Pastor Gary Wilkerson recently talked to Think Eternity about revival, spiritual awakening, and how a younger generation views church today.
Wilkerson is the president of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the founding pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009. He now travels and works full-time with World Challenge and World Poverty Solutions.
The Q&A with Wilkerson is below.
Thinke: What is your definition of revival?
Gary Wilkerson: I would say it’s a quickening, an acceleration, and an intensification of all things that Christ desires of His children and His church to become. There’s things that are laid out for us as disciples of Christ in scripture, but oftentimes, we’re walking in them in such mediocre ways — oftentimes, in lukewarmness, half heartedness, lackadaisical and unconcerned ways.
When there’s a revival, I believe it’s the Holy Spirit coming in and recharging us to be alive again, to be awakened to the fullness that is available to us. That’s what I look at as revival being. It could be for an individual, or for Christian leaders, or for whole congregations that can then have an impact on whole communities, nations and around the world.
Thinke: How do you view the Asbury Revival (2023)?
Wilkerson: I’d like to answer that by first, asking a bigger question: How do I view revival as we’ve defined it here in America over the last several decades? Like the Toronto Outpouring, or the Brownsville Revival, or the Asbury Revival.
I think the Asbury Revival was different. I was a little bit more compelled to be interested in that [revival]. I’m not a huge fan of revivals that are only emotional. But the [Asbury Revival] seemed to bring more honor and glory to God, especially as a more Christ-centered, God-centered work that I think exceeds maybe so many things that have taken place in America in the last couple decades or last 30 to 50 years. But my personal walk with what’s happened in Asbury has been very encouraging for me. When Matt Brown [Think Eternity] asked me to be on his podcast and then interviewed me, he said, “What do you think about revival?” And my answer was, you know, I really don’t pursue [the subject of revival] that much. I’m more of a guy who [like] the Bible says, preach the Good News to the poor. Reach out to the lost. Pray for the sick. Live in Christian community. Pray daily. See people saved, get baptized, walk in obedience, and make disciples. So, my response to revival was, I don’t really care much about it. I just want to see the church function the way the church should function.
But then after talking to Matt and Zach Meekreebs, yes, all of a sudden, it’s like my heart started burning. The same thing happened when the two disciples were walking down the road to Emmaus and Jesus began to describe to them about himself and their hearts “burn within us while we talked.” (Luke 24:13-35)
[I reasoned that] all the things that I want, I could want for the rest of my life, but unless we see a move from God, unless we see an outpouring of the Spirit, an awakening, we will only see those bits and pieces. We’ll only see them in moderate forms rather than in the fullness that they saw in the book of Acts.
So, I would say to you, you’re not talking today to an expert on revival or someone who’s contended for it for the last 50 years of his life. You’re talking to someone who has always loved Jesus and wants to see His kingdom come but more lately seeing the need for revival in America, particularly as there’s a great spiritual decline. America has [previously] always had healthy churches. We were always growing and seeing more people coming into the family of Christ. But in the last 10-15 years that’s turned and now we’re seeing a very rapid spiritual decline.
Statistics prove that we’re headed downhill. My desire is to see the Bible preached, people getting saved and baptized, and a healthy community. That is what is still burning in my heart. But now, I see that revival can give us an opportunity to see the Holy Spirit come in such a way that it accelerates all those things that I’m longing for. Revival is all those things that I’m mentioning that are biblical, brought to a greater spiritual hunger in the hearts of believers. They actually become a reality rather than a desire.
Thinke: When you talk about spiritual awakening is that something different than revival?
Wilkerson: For some it might be a nuance, but for me, revival is something that takes place in the church. For somebody who’s dead like the dry bones of Ezekiel, you don’t revive dry bones so they become a little less dry (Ezekiel 37). They need to be brought to resurrection, life. So, it’s the Christian in the church that needs to be revived to become what the New Testament Christian is called to be. And then they are used by God to stir up in an awakening among the dry bones for the loss of their nation.
I believe that what God wants to do is not just for America, but globally to see nations begin to see great spiritual awakenings. However, the first thing is that He uses the church to be revived. [We start] seeing a revival among congregations, and then they start spreading the Gospel with the passion of the Lord and that brings the spiritual awakening.
Thinke: Do you sense that there is more urgency from people about finding a solution because of the times we live in?
Wilkerson: There’s something prior to that deep sense of urgency. What’s happening now is going to create the urgency which we’re right on the verge of seeing. That which is prior is a frustration with the way things are right now.
The generation that I’m seeing, [for example] through my sons who are in their thirties and are in the ministry as well, and among their peers, is that they are tired of church being a light show or a rock concert. What I’m hearing them say is: “We’re tired of pop star pastors, we’re tired of TED Talks. We want a move of God. We want to come to church and feel the holy presence of an awesome God. We want to hear a word from Heaven, from a man who has been soaked in the presence of God on his knees. In the Word coming out, bringing fire within. We want to live it out in fullness. We want to be radically devoted to Christ, to one another, to love.”
The urgency is being born out of what we have now is insufficient. What we have now is not what God wants us to have, and we need more. And that is stirring in this generation, the hunger for revival, for awakening, for God to move. They are saying that the way things are now is not sufficient. We need Him to come and bring a course change and correct us and let us fall on our faces and have repentance and renewal and come up to our feet alive in Christ.
We need the things of the Spirit to engage in culture and if we’re called into politics, or into business or into education systems, be salt and light to the world. Revival and spiritual awakening don’t end up just in churches with the congregation being a little bit happier that they’re closer to Jesus. It ends up really transforming communities and culture. The great outcome would be a great move of God.
This article originally appeared on Thinke.org and is reposted here by permission.