Several years ago my director of missions in Sherman, Texas told me about a revival he held with James Simple. His name was Norris Cash, and the flyer for the revival said in large bold letters, “Simple-Cash Revival.”
That was my favorite revival flyer until Tuffy Wiggly and I did a revival together and our flyer said, “Wiggly—Quigley Revival.” Needless to say, that flyer turned more than a few heads as it hung in the window of the local Piggly Wiggly. Revivals like these were bi-annual occurrences in most Southern Baptist churches, but today, many of our members have never experienced a revival or they only have faint memories from years past.
I recently read on social media a thread that began with a simple question “Who have you used recently to preach in revival?” That question got quite a few responses, and only a handful gave the inquirer the recommendation he was seeking. Most of the responders questioned why he would hold a revival, and others questioned whether “revivals” were still relevant.
I was deeply saddened by what I read. To be fair, I’ve also been saddened by the manipulation of emotions that some meetings have been confused as “revivals.” So, the question is real: Are revivals relevant today?
To answer the question of relevance, one should first define what is meant by the term, “revival.” The word deals with the idea of reviving. The process of reviving a church doesn’t happen in one day, four days or one week. It takes a longer period of time, and the amount of time depends on how serious the congregation is at being re-vitalized or, to use a new catch word, at being involved in “revitalization.”
Often times, revivals happen like this: the pastor looks at a slow time in the church and community (so that there is no competition for time). He then calls a good musician and finds one that is available for that time period and then begins asking preachers if they can work that week into their schedule.
When those things are in place, he will then tell his church that a revival is set for that date and hopes that his “revival team” is good enough on the first Sunday to bring them back for the remaining nights. When this is the plan, you don’t have revival; you have a meeting. In that meeting sometimes decisions are made, but most of the time church members only attend out of respect or duty.
I’m going to oversimplify the path to revival because I have a length limit on this article. However, I am certain you will understand that I’m proposing a journey, not describing a destination. The journey towards revitalization or revival, whichever description you want to use, begins with prayer, much prayer.
Andrew Murray said, “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution in history to world evangelism.” So the pastor must pray earnestly for a revitalizing of his congregation and of his life. Out of this prayer journey he invites other faithful men and women to join him in a concert of prayer. This prayer season may last for weeks or months and then spread throughout the church.
When the church has prayed, the path to revival becomes clearer for that congregation. For some, the next step may be a lay renewal weekend; for others it may be a call to Solemn Assembly, or it may be a time set aside for the church to be revived in a meeting called “revival.” What this period of time requires is for the body of Christ to seek holiness before God.
Then, this season of earnest prayer is followed by the powerful proclamation of the Gospel—proclaimed by the laity in the community and the pastor from the pulpit. The intended result is the Great Commission being lived out inside and outside the walls of the church. When this time comes, it often is followed by what is traditionally called a revival meeting, but I prefer to call it a crusade for souls (which of course is a natural occurrence since the church is proclaiming the Gospel all around the community). At this point the church is revitalized, and the mission of the church is restored. It is then clear to all that true revival has come.
Oh Lord, that you would begin a revitalization of your church in Oklahoma, and let that revival begin with me!