Body of Christ

What is Revival? 8 — The Body of Christ Revitalised (Part 1)

18 December 2023

7.5 MINS

At the conclusion of the previous instalment in this series, I covered the fourth phase of David Bryant’s seven major phases of historical revival from his 1995 book, The Hope at Hand: National and World Revival for the Twenty-First Century. This brings us to the next phase:

“5. Revitalization. The church experiences renewal through the unleashing of the fruits of the Spirit, renaissance through the unleashing of the gifts of the Spirit, and the ensuing renovation of the very programs and structures of the church to fit in with God’s new day for His people. All of this brings forth a revived community that is experiencing in greater measure “the fullness of the stature of Christ” along with greater maturity in worship, discipleship, and ministry for Christ.”

In this phase, I see the following progression from the previous two. Phases 3 and 4 speak of the immediate impact of divine visitation. And that visitation bears fruit in renewed hope, zeal and spiritual maturity. This is the logical consequence of revived intimacy, which is the outcome of the Holy Spirit ministering through both His purifying fire and His superabundant love. These are what result in the revitalisation of the Body of Christ, through revived devotion and even greater hunger for God’s will and purposes to be revealed and fulfilled.

This is what leads to the renewal of the fruits of the Spirit. These, after all, are the consequence of maturity. When you think of a child, these attributes which we know as the fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB), are absent. But over time, and through parental nurture and positive discipline, these attributes are developed.

This is what we find in strong families, where children not only respect their parents, but also behave like their parents. They likewise respect other people and behave in a responsible and respectful manner wherever they go. In this way, they promote honour and respect for their families.

In the same way, when the Body of Christ enters into the renewal produced by divine visitation, through a more consistent expression of those fruits of spiritual maturity, then the world around us will look on with renewed interest and admiration.

Spread the Love

I’ve written previously about a book I read at the beginning of this year, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire by Professor Alan Kreider. A significant part of the “improbable rise” was the fact that the church of the 2nd and 3rd centuries had no formal plan for evangelisation.

In fact, there’s hardly anything in the writings of the Church Fathers about it. As there were frequent waves of persecution, the massive increase in their numbers over that period came about through one-on-one interactions as they went about their daily lives within that hostile Pagan culture.

Kreider expresses it this way:

“Scholars have seen the church’s growth as coming about through something modest: ‘casual contact’. Contact could come about in innumerable ways through the translocal networks of family and profession in which most people participated.

Masters interacted with slaves; residents met neighbours; and above all believers networked with relatives and work colleagues. In all these relationships, “affective bonds” were formed.

The most reliable means of communicating the attractiveness of the faith to others and enticing them to investigate things further was the Christians’ character, bearing, and behaviour.” (Emphasis mine)

In relation to this, he quotes Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, writing in 256:

“Beloved brethren, we are philosophers not in words but in deeds; we exhibit our wisdom not by our dress, but by truth; we know virtues by their practice rather than through boasting of them; we do not speak great things but we live them.” (Emphasis mine)

Elsewhere, Kreider notes:

“Non-Christians observed Christians and scrutinised them; they were aware of the Christians’ character and behaviour. According to Tertullian, they said, ‘Look… how they love one another… and how they are ready to die for each other.’”

Even though few, if any, of us can claim to have experienced persecution in the same way as the early church (although our culture is becoming increasingly antagonistic in many respects), nevertheless, we need to understand that this maturing of the fruit of the Spirit will not be an instant outcome of a divine visitation. It is only achieved through our resistance against the pressure from the surrounding culture, however mild or intense that pressure is now.


One consequence, though, of divine visitation is a “supercharging” of both vision and passion, and the ability to see farther and aim higher.

Just like elite athletes, the only way to reach that elite level is by means of resistance training over many years. As they grow and mature, they increase the resistance in their weight training. They run longer distances. They reduce the time gaps in effort training. And when they reach an elite level, they don’t just do the same thing over and over. They need to continue to “push the envelope” to achieve the best possible result.

As Paul instructs us:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly; I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air; but I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NASB)

It’s the same with spiritual maturity. In fact, it’s even more so. That’s because the One who is our focus is at a level we cannot attain in this life. So, we are like the apostle Paul, who tells us of his goal:

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10 NASB)

Then, he outlines what he does in pursuit of that goal:

“Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB)

Paul is saying that he has counted the cost and values his “prize” in the same way as the man who discovered the “pearl of great price” in Matthew 13:45-46, that there is nothing that we enjoy in this world that is worth holding onto by comparison.

These two worship songs sum this up beautifully:

In the next verse, he instructs us that “all who are mature” should “have this attitude”. As maturity is a gradual process, as we grow and mature in our faith, we should be growing and maturing in these fruits of the Spirit. And it should be visible to others. This again raises the analogy of family. Joshua Butler, in his book Beautiful Union, explains it this way:

“Jesus does not simply call us into a one-on-one relationship with God but into a family ruled by grace: the “household of God”. We are brothers and sisters – such language saturates the New Testament – who are to treat an older man in the church “as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters”. when we’re born into the kingdom, we become not only subjects or citizens, but siblings.

We’re family because we share God as Father. the Father invites you into intimacy.”

If we held that attitude as a principle for our lives, how could we not grow into spiritual maturity?

Spiritual Gestation

In relation to this, and again to Kreider’s book, I was amazed to read about how new converts in the early church were not admitted into full fellowship until they had undergone at least three years of catechism, which involved teaching and memorisation of Scripture, until what Kreider calls “habitus” is formed. This is how he describes “habitus”:

“… the knowledge that truly forms us is more profoundly a part of us than our intellectual knowledge. It is ‘corporeal knowledge’, a ‘system of dispositions’ that we carry in our bodies… Habitus is reinforced by story, the little stories of our family and community as well as the big stories that undergird our culture. Habitus is further formed by example by our parents, peers, and role models – people who have authority in our life.”

Kreider provides a list of the various purposes of catechism. Some were pertinent to that time and culture, but these, I believe, represent a solid basis for promoting the kind of maturity through imitation of apostolic leadership that Paul encourages. First and foremost was transforming their “habitus”.

Among the goals Kreider identifies were: avoiding idolatry, learning the “master narrative”, learning the teachings of Jesus, memorising Bible passages, imitating role models, and fostering a culture of peace.

If you think about this in relation to revival, I believe this will be a necessity in the future, particularly when we live within a culture that social commentator Mal Fletcher describes as having moved beyond the post-Christian stage and all the way around to what he describes as “pre-Christian” (more of Fletcher in a subsequent article).

It’s not as though there are no present-day models. As we’re informed by The Gospel Coalition:

“Almost every denomination and tradition in church history has used some form of catechesis for the religious education of Christian children and adults: Lutherans (Luther’s Small Catechism), Presbyterians (Westminster Shorter Catechism), Baptists (Keach’s Catechism), Catholics (the Catechism of the Catholic Church), Anglicans (The Book of Common Prayer’s Catechism), and so on.”

As this teaching produces the growth of “habitus” in us (because no matter how long we’ve been Christians, we should regard this as a vital aspect of our lives), we also develop that passion that comes from intimacy. So, when Paul tells us that “all who are mature” should “have this attitude”, that also should inspire the desperation I wrote about in the previous article.

Because, in a real way, we are in training to be elite spiritual athletes, just like Paul wrote about to the Philippians. Because he wasn’t big-noting himself. He was instructing us to follow his example, to have this attitude. And that is what Paul identifies as “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.

He also describes how his sole focus in life, to which everything else is surrendered, is to “take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus”.

He is literally a man possessed, and he’s modelling that for us.

And when we follow his example, then we can focus on being the fulfilment of Bryant’s “revived community that is experiencing in greater measure “the fullness of the stature of Christ” along with greater maturity in worship, discipleship, and ministry for Christ.”

But before that, we need to examine the parallel to the unleashing of the fruits of the Spirit, which is the unleashing of the gifts of the Spirit, the topic of the next instalment.


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko.

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  1. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 20 December 2023 at 2:58 am - Reply

    A beautiful picture of a family praying and eating together. The average person no longer prays which is why Australia is “going down the shute “!

    • Kim Beazley 20 December 2023 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      The average Australian has never prayed. That’s why they’re average Australians and not Christians.

      And I’m pleased you liked the picture. In fact, I too am constantly impressed by the photos accompanying, not just my articles, but all of them. But I hope even more that you engaged with and appreciated the article.

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