Revival vs. Transformation: Exploring the Paths to Spiritual Growth in the NZ Church

I’ve been contemplating the idea of revival lately. It seems to be a recurring theme, especially now. For example, we’ve seen the Asbury University revival, and the combined churches event on Sunday night emphasized the importance of revival in a lengthy message. While Mark Sayers prefers the term “renewal” over “revival,” the focus of his church and ministry is undeniably on renewal. Hillsong Young & Free’s song “Lord Send Revival” (undoubtably a banger) and Souvenirs Worship’s revival-themed song “Here & Now (Nau Mai Rā)” from Wellington further illustrate this trend.

There’s no question that the themes of revival and renewal are deeply embedded in Scripture. New life, born-again living, redemption, salvation, and the Holy Spirit’s power are all central concepts. God desires to bring fullness of life to the world, and this undoubtedly involves spiritual revitalization and renewal. The term “vivify,” meaning “to breathe life into,” is essential to understanding the concept of revival. God breathing life into us is, without a doubt, central and necessary.

Sometimes, though, the focus on revival can feel overwhelming. I’ve been pondering other words or concepts that could express our confident faith in God’s new work within and through the Church. One such word is “transformation.” Let’s explore both “revival” and “transformation” and compare their distinct implications and connotations in a church context.


  1. Revival denotes a reawakening or resurgence of religious fervor and spiritual interest, characterized by increased worship, prayer, evangelism, and spiritual experiences.
  2. It emphasizes emotional and experiential aspects of faith, such as worship, prayer, and individual encounters with the divine.
  3. In a church context, revival often aims to restore spiritual vitality within the congregation, leading to a heightened sense of community and shared religious experiences.
  4. Revivals can be temporary and cyclical, with periods of increased spiritual activity followed by decline or stagnation.
  5. The concept of revival suggests returning to a previous state or rekindling something once present but diminished over time.


  1. Transformation refers to a thorough, lasting change in the form, nature, or character of something, such as a church or an individual’s faith.
  2. It encompasses a broader scope of change, including not just emotional and experiential aspects but also structural, organizational, and cultural elements.
  3. In a church context, transformation involves reevaluating and potentially reshaping established beliefs, practices, and structures to adapt to a changing cultural landscape and address contemporary challenges.
  4. Transformation aims for sustainable, long-term growth, focusing on lasting change rather than temporary or cyclical fluctuations in spiritual activity.
  5. The concept of transformation implies progression or evolution, moving beyond a previous state to something new and more vibrant.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Is the excitement surrounding revival, as seen on Sunday night, warranted? Or is it overdone? How do you feel about the description of transformation provided here? Most importantly, what do you believe the Holy Spirit is saying to the church today? Drop a comment below and join the conversation!

Tom Mepham

Tom Mepham is the full-time minister of Student Soul. He received his Diploma in Ministry from the Knox Centre of Ministry and Leadership in December 2019, prior to which he graduated with a Bachelor of Theology from Otago University in 2017. He is a member of the Southern Presbytery, part of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Tom is also a writing and performing musician and you can keep up with his explorations at his website.

Comments (6)

  • Love your thoughts, Tom! So what we really need is a transforming revival?!

    What is God saying to the church you ask – I think we can’t go past the timeless commandment to love God with ALL our heart, mind and soul, but what this actually looks like may be different depending on who you talk to!

  • kia ora Steve. Nice mash up! I love that. And also… what about a reviving transformation? (lol, word play).
    I appreciate that word. Thanks for your input bro

  • very often people confuse Revival as an experience with Revival as the means of transformation. Irember aa wise old anglican minister telling me the signs of a true revival were not the razzle dazzle, but things like (he listed seven) a fresh devotion to the word of God, renewal of worship, a deepening of prayer life, a desire for unity, a care for the lost and evangelism, a care for the poor and disadvantaged. If we were to look at Acts chapter 2 you have the experince of pentecost in the first part of the passage and then in the summary of the life of the church in jerusalem you have the signs of a genuine move of God displayed (Acts 2:42-47). the problem I feel in the use of the word revival is we equate it with the experince where as Tom you are wanting to see the transformation. ‘ Holy Spirit Come’.

  • Kia Ora Tom, I think the weight of the New Testament is definitely toward transformation- in face that’s the whole point of following Jesus. Of course there will be occasional highlights & dramatic steps forward along the way – but these are the cherries on top of the icing on top of the cake – they’re not the cake. Or the bread.

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