I wonder if King David ran home to tell his wife, “Honey, I just wrote my 23rd Psalm, and I think it will be a hit!” Not.
Great works of God usually have simple beginnings and are rarely understood to be profound. Nevertheless, God often uses small things to birth unexpected world movements.
If we just look at Western culture over the past 150 years there have been three “Great Awakenings”, several “Outpouring of the Holy Spirit”, and other amazing works of God that started from “unimportant” people, and grew into national and global movements that still glorify Jesus and advance God’s kingdom, today.
We remember names like William Wilberforce, John and Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, William J. Seymour, Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and many others. There was nothing exceptional about them that we would have seen.
Take William J. Seymour for example. He was an African American, holiness preacher. Blind in one eye, Pastor Seymour was the second of eight children born to emancipated slaves and raised in extreme poverty in Louisiana. But, unlike the rest of the world, God chose him for a ministry more significant than he would ever have imagined. God used him to start the Azusa Street Revival.
An example of God’s handiwork is the Revival of 1800 in Logan County, Kentucky, which began as a traditional Presbyterian sacramental occasion. This meeting grew to a more significant meeting the next year and is generally considered to be America’s first camp meeting. Held at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County, Kentucky, under Barton W. Stone (1772–1844), numerous Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist ministers participated in the services. The six-day gathering attracted perhaps as many as 20,000 people.
A more recent example is “The People of Praise” Christian community. They have grown into a global movement that has brought powerful new experiences of the Holy Spirit to more than 500 million people since the beginning of the 20th century.
This movement started with 29 people in South Bend, IN, which covenanted themselves to one another and to God. The People of Praise was very much involved in the growth of charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church. There, this renewal has touched millions, including more than 30 percent of U.S. Catholics, according to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
From this history of exceptional revivals and anointed individuals has come the end of slavery in the British Empire, labor laws to protect workers, numerous missions boards and missionaries, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), colleges and universities, and mainline denominations such as the Wesleyans and Assemblies of God.
Revivals still break out, occasionally. The Toronto Airport revival and the Pensacola, Florida revival come to mind. Will God touch a life, affect a small group, and grow a worldwide revival, again? I think He will. God is just looking for people with humble hearts (James 4:6) and faith the size of a mustard seed. When anyone surrenders their pride, gives their heart to Jesus, and is reborn, that new Christian may just be the catalyst this world needs to learn the good news of Jesus.