CT: What is the East African revival, and why has it lasted over forty years?
Bishop Festo Kivengere: Can I explain? This is a question I have been asked repeatedly for over twenty-five years, and all I have ever been able to do is to share what I have seen. The only explanation I can give is that it is God’s work. It is not a technique. It is a movement that cannot be contained. It is renewal within renewal. It is an attitude toward the Lord, toward the Bible, toward the fellowship, and toward the Spirit. It has always been open to a fresh touch.
CT: What does this revival mean to the people involved in it?
FK: It is when Christ becomes a living, risen Lord in the life of a believer. For the non-believer, it is when he is brought into a confrontation with Christ and accepts him as Savior, thus completely changing his life morally and socially. In other words, revival is when Christ becomes alive in a life, changing that life. The person is born again, and if he has previously had that experience, then his life is changed in such a way that it affects all his relationships.
CT: Is it visible to an outsider?
FK: Absolutely! Go back to a village a week after a man comes to the Lord in a meeting in the market. The whole village knows something about it. He has paid the debts he owes. He has gone to people he hated and said, “I’m sorry. I’m a changed man.” He has apologized or asked for forgiveness. He’s now telling them what Christ means to him. He has carried his new belief into his business practices. In other words, it isn’t something he sits on as a comfortable experience. If anything, it is terribly uncomfortable.
CT: How has this differed from other revivals in history?
FK: It may be the continued willingness of those who have been revived to be renewed by the Spirit of God. At the Kabale convention last year, celebrating the fortieth year of the revival in that area, we heard up-to-date testimonies from people who were brought to Christ as early as 1930. They had tremendous freshness; yet they had been winning souls for thirty-five or forty years. They have remained open to what the Spirit may want to say to them in the present situation. They learned that when they got into a rut God had to turn them out of it so that they could breathe again. The tendency to get into certain patterns can stifle the work of the Spirit and create pockets of hardness. Continued breaking and bringing new streams of life have been the means God has used.
“The Revival that was and is: an interview with Festo Kivengere,” Christianity Today, 21 May 1976, pages 10-11.
Revival is Obedience
We call a lot of things "revival" these days. But Bishop Festo Kivengere, whom I heard speak in 1976, knew revival. Here, in a 1976 interview with Christianity Today (which I found on Ray Ortlund's blog) Bishop Kivengere describes the decades-long East African revival...and puts in perspective some of our pitiful so-called "revivals":