Fire That Could Jump Ocean – Revivalist Evan Roberts
Fire That Could Jump The Ocean – Revivalist Evan Roberts
“Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” (1 Kings 18:40)
What he said didn’t surprise me, but it did frustrate me a bit. I sat across the table from one of my oldest friends who pastors an Assembly of God congregation in the United States. If I’ve heard it said once, I’ve heard it said a thousand times before from ministers, some well-intended and some not well-intended, who are desperately trying to either be spiritual or just sound radical. He said to me this, “Tom, I want revival so badly, but I just want to be sure that it’s not us and it’s all God.” I understood what he was trying to say, but I couldn’t disagree more with how it was stated. In his attempt to “give God all the glory” he had missed the mark completely. He was speaking from his theology and not from the word of God.
As an avid student of revival church history, I’ve read every book I can get my hands on about revivals of the past, not to mention over twenty-five years of study in God’s word, which is packed with revival history from the beginning to the end. I could probably quote in my sleep dates, names, and the locations of revivals that you have never even heard about. Ask my wife, if we are traveling in a new town I will always stop to find out if there is a Christian bookstore just on the odd chance that it may be Charismatic and may carry revival books I’ve not yet read.
Quite honestly, in all my studies of great men and woman of God and of great and tremendous outpourings of renewals and revivals, I’ve never once read about how God did it without using men and women. That would be impossible. What is possible, however, is that an outpouring of revival is always ALL GOD and ALL MAN. That’s possible – it’s just how God designed it to be.
Evan Roberts understood this too. Evan prepared his heart in those early months, just prior to the revival, knowing that God needed a spark, a man, a deliverer, to ignite revival. There is and always has been a figurehead of every revival. They are the ones to carry the torch and lead the way. Does it always have to be led by a pastor? Certainly not. Look throughout history and you’ll see many examples of men and women who were evangelists, missionaries, worship leaders, and even teachers like Charles Parham, Evan Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, Charles and John Wesley, Billy Sunday, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Billy Graham, and many, many more. Yet, John Kilpatrick, the pastor of the Pensacola, Florida Revival and Steve Gray the pastor of the Smithton Outpouring in Smithton, Missouri both led two of the most recent revival outpourings of our generation, as pastors.
Sadly, history tells us that leadership, or lack of leadership, would eventually be the downfall of the Welsh Revival. This came through a constant barrage of words from various church leaders placing doubt in Roberts mind regarding his ability and authority to lead the outpouring.
While God was preparing young Evan in Europe His Holy fire was in full blaze with Brother Charles Parham across the ocean in America, who was carrying and sharing the fire from Kansas to much of the United States. Word began to spread worldwide about what was happening and when Evan heard about God’s goodness in the United States, his desire for the fire to reach into his nation only intensified. From 1901 to 1904 the fire was jumping the oceans of America and reaching other nations and people, including Wales.
On November 7, 1904 Mariah Chapel filled for a powerful prayer meeting that would last until the early morning hours of the following day. Filled to capacity the hungry were there to cry out to God for divine cleansing and to ask for Holy fire from Heaven. This was the famous prayer meeting when the Power of God rippled through those who had gathered and where Evan, being so burdened for the lost souls who would have to be “bent” on judgment day, he cried aloud the legendary prayer, “Bend us…bend us.” This revival prayer became a staple prayer prayed frequently in the Welsh Revival, but most especially by Evan himself.
“If sinners be dammed, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees.
Let no one GO there UNWARNED and UNPRAYED for.” — C. H. Spurgeon
In The Story of the Welsh Revival Roberts wrote:
“For a long, long time I was much troubled in my soul and my heart by thinking over the failure of Christianity. Oh! It seemed such a failure—such a failure—and I prayed and prayed, but nothing seemed to give me any relief. But one night, after I had been in great distress praying about this, I went to sleep, and at one o’clock in the morning suddenly I was waked up out of my sleep, and I found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the very presence of the Almighty God. And for the space of four hours I was privileged to speak face to face with Him as a man speaks face to face with a friend. At five o’clock it seemed to me as if I again returned to earth.”
Evan’s heart had been torn with the lost condition of his country and further broken as he witnessed how the effects of lifeless religion had ruined the people’s hunger for God. As he cried out to God he was amazed to learn how religion also broke the heart of God.
W.T. Stead wrote in his book, What I Saw In Wales: The Revival in the West:
“These people, all the people in a land like ours, are taught to death, preached to insensibility. They all know the essential truths. They know that they are not living as they ought to live, and no amount of teaching will add anything to that conviction…Revival is a rouser rather than a teacher.”
By now the Revival in Wales was accelerating. The blazing inferno was touching the lives of believers and churches, and it was also touching the lives of the lost in an unprecedented craze. Taverns went empty and soon bankrupt, drunkenness was almost unfound any longer, and when someone tried to drink the mug of ale it would stick, supernaturally, to the bar, leaving the person unable to drink the brew. During the revival there was a dramatic drop in illegitimate pregnancies and people were living in Christian holiness unlike the nation had ever witnessed.
“There are different kinds of fire; there is false fire. No one knows this better than we do, but we are not such fools as to refuse good bank notes because there are false ones in circulation; and although we see here and there manifestations of what appears to us to be nothing more than mere earthly fire, we nonetheless prize and value, and seek for the genuine fire which comes from the altar of the Lord.” — General William Booth
The Lost Found
The momentum of the Welsh revival was mounting and its flames were reaching the lost unlike they’d experienced in the United States under Charles Parham. It was gaining notoriety because of its emphasis on prayer and worship. And the fire was jumping oceans, denominations, doctrinal differences, genders, and race. Everyone, it seemed, was being affected by its flame, which appeared to be inextinguishable. It literally engulfed all who would embrace or come near to it. The eyewitnesses near Mariah Chapel would often see a flame flickering on top of the church steeple causing some to think that the church was literally burning. Some people testified that they would slip into the back of the churches to see what was going on, and although they started watching from the back of the church, within moments they were swept to the altar for salvation and soon they had become the ones worshiping and crying aloud for the fire to touch others.
For thirteen months this fire grew at a phenomenal rate and in that short period of strong worship and prayer they saw the entire country saved. Previous to this, all the church programs combined couldn’t dent the hardness of society nor could it show any relevance to the lost condition of mankind. If programs were the Savior for your nation they would have already won the whole of the world to Christ. Church programs do little more than exploit and extract time, efforts, energy and money, leaving the people indifferent and untouched by the raw and real power of God. If extravagant, heartfelt, passionate worship and prayer did it in the book of Acts and in the country of Wales then it can and will do the same in your church, your town, and in your nation. Cannot God’s power break the bands of wickedness and lifeless religion once again for us?
This aggressive flame grew to overwhelm the world in a little over a year’s time. Many speculate as to why the fire ended as abruptly as it had started. One of the greatest influences on its conclusion was a woman named, Jessie Penn-Lewis, who inducing Evan to step down from leading the revival. Due to her unwise influence, Evan believed that by stepping away as its leader it would cause the fire to rage even higher and broader. Instead, his resignation quenched the fire. It was a firestorm in need of a leader. Unfortunately, Evan learned the hard lesson that God needed him for the revival as much as Evan needed God for the revival.
Evan Roberts remained a lover of revival throughout his life. He continued to live and pray for revival until his death in 1951 where he was buried on January 20th just behind Mariah Chapel, the place where it all began. Hundreds of people attended his memorial service to honor Evan for the life he had brought to the country of Wales and to the world. The last entry found written in his journal was one simple word, “ill.”
-Excerpt from, Fire That Could Jump The Ocean by Tom Scarrella (Chapter 4)