Now, if you are talking about evangelistic crusades that assumption might be right. It seems that people today tend to respond more positively to relational evangelism. But when we are talking about reviving - bringing new life to a body of believers, real revival has never been more important. And revival meetings can be an effective part of real revival!
As a minister who's served churches for over 25 years - big ones, small ones, old ones, new ones, traditional ones, and modern ones - let me give you my top five reasons over the next five days just why your congregation should still be holding revival meetings.
#5 - Revival meetings give your congregation something to promote
Let's face it, we know all the best-selling books are all about being "missional". We are encouraged to "take the church to the people" rather than bringing people to church. And that's a fantastic transition that needs to happen. However, Sunday morning is still a time when unchurched people who are just curious enough and hungry enough about Jesus will show up at your church. So why not get those folks that way if you can. A revival meeting can have that "open house" effect. "Here is something we are inviting the public to!" Put it on your website (Don't have one of those? Check here www.livechurchsolutions.org), list it in the paper, or put it on a good ol' poster - but promote your congregation!
Yes, we know the public is invited every Sunday. But you'd be surprised at the number of people I've met who have asked, "Is it 'OK' if I come to your church Sunday?" In this postmodern world, church can be seen as a club where those who aren't members might not be welcomed. (I wonder why anyone would have that idea?) Think about attending a club to which you'd not been invited. Would you just show up?
Speaking of invitations, revivals are an opportunity for your members to invite friends and neighbors. It's something different, special, or exciting. It's a great speaker (I'm partial, but I like these guys www.rocksolidministries.org), some fantastic music (This guy is awesome www.facebook.com/ Superfantasticproductions), or a great kids' program. But it's something your people can get behind and ask their friends, family, and neighbors to come to.
#4 - Revival meetings can forge an attitude or method of teamwork.
The greatest amount of teamwork our congregation puts forth is when we are holding a revival meeting. To sit back and “hold a revival” by plopping down in a pew a few nights and letting some different preacher “blather on” is not going to bring real revival! Even to sit back and look for God to do all the work will not. Bringing revival means work. I’ll talk more about the kind of work it takes in another one of these blogs. But one kind is just practical. Someone needs to keep the nursery. Someone needs to do a little phone calling to get the folks out. And let’s not forget, we’ve got to eat! Some of the best parts of a revival meeting are the times of table fellowship after the evening’s service. It is here that conversations with folks can go deep into how the evening’s message impacts their life as individuals. All this work means that we’ve got to come together as a team.
In our church, our revival teams were led by our minister and elders. Everyone that had attended at least once or twice in the last six months was put onto a team. We began by placing people into one of four categories:
1) Those who seldom show up.
2) Those who only show up (They weren’t really building relationships with anyone, nor did they serve in the congregation. They just “showed up”.)
3) Those who showed up and either were building relationships or serving.
4) Those who did all three.
Then, each category of people was divided equally among the team leaders. This way, each team had a relatively equal amount of people they could count on to help, and/or encourage to “get back into church”. Each team took the responsibilities necessary for each night of the revival. Since we had 4 elders and 1 minister, it worked nicely for a five service revival meeting.
The best thing about it, however, was not that each evening’s responsibilities were fulfilled. With lists of people already in place, each leader continued to utilize these people for other service projects, and - most importantly - they served as shepherding lists. The categories served as “spiritual thermometers”. Many once-and-a-while attenders actually moved up the scale to build relationships with others or get involved in serving the church – all because of the teamworkforged in holding a revival meeting.
#3 - Revival meetings bring encouragement to your church staff.
This can be especially true if you are part of a small church where the staff may only be one or two people. Revivals don't just breath new life into a body of follwers, but inspire the leaders to new heights.
A good revival preacher is not just a "preacher" with no experience in the trenches of ministry. A well-chosen speaker will be one who has been or still is in the localized pulpit ministry. He will not only bring weighty messages of encouragement and possibly conviction to the congregation at large, but he will be a sympathetic friend to the staff. Once when I was a very young minister, a visiting revivalist took me golfing. Playing golf was a luxery that I, as a young minister, could not afford. Though I was not, and never did become, much of a golfer, I did enjoy a time of relaxation and activity while I and the visiting evangelist talked over the needs of my congregation and the struggles I was having. Some might have looked on it as wasted time, but it was an investment that probably bought that church more years of uninterrupted ministry.
Visiting revival preachers almost always made good friends to my children. They made connections with them. They know what it is like being a preacher's kid: whose life is under the microscope, who always arrives at church an hour early, and who is always first in line to pick up whatever needed duty or chore around the church that someone has left undone on Sunday. Our kids always looked forward to revival time.
I remember being in one particularly tough period of ministry when a music group who was helping out at our revival brought me that same kind of encouragement. I was about twenty-five and the members of the group - five of them - were approximately the same age. In a congregation that didn't have many of that age, I had five instant friends for a week that invited me to go places and do things with them. I have never been so sad to see part of a revival team leave my church. I don't remember who the speaker was that week, but I was surely revived by the music group.
It's not that congregations don't care about how their minister is doing emotionally - it's just that they don't often think about it and wouldn't know what to do for their minister if they did. Visiting evangelists KNOW. And we care
#2 - Revialists often repeat what God has been saying to your congregation in new (or at least newly heard) ways.
Sometimes when an evangelist would visit for a revival meeting with our congregation, he would try to "cheat" a little. He might ask something like, "Is there anything your congregation really needs to hear? Is there anything you need me to say or reinforce?" I never offered anything more than a request to bring the messages that the Holy Spirit was leading him to bring. In my experience, that has been more than enough!
Let me explain what I mean. Many times I have sat in a group of preachers from our region of the country and the conversation has turned to what we had been preaching. And, often, we were all preaching the same thing. Maybe we were preaching from a different "angle" or using a different scripture, but the message was very - sometimes even eerily - similar! Am I naive to believe that because the Church at large in a culture is dealing with many of the same struggles, it will receive from it's Head the same message when we all care enough to ask for Him for it? What it boils down to is this: when the local preacher is seeking God's desire for his preaching, and the revival evangelist is doing the same, the evangelist's message will reinforce what God has been saying in the local pulpit. This may or may not be even noticed. It was always a bittersweet moment to hear a leader in my congregation espousing the "great understanding and wisdom" of the evangelist's words. Bittersweet because I often walked away thinking, "I've been saying that for two months! (Or two years!)"
Hey! Just so people get the message, right? Revivals help with that!
The very most important reason that I can think of that your congregation should still be holding revival meetings is this:
# 1 - Revival meetings reprioritize ministry
We all know that there is a tendancy to lose sight of what we are really trying to accomplish in the Church. In the name of "reaching the lost", we worry about the quality of our sound, the lighting, the building, the air conditioning, or the bathrooms. We strive to have "relevant" outreach and service to the community. We look for the best Sunday School curriculums and read the latest from the mega-preachers' ministries and feel pressure to emulate.
Why? What methods and tools did Jesus and His disciples use?
Their method of ministry was preaching the Word of God and prayer. The tools? The Word of God in whatever form they had - Old Testament scroll, the Holy Spirit's inspiration, or their own memories of memorized scripture, a prayer closet, and an occasional mountaintop from which to pray or preach. That's all. God has chosen to use people who:
- Seek His face.
- Give voice to His Truth.
And that is all that is needed to fulfill Jesus' commission to "make disciples". That's all.
And that is what revival meetings promote. A return to the basics of disciple-making. Revival meetings necessarily reprioritize ministry because the ministry of prayer and the Word are the only things that will bring true revival.
To say that revival meetings are outdated is to say that either: the American Church or Church at large is no longer in need of any type of renewal or refreshment that times of intense prayer and preaching may bring (something that could hardly be stated with a "straight face"), or that prayer and preaching itself is outdated.
Unfortunately, from what we see in our American Church culture, the latter reason may be at the heart of "revival meeting resistance" more than anything else! Many churches may be including preaching in their services by way of habit or tradition more than a real belief that the Holy Spirit still does His most powerful work through the preaching of the Truth of God! As much as I love music, when I hear people say they go to church "for the worship" (meaning music), I realize our priorities and real power have been lost! When I see that we spend more money on lighting, sound, buildings, and other tools than we do training preachers and supporting missionaries, I realize our priorities and real power have been lost! When more people are interested in their "day-to-day" than prayer meetings for the persecuted Church, the lost, or revival in our communities - I realize our priorities and real power have been lost!
Do you have to have a "revial meeting" to get back to the priorities of prayer and preaching? No. Do revival meetings necessarily empty the Chruch of all her selfish comforts? No. But they do help. And right now, we ought be doing anything we can to help!