
Evan was a passionate preacher, with an emphasis on reaching the lost. He had almost no experience in preaching, but knew that it wasn’t just to edify the saints but to reach those unconverted.
He said that if it were possible he would have “paid Jesus to preach His gospel”. In the months preceding the revival Evan had an open vision. In front of him as far as his eyes could see he saw a vision of his fellow countrymen walking down the valleys towards him, and behind him were the open gates of Hell. People were walking into Hell without a thought or care. Evan asked God to shut the gates for a year that he might preach the gospel.
Evan’s believed in the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ: the only way to the Father is through Jesus and people need to repent. He taught people to confess all known sin, to search out all secret and doubtful things, to confess the Lord Jesus openly, and to pledge their word that you will fully obey the Spirit.
As congregations did this God sent His Spirit powerfully, bringing His gifts, joy and a conviction of sin and the judgement to come. In a sense Evan was preparing people for the Spirit just as the Psalmist wrote – “who can ascend the hill of the Lord, s/he who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
Evan loved children and taught them to “ask for the Spirit for Jesus’ sake”.
Unlike many outpourings of the Spirit where the children seem to miss out, the children played a full part. This resulted in schools being impacted by the revival and teachers becoming converted through the children’s witness. As a church community, any visitation on us by the Holy Spirit is an honour, and what an honour to see Him filling our children with His Spirit.
Evan knew that the way he was being used by God had nothing to do with him. He had prayed for the Holy Spirit to impact him in greater measure for years with a conscious will for God to bend him that he might surrender his whole life to Christ.
Early one morning the empowering of the Spirit shook his body for hours, filling him with power for witness. Afterwards Evan said “I can face thousands”. His life and being were transformed, not unlike the experience of the Apostle Peter at Pentecost 2,000 years earlier. It is a reminder that whatever gifts we possess we need “power from on high” and need to ask God for it, as did the early disciples: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
I think it’s always good to reflect on the life of a person of great faith to be inspired and encouraged as to what can be achieved by someone surrendered to Christ. I know as much as all of you how easy it is for things in this life to drag us down emotionally and spiritually.
I have just returned from Bogota in Columbia where a church Avivamiento (revival) church is still growing in a revival after 25 years. Their pastors are passionate about us bringing revival back to the UK, and I am by faith believing we are now entering this time of outpouring for the UK, one again. You can see some of the videos we have brought back on my Facebook page. The church is staggering in its commitment to the leading and honouring The Holy Spirit in its meetings. They have learnt much from the life of Evan Roberts.
I have much more to talk about on this, in the coming months.
If you aren’t yet booked into www.unleashedconference.org, please do, its going to a time of outpouring for us all.