Author: Dr. Gary Maxey
Reviewer: Naomi Omoruyi
Publisher: WATS Publication
Dr. Gary Maxey is an American who has been in Nigeria since 1982. He is well qualified to write on the history of revival in Nigeria. Though he did not experience the early revivals, his interactions with church leaders as the founder of two seminaries including West Africa Theological Seminary and Calvary Bible College puts him at a vantage position to capture the history of revivals in Nigeria. In his book, Capturing a lost Vision: Can Nigeria’s revival live again?
In this book, Dr Maxey ignites the hunger and desire for a revival as it happened in the -civil war era. He skillfully paints the picture of the Nigerian Civil war revival in the 1960s and 1970s, filling the blanks with eyewitnesses accounts and very thorough research.
He provides a stunning picture of what transpired during Nigeria’s greatest revival; while also appealing to the Church to see where it has been, be awakened and arise beyond where it is.
The book begins with an introduction by Bayo Famonure. He writes that “The beauty of this book is the fact that it proffers solution and a way forward…without thrashing the efforts visible in the modern church movement.”
A foreword by the author himself mirrors the same fact. This book,” he says, “is not a repetition or summary of what has already been said by first-hand participants or historians but the raising of a question…is it possible for national revival to live again in Nigeria?”
He gives a brief yet explicit background to the Nigerian civil war revival. He also captures the six stages-as it were-of Christianity in Nigeria in the volume. The civil war revival in Nigeria he classifies in the fifth stage, a stage characterised by the evangelical movement and later on the charismatic movement.
He goes on to describe the role of the Scripture Union in the revival as strategic. “The Scripture Union” according to him played a preparatory role in the revival. Through its persistent teaching, preaching and literature, it taught an entire generation of Nigerian youth the importance of Christian discipleship, the concept of quiet time for personal devotion…with a strong focus on serious prayers and evangelism”.
Maxey also shows us excerpts from the lives of the 13 ‘foot soldiers’ especially before and during the revival, beginning with a closer look at the three expatriates who played significant roles in the revival.
One of them is Tony Wilmot, who was at the forefront of the shift of the Scripture Union’s approach from being church-based to school-based. Sydney G. Elton, who mentored the charismatic revival and movement. And then, Bill Roberts, who was most instrumental in the emergence and progress of the civil war revival in its earliest stages in eastern Nigeria.
Also mentioned were other ministers who stood at the periphery but were instrumental in the progress of the revival; Evang. A. U. Inyang, Geoffrey Numbere, Benson Idahosa and W. F. Kumuyi.
In western Nigeria, Mike Oye, who was the first indigenous travelling secretary of the Scripture Union. Wilson Badejo, who was one of the champions the Pentecostal convictions in the revival. Francis Wale Oke, Cosmas Ilechukwu who though were latecomers to the revival are also important witnesses and participants. The latter being the most important link bridging the gap between the revival and the catholic charismatic renewal.
In the East, Cyril Okorocha was at the centre stage in the heart of the revival. He is also an example of one who chose to carry the flame of revival back to his own denomination. Raphael Okafor, who continued to fan the flames of revival in the immediate aftermath of the war. Paul Nwachukwu, who represents the transition from revival fire to the institutionalizing of the movement.
He also writes about Austen Ukachi, who has continued to stir up prayers and consultations along the line of revival and has also written voluminously on the inter-relationship between Pentecostalism and revivals in Nigeria between 1914 and the end of the century. Uzodinma Obed, Reuben Ezemadu and Alexander Ekewuba. These were first-hand participants in the revival and are still burning with the same zeal and passion today. (Obed Uzodinma is late}
In the North, William Okoye who because of the devastation and despair from the war sought the Lord and is still burning with the zeal today. Peter Ozodo, who through the NYSC system carried the gospel to the North.
The author writes also on the nature of the vision that propelled the revival. He identifies the foundational strength of the revival as an unapologetic and unadulterated focus on the preaching of the salvation message, “you must be born again”. This had never before happened in Nigeria; for the first time in the history of the Nigerian Church, there was a sizeable clean break from the African traditional religion mindset.
The revival was characterized by holiness, love of the Bible and prayer. And although signs and wonders were not the emphases they were very much evident in the revival.
Moreover, he goes ahead to show us the causes of the death of the revival. Along the way in the pentecostalization of the movement, experience soon trumped sound theological teaching and fanaticism emerged unchecked. Also, loss of integrity in leadership and a vying for leadership positions distracted men from the main focus of the revival. Moreso, denominationalism and materialism led to disunity among believers leading to the demise of the revival.
Maxey further espouses the way we can see a revival again. He says that we must first of all understand the biblical definition of revival as being an experience of deep repentance and change of life. It is about men being set on fire for God and driven by the passion to go and win others to the Lord. He lets us know that we must first recognize our need.
He quotes Francis Wale Oke, “Our church leaders must acknowledge the need for revival.” he also emphasizes a return to the word of God. Furthermore, he points out a vital link to true revival as visible all through history; prayer. Also, he says, “revival is about the dead coming to life” insisting that we must refocus on the new birth and sanctification. He posits that signs and miracles will definitely follow the preaching of the truth.
The book runs through about 283 pages with eight chapters. It is written in simple straight forward English that makes it intelligible for readers. The wealth of information in the book makes it an enduring legacy for the Church. It is undoubtedly a great addition to the body of knowledge for Christians and indeed for those who are keen about experiencing another round of revival in Nigeria
The Book is available online @ Amazon.com. Find the link: https://www.amazon.com/Capturing-Lost-Vision-Nigerias-Greatest/dp/9789532873
It can also be purchased at the West Africa Theological Seminary, Ipaja, Lagos or contact Thomas on +234- (0)802-331-9553 or +234(0)9015726683 to buy copies