Revival in Pennsylvania
A short history of the Moving of God's Spirit in 1981-1982
By Don Lamb
Let me share with you briefly the "revival" or powerful quickening from 1981-1982 here in central Pennsylvania.
During 1979, my senior year in high school (I was 18), about 20 of us were meeting for Bible study every morning at the high school. The ministry and message of Keith Green stirred us during that time. Keith was producing Finney material now and then in the Last Days Newsletter. We would actually read some of this material for the Bible studies in the mornings. (This was a public high school.)
After we graduated that summer we continued to pray and meet together. Then an article came along in the Last Days Newsletter called "The Revival in Rome New York." We were blown away how in the article God so powerfully worked in that small town under the ministry of Finney. One of the leaders of our group realized that Keith edited this article from Finney's Autobiography. So he went out and bought a copy.
To this day, I'll never forget this guy coming over to my house and how he would read chapter after chapter to me and we would weep as the Spirit fell on us revealing how much we were missing God in our own lives and in the Churches we were attending. Well this snowballed and our whole group was greatly impacted.
After many months of searching, learning, and growing it was in the middle of reading Finney's Systematic Theology and specifically in his lecture on Sanctification dealing with the offices and ministries of Christ that I was stunned by the revelation of how my sin really affected Jesus. I realized how personally responsible I was for Him dying on the cross and how He was so willing to become the bearer of my judgment so that I could live in peace. This was a "soul crisis" for me. I realized that all of my prior actions, even the "Christian" ones, had been done for selfish reasons and were never acceptable to the Lord.
I lay on the floor a long time weeping uncontrollably realizing how sick it was of me, to claim Christ, while all along serving myself. This was when I finally came through into a radical conversion. Everything before that was a facade. I was blown away that Jesus would actually be willing to take me back in His arms after all those years of intense religious hypocrisy. I was powerfully ministered to by the Sprit in ways I never dreamed possible.
Many others began to come into this quickening. I think this encounter with the Lord was in the spring of 1981. God stirred us all that year. I still struggled with sin during that time but I realized what it was now and never excused it as I had before.
Keith passed away in that awful plane crash the following summer in 1982. Our group was still growing and wrestling through how to walk with a greater yieldedness to the Lord and how to labor for genuine revival. The vision was deeply embedded in us from the accounts we read in Finney's Autobiography. By that point in time we had purchased almost every book you could get on Finney.
The climax of this revival season came in September 1982 when our whole group went on a retreat. It was on this retreat that I could honestly say I had my first "corporate" encounter with the Holy Spirit.
We did the usual lessons, teachings, and so forth like any other retreat. But during the one evening while I was teaching a lesson on the subject of the conditions for revival a discussion on "saving faith" erupted and something began to happen. A spiritual battle started to ensue. Some in our group were still in this "intellectual faith" mode and didn't realize it. A heated dialogue followed about how faith is a "choice" not a thought or even an acknowledgment of a doctrine as true, but it is choosing to live for Jesus because He is real and deserves our all.
Well things deteriorated during the discussion time, even to the point that a brother stood up and emphatically said, "If you are sitting there just believing something in your mind about God but you are not living for Him, you do not have faith." Well that didn't go over very well, so some got up and walked out. I felt the meeting was a total disaster but later realized that God emboldened this brother to make the "point" the only way it had to be made, because many among us were deceived.
The meeting was dismissed and we were roaming around sharing our thoughts, when all of the sudden, one of the young ladies, who was probably the most antagonistic toward this challenge from the brother, came running into the room. Her face was beaming, tears streaming down her cheeks and she was telling us, "I get it." "I see what faith is." "I realized I wasn't choosing to follow God." "I get it, faith is a radical choice." And other words close to that effect.
Well, we were blown away that someone could leave a meeting fuming mad and in the next half-hour come back transformed. The Spirit was falling all over the grounds of the retreat center.
We walked into one of the dorm rooms and the presence of God was so evident that we all fell on our faces seeking the Lord for deeper cleansing. Everyone was weeping and confessing sin to one another.
This was the "real deal." We were all melted. God was giving us a taste of what He can do through humble, contrite, and willing hearts. Sadly we had too little experience with this kind of work in the Spirit to know what to do. We didn't know how to follow up this kind of work, and continue to fan it with prayer and consecration. The work slowly ebbed away until months later we were all back in our respective churches trying to seek for revival with structures and leaders who didn't know how to receive us or posture themselves to enter into a deeper work.
Now it's twenty years later and I believe in mercy God is revealing Himself again to this generation. I thank God for the life of Keith Green and Charles Finney who in a significant way under the renewing work of the Spirit gave us all a taste of what it means to be radically sold out to the Lord.