"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying,
Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And
he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons,
which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive
power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be
witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria,
and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
With these words, the risen Christ exhorted His disciples just before
ascending to Heaven to take His seat at the right hand of the Father.
In them He told them what to do after His departure, and in His words
we find the pattern of our service for Him until He returns for us.
Both before and since my leaving the pastoral ministry to enter the
work of an itinerant evangelist, I have heard a question like this
asked about a set of special meetings: "Will they be evangelistic
meetings or revival meetings?" Forgive me, but whenever I am asked
that question I think first of all that the one asking it is trying to
impress me with how smart he is. He knows the difference between
revival and evangelism. My answer will normally include the assertion
that if there is a real revival in the congregation of Christians,
there will definitely be evangelism before we are finished.
Let me ask the reader to look again at Acts 1:8, and then to answer a
question from me: "What is this verse about?" Would we expect it to
be the text of a sermon on revival? Have we heard it used in a
missions conference? Might a preacher speak on soul-winning from this
verse? How about church planting? We can see, of course that the
answer to each of these questions is, "Yes." In Acts 1:8, the Lord
Jesus speaks of revival, evangelism in all its aspects, and also
missions. But importantly, we must notice, He is speaking of just one
thing. The Spirit will come upon them to empower them to evangelize
effectively both at home and around the world. A key to understanding
the verse is the word "both."
We Christians tend to separate Biblical concepts that ought to be kept
together. The revival that is described in the New Testament as the
fullness of the Holy Spirit will always result in empowered
evangelistic activity which is not supposed to stop at any border or
coast, but extend to the uttermost part of the earth. It's all one
thing. It is the plan of our Lord for this age, and we must keep it
- 1. Revival without evangelism is incomplete.
Revival happens when God brings His people back to the level of
submission and faith where He can bless them according to the promises
He has made to them. The Old Testament gives us the promises the Lord
made to Israel in His covenant with them, especially in the Book of
Deuteronomy. When the nation failed to believe and obey God as they
ought, the promised blessings stopped, and a revival was needed. In
the New Testament in the discourse of the Lord Jesus to His disciples
the night before He died, recorded in John 13 through 17, believers
are given another set of promises for this era. They are related very
clearly to both the intercession of Christ at the right hand of the
Father and the indwelling of His Spirit. When New Testament
Christians fail to experience the abundant life Jesus promised us, it
is because we need to be revived. Revived Christians keep the Lord's
commandments, including His command to evangelize the world. When
believers begin to obey again, we can say that a revival has begun.
But we cannot say that revival has come in its fullness until the
saved are actively spreading the Gospel among the lost. The
excitement generated when, in answer to earnest prayer, members of a
congregation start getting right with God and each other must not
prompt us to stop praying too soon! Let's not be satisfied until God
grants by His Spirit a full revival, which will include renewed and
empowered evangelistic activity among once-complacent and disobedient
- 2. Evangelism without revival is ineffective.
According to Acts 1:8, until the Spirit comes upon us, we have no
power to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ! This is why
the evangelists of old times did not expect to reap a harvest among
the lost until they saw a revival among the saved. The reason so few
unsaved people come to evangelistic meetings these days is that so few
Christians are revived enough to get them there! When a believer is
brought back to New Testament Christianity, his new concern to reach
those without Christ as well as the new power that the Holy Spirit
brings to his witness, make him effective in evangelistic efforts.
When there has been no revival among the saints, the burden of
evangelists to reach the lost tends to make the efforts they do make
manipulative, carnal, and self-glorifying. With little divine power
behind the effort, evangelism is weak, discouraging, and frustrating.
There is also the temptation to fake revival when you do not really
have it. Preaching for revival naturally comes before evangelistic
- 3. Evangelism without missions is shortsighted.
A God-given burden for souls will not be limited to a small group of
people. We naturally have a deep concern for out relatives. Pastors
and church members have a special interest in seeing people saved in
their local area. American Christians want to see their country
evangelized, and multitudes of Americans saved. But the God Who gave
us John 3:16 loves the whole world, and would have all men to be
saved. If we pray much about the salvation of the lost, our contact
with the God of the Gospel will lead us eventually to pray for the
whole world! An evangelistic heart must also be a missionary heart if
it truly has been set aflame by God. Acts 1:8 says that we are to be
His witnesses "both" at home and abroad, even to the farthest reaches
of the world!
- 4. Missions without evangelism is off-track.
Early in my Christian life, I joined a Baptist church that was very
impressed with the annual offering for foreign missions it took every
Christmas. Both the local church and the whole denominational
organization it supported sought to raise a higher amount every year.
However the truth was that the church did virtually nothing to
evangelize its own community. It didn't take me long to see the
hypocrisy in this. This situation did not reflect the vision of Acts
1:8, which sends us into all the world to preach the Gospel!
Unfortunately, many churches that claim to be missions-minded neglect
the home field, and many churches that are active in evangelism at
home care little about evangelizing the rest of the world! If we heed
the heart and words of the Lord Jesus, we will give priority to the
work of evangelism everywhere. Giving money does not fulfill our
responsibility in obeying the Great Commission. Going overseas does
not fulfill that responsibility either if when we get over their we
are not actively spreading the Gospel. Mission work that is not
centered around evangelism is not soundly biblical, and neither is
mission support by Christians who disobey the command to be witnesses
- 5. Missions without revival is dying.
Every great advance in the cause of worldwide Christian missions has
risen out of a great revival movement. Revival generates the zeal for
missions. Without zeal generated by revival, missions will die. The
reason the number of missionary candidates is diminishing in some
groups is the lack of all-out Christian discipleship among the members
of their churches. With few forsaking all to follow Jesus, few
engaging in Spirit-anointed evangelistic effort, and few sacrificing
for the Cause of Christ, the number of missionaries coming out of the
churches will be few. And the number coming home without a
replacement will grow. With few seeing the big picture of Acts 1:8
and praying for the evangelization of the world in the power of the
Holy Spirit, missionary activity around the world will continue to
retreat as the population increases. Revival is tied directly to
missions. Therefore, missionaries need to pray for revival, both in
their places of service and at home, and pastors concerned for the
missionary program should pray and work for revival in their churches.
Clearly, some of our biggest problems in Christian work have been
caused by our not seeing the big picture, and seeking "the whole
thing" commanded by our Lord in Acts 1:8. Let us ask the help of God
in putting revival, evangelism, and missions back together in our
work, in our churches, in our preaching, and in our vision for the