Reformation and revival are not the same thing.
We need both. We regularly hear about the need for revival but not often about the need for reformation. Revival without reformation is likely to be man-made rather than arising from the Spirit of God.
Some people try to generate revival by flying kites. Flying kites is a method of testing the water with a new idea, to see what reception it will receive. It is a well-tested method in secular affairs.
The Spirit of God does not need to test out His ideas nor to fly kites.
Revival is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. He has given us in Scripture all the information we need to secure His blessing and spiritual revival.
19th-century revivalist Charles Grandison Finnie thought revival could and should be orchestrated, as if the Holy Spirit was at our beck and call. Rather, reformation is more in line with what the Church is expected to do rather than trying to drum up revival at revival meetings.
A congregation, church or nation can be reformed. Reformation is the work of godly people applying biblical principles in their local congregation, church or nation to restore the true worship and public service of God. It is motivated by the Holy Spirit but it is the conjoint work of many Christians who can see the biblical vision and who work in concert to accomplish reformation. “We are workers together with God” 2Cor 6:1.
I live in the Highlands of Scotland and I note that it has become a venue for prophetic voices ever since Jean Darnall predicted that the fire of the Gospel would sweep down the United Kingdom and across to Europe from the Highlands of Scotland, periodically quoted by those who wish to boost the flagging spirits of local Christians. However, we have a more sure Word of prophecy in Scripture 2Pe 1:19-21.
In 1955 global evangelist Billy Graham declared during his campaign in the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow that Glasgow was the most prayed-for city in the world at that time. Since then we had another Graham campaign in 1984 and Luis Palau’s more recent campaigns in 2009 and 2014 and then his son Andrew Palau in 2018 as if revival is in the hands of family dynasties, like American Presidents.
In 2019 The Turning campaign came to Inverness and in 2020 we were due to have another American initiative, with preparatory meetings held months in advance until the coronavirus pandemic interfered.
There are many evangelical congregations in Inverness, but there is no evidence of Reformation in the forty years I have lived in the city. There is no impact upon the public life of the city. Rather, secularism continues to influence civic affairs with little evangelical input. None of the evangelical ministers is a household name in the city, in spite of being national and international names on the evangelical circuit.
It is not clear why Inverness needs international revivalists, unless it is to encourage these local preachers to bring Christian doctrine to bear upon public life in the city.
Why no Reformation?
Reformation requires a knowledge and willingness to implement the Lord’s will as revealed in Scripture, “to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” 2Cor 10:5. An inability to understand the biblical principles, the national principles and the political issues of the day is unlikely to lead to Reformation.
Locally, it is easy to lose the Gospel, as Jesus taught the Seven Churches of Asia Rev 1–3 and churches are so busy trying to hold on to what they have that they overlook the benefit of local reformation on the spiritual life of local congregations.
Jesus told the church to make disciples of all ethnic groups, to preach the gospel to every creature, not just those who turn up in God’s providence in their church gathering. However, Christians have forgotten how to converse the Gospel and it is time for the pulpit to teach the pew how to do so. It is time for Reformation. “Your time is always ready,” as Jesus said.