and the Coming Revival
by Mark Sandford
In 1977 my father, John Sandford, wrote The Elijah Task, which helped launched the contemporary prophetic movement. To address widespread confusion about what a prophet is, He also taught about the manifold functions of the prophetic office. He considered personal prophecy to be the least important function, but much to his dismay, this is what has been most featured in the prophetic movement.
In light of this, Maureen and I suspect that most persons commonly recognized as "prophets" are not prophets. We are not saying they are false prophets. Rather, they are persons with a strong gift, but not the office. Their efforts have been a blessing; they have reminded us that God still speaks to His people. But we sense that while they have been popularizing the gift, God has kept His actual prophets hidden and unknown. He has put them through decades of trials and tough training—the dark night of the soul, Job-like losses, and various other struggles—to break down pride and instill the humility, strength, and balance they’ll need to face the hard tasks ahead.
As it is, the prophetic movement isn’t ready for the hard tasks ahead. The call to repent is the most important prophetic function and one of the hardest of tasks, but too many prophetic leaders fail to model repentance themselves. False prophecies proliferate, and rarely is there an apology for harm inflicted, or even a retraction.
We are grateful for John Paul Jackson’s “Prophetic Ethics and Protocols” (see our website under “Prophetic Articles”), for never have we been more in need of healthy prophetic ministry. But healthy ministry can be done only by healthy leaders. To that end, my father helped launch another movement—the inner healing movement. It has been, and increasingly will be, indispensable in the spiritual formation and protection of many prophetic souls.
The spiritual outpouring that recently began at Asbury University highlights the need for healthy prophetic ministry. Many are asking, “Is this the beginning of the next ‘Great Awakening’”? If a call to repent is the foremost prophetic function as well as the key to any revival’s success and longevity, Maureen and I wonder how far this outpouring can go while so many watchmen are asleep on their watch.
One evening, I felt prompted to ask for a dream that would address our concerns. That night, I dreamt the following. It turned out to be less about revival than the need to reconcile the generations (although this is essential for any revival).
I was at one end of a town square, looking across at the opposite end at homes, businesses, and ministries that were the next generation's personal inheritances. Young people were using all these as living spaces, but they were about to abandon them because my generation had messed them up when we had lived in them. Before they could move out, I ran across the square and quickly cleaned a couple of the living spaces, to show them they could easily be cleaned and redeemed. The young people followed my example. they cleaned their homes, businesses, and ministries and continued to live in them.
Then I climbed into the backseat of a car on my end of the town square. It was much filthier than the living spaces. There were huge piles of dirty laundry in the front and back seats, and much trash. The next generation had been in the car and had already abandoned it, leaving it even dirtier than before (they had gotten their muddy, gritty boots on everything, especially the laundry). Although they had gone back to their “living spaces” just across the square, I knew that somehow, they were much farther away than before. I would have to go searching for them, and this time it would be harder to persuade them to return. But I knew that if we cleaned the car together, it would take them a long way, for it was still in perfect driving condition.
Through this dream, God was saying that I and others from my generation (especially those with a prophetic voice) can persuade young people not to abandon the inheritances we leave to them. But there was only one car, symbolizing their collective calling to “go places” as a generation. The car was on my end of the square because the ball is in my generation’s court. We will have to search out young hearts and persuade them to return to their calling. We’ll need to do more than just show them how to clean it up; we'll need to help them do it and encourage them to drive it into the future.
This can happen only with generational reconciliation. If we fail at that, or they fail to respond, we may persuade them to hang onto their inheritances, but that’s as far as they’ll go. A revival may slow down our culture’s relentless march toward Gomorrah, but it will not stop or reverse it. We must heed a prophetic call to turn our hearts toward our children and help guide them toward their collective destiny.
Soon after I had this dream, Maureen and I saw the movie, “The Jesus Revolution,” which echoed my dream’s message. The Jesus People started as a multigenerational movement when an older pastor, Chuck Smith, took young Lonnie Frisbee under his wing and helped him start an evangelism explosion. In one scene, while bare-footed hippies streamed into the church, Chuck’s generation sat segregated from Lonnie’s generation across an aisle like a yawning chasm. Soon, many of the old-timers walked out in disgust, leaving the church half empty. Only one elderly gentleman crossed the aisle to join the hippies. Eventually, even Chuck and Lonnie parted ways. My prophetic late brother Loren once told me that as powerful as the Jesus Movement was, it should have gone much further. It might have become another great awakening, had it involved more of our fathers and mothers. For all the good the movement did, it didn’t go far enough to heal what we called, “the generation gap.”
Now another generation is yearning for a move of God. The prospects are more hopeful and at the same time, more hopeless.
They are more hopeless because this generation is far more fatherless (and even motherless) than any generation before it, and our culture has lost its Judeo-Christian moral foundation. When young seeds fall on rocks instead of rich soil, they may spring up with joy but wither as soon as hardships come their way (as in the parable of the four soils, Matthew 13:20-21).
But the prospects are also more hopeful because more of us older men are seeking God. In the late nineteen-sixties, we of Lonnie’s generation saw churches largely populated with women; most of our fathers thought spirituality was a woman’s thing. My generation changed that. We were hungry for more. In our middle years we stayed hungry. As the name of a movement that began at that time implies, we yearned to become “promise keepers” for our wives and children. We still do.
Maureen and I have counseled many older men and more than a few older women who have endured seemingly endless trials like those to which God’s hidden prophets have been subjected. They have asked us, “Why is God taking me through this?” “Is there a purpose?” “Will it ever end?” The pain of the journey has made many of them too numb to look like they still care about becoming promise keepers, or to realize that God is ever so slowly bringing them out of the darkness into a lighter season. But when we tell them the reason for the trials, they revive. God is preparing them to plow the soil (and even to become the soil) in which young seeds will need to take root.
I am reminded of a survey in which it was found that, on average, when a child becomes a Christian, there is less than a four percent chance that the entire family will follow and become believers. When a mother converts, it is seventeen percent. When a father converts, it is ninety three percent!  What a clear confirmation that no revival can bear its best fruit unless the young and the old grow together. Young people (and especially young fathers and mothers) need us to do more than just sing alongside them in the anonymity of a crowded stadium. We are called to mentor, and more than that, to be fathers and mothers to a fatherless and motherless generation. This is especially true of those with a prophetic voice.
At the right moments, God will release His hidden prophets to help steward the joys that come with any mighty move of God and guide us all past the dangers that beset it. We may not always recognize these prophets, for they won’t claim lofty titles such as “Prophet so-and-so” or tout their spiritual exploits, as have so many before them. While influencing leaders behind the scenes, they’ll shun the public spotlight except when God clearly calls them forward. They will be content to just let Jesus shine. Their trials will have embossed upon their hearts the seal of profound humility and a deep knowing that everything they do must be about the Father’s love and helping others receive that love.
It must all simply be about His love.
Returning to the question, “Is the Asbury revival the start of the next great awakening?”, Maureen and I sense that the answer is “No.” God has more effective plans. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the First and Second Great Awakenings could spring up and spread more quickly because converts and repentant backslidden believers still had rich soil into which they could put down roots. Family life was still intact, and Judeo-Christian morals were nearly universally accepted. Not anymore. Therefore, if another “Great Awakening” comes in one giant wave, it will surely fail, for “when trouble or persecution come because of the word, they [will] quickly fall away” (Matthew 13:21, NIV).
We are like the Israelites to whom God said, “I will not drive out [your enemies] in a single year, because the [promised] land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you” (Exodus 23:29, NIV). We have a lot more lost ground to retake than our forefathers did. For that reason, we need a series of smaller revivals before we can experience “the big one.” The Asbury revival is one of these.
Each mini-revival will rain down upon the next generation more of the love they have missed and provide fathers and mothers (both biological and spiritual) with opportunities to reconcile with them and learn better how to mentor them and reconcile them with God.
Intervals between revivals will give us time to process what we are learning, and to cultivate richer soil.
Each mini-revival will also give prophetic voices more experience in calling us all to repentance, the hallmark of any true revival. They’ll become more adept at guiding us through the blessings revival begets and the stormy backlashes it provokes.
To do such work, healing is needed. As prayer counselors, Maureen and I have found that persons with a sensitive prophetic temperament are more easily bruised and tempted to disconnect their hearts from others. We’ll need to break self-protective strongholds and reconnect prophetic hearts to fulfill their prophetic potential in relationships within the family of the local church. Then, when they call parents to reconcile with children, they’ll broadcast that call with authenticity, for trials and healings will have made them compassionate fathers and mothers in Christ. They’ll be more equipped than their prophetic predecessors to work with other leaders in the fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). After surrendering personal ambitions and taking the posture of humble servants who crave no acclaim, they will carry palpable authority to call others to do the same.
There’s no reason to feel bad that what started at Asbury isn’t “the big one,” for in the long run, the fruit will be much more abundant. Someday, God willing, after successive smaller waves of revival, “the big one” will come. Hopefully, the time is soon! In any case, if we single-mindedly purpose to seek the simplicity of God’s love above all else and to lead a lifestyle of sincere repentance, revival and the prophetic work that guides it will all unfold in due time. And whether it comes sooner or later, the journey we take to get there will not disappoint us.