Do you want to experience revival in your church? Brokenness precedes repentance, and repentance is the start of revival.
By Robby Gallaty
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Long Hollow Church experienced a move of God unlike any I’ve ever experienced. In one year, we witnessed 1,567 people come forward for believer’s baptism. And 1,000 of those baptisms took place in a span of just 15 weeks. It was also the largest giving year in the history of our church; we gave $1.5 million to missions.
In a time when people were largely masked and/or quarantined, we saw an absolutely amazing movement of God. We saw, and experienced, revival. But all of that got its start out of a season of me experiencing personal revival by God working in my life. God had to do a work in me before He could work through me.
It started six months before COVID. In the summer of 2019, my wife Kandi and I had planned a trip to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and her 40th birthday. But two days before we were to board the plane, I had to have an emergency appendectomy.“God had to do a work in me before He could work through me.” — @rgallaty Click To Tweet
In rescheduling the trip, we had just one option on the calendar. We found out that if we couldn’t make that date work, we’d lose the whole trip. That new use-it-or-lose-it date was the weekend of our yearly men’s conference called “Man Up,” which I did not want to miss. “Man Up” is a big deal in our church. I’d been planning it and was supposed to speak. And I didn’t think there was any way I could miss it. But Kandi and I were overwhelmed and exhausted. We really needed some time away. Understanding that need, some of the leaders in the church encouraged me to go ahead and take my wife on the trip, so we went.
An unexpected conversation
The men’s conference didn’t go well, to say the least. As I look back now, I know “Man Up” was simply a tipping point of things that had been building for some time. In fact, I now affectionately call it “Man Down” because when I got home, I received a text from a good friend in the church who was on our leadership team about meeting for breakfast. I was oblivious to what was about to take place, but that breakfast turned out to be the hardest experience of my life.
For more than two hours, two men I loved and respected laid out a scenario for me that I was blind to. They said, “Robby, people think you’re arrogant. People say you’re prideful, untouchable, and unreachable. They think you stay in the back. You’re never in the worship center. And you’re not available. You’re selfish.” And the list went on.
I walked into breakfast that day totally unaware. I walked away from breakfast totally defeated. Even though I knew these men loved me and wanted the best for me, it hurt.
I spent the rest of the day in a fog. I met Kandi for lunch but couldn’t eat. Even though I wasn’t a crier back then, I had tears in my eyes. I thought, “Those people don’t know me. I’m not the way they think I am.”
Sitting with the Lord
For a few weeks, I was reeling. But that experience prompted me to begin sitting before the Lord, asking Him to show me if those perceptions about me were right. And I started to realize I said and did things that were justifiable to me but were rooted in pride that was obvious to others. I learned how many times I took credit for something God did. I realized how much I relied on my own intellect, ingenuity, and education—not God’s power, His Spirit, and His provision.
It would have been easy for me to discount everything I heard and remain the same. Or, I could ask the hard questions, repent where the Holy Spirit pointed out problems, and experience restoration—and the start of revival.
Learning from Zacchaeus
Think about the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. It is a story of repentance, restoration, and personal revival. Zacchaeus did two things adults don’t do: run and scale a tree. When was the last time you saw a grown man run? When was the last time you saw a grown man climb a tree? If you want to experience personal revival, you have to start by doing what others aren’t willing to do.“If you want to experience personal revival, you have to start by doing what others aren’t willing to do.” — @rgallaty Click To Tweet
Have you ever wondered why Luke mentioned the type of tree Zacchaeus climbed? It’s not just to give us some good lyrics for a children’s song. Trees have meaning. For example, palm trees symbolize triumph and victory. Olive trees symbolize peace. And the sycamore tree mentioned in Zacchaeus’s story is actually a species of fig tree. The fig tree has to do with fruitfulness or repentance in light of salvation. When people repent of their sins, they will produce fruit (Luke 13:6-9).
Is it any wonder that Zacchaeus ran to and climbed, of all trees, a sycamore fig tree, to see Jesus? Picture it: He was literal salvation fruit hanging from the limbs of the tree. Notice what happens in verse 8: “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much’” (CSB).
In other words, if Zacchaeus took $1,000 from someone, he’d pay them back $4,000. This isn’t a tall tale told by a salesman: Zacchaeus said this to the Son of God. He was basically hooked up to a lie detector test, and Jesus essentially said, “Yes. This man is telling the truth. He’s honest about what he’s done. Because of that, He will experience true salvation.”
How to start revival
To experience true transformation, repentance precedes revival. It was true for Zacchaeus, it is true for me, and it is true for you. The longer we deny, justify, or rationalize our sinful behavior, the longer we put off revival.“The longer we deny, justify, or rationalize our sinful behavior, the longer we put off revival.” — @rgallaty Click To Tweet
Brother, how much longer are you going to justify your pride, anger, and emotional distance from those God has called you to shepherd by saying, “This is just who I am”? When will you stop blaming others for your problems? Brokenness precedes repentance, and repentance is the pathway to revival.
God brought revival to Long Hollow Church, and He wants to do that in your church too. But don’t miss the fact that God wants more for you personally. He wants more for me personally. The truth is, I was holding Long Hollow back from experiencing the revival God was ready and waiting to pour out on us. Are you holding your church back from experiencing the revival God is ready and waiting to pour out on you? Are you the blood clot to experiencing revival in your church or in your ministry?
You have as much of God as you want right now, and there is so much more of God to have. Revival doesn’t happen by accident. Yes, it’s something God does, but it’s also something we participate in. Repentance admits you’ve done wrong, confesses that sin, and walks in newness of life.
I don’t believe God is finished. He wants to do more—more in my church and yours, more in our communities, more in our lives. God is ready and waiting to send revival. But before He does that, there must be repentance—and repentance begins with you.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Robby is the senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He’s the founder of Replicate.org and is the author of several books, including Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples.