Revival


Revival. There is a word that is used in a variety of ways today. It is most often heard in church circles, and we take it to mean the extended meetings the church holds for about a week leaning heavily toward evangelism. That’s what we are advertising for this week—Spring Revival. In this case the meetings will consist of five services (Sunday morning and evening, then each evening Monday through Wednesday). But at its core, the word “revival” really means a “bringing back to life,” or “coming back to life.”

With this in mind, our special event will be geared toward a couple of ends: renewal of commitment for believers, and reaching out to others with the message of life found in Jesus Christ. Our theme this week is “I Know the Answer” and so we want to focus this week on making sure that everyone at least has the opportunity to find the answer in Jesus Christ. I personally would like to see the revival begin in the hearts and lives of those who already know the answer. My prayer is that my own tired heart will be revived with a renewed passion for Christ. And as a result of the renewed vigor for the answer in Jesus, we want to focus on sharing that answer with people who have not met Jesus yet.

This revival; this coming back to life will then be seen in the renewal of Christians and the re-birth of others who will now have life in Christ. “Lord, send a revival; Lord, send a revival; Lord, send a revival; and let it begin in me.” (Hymn by B.B. McKinney, 1927)

You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”  —Jesus, recorded in John 8:32

I’m an “old dog” so I’m always leery of trying to learn something new. Like most old dogs, I am comfortable with many things the way they are—from my perspective, the way they’ve always been.

However, if I am to take my Savior at His word, Jesus is constantly making things new for me. It is not that the ancient truths have ever, or will ever, change, but that as I grow older, my understanding of the Truth deepens because of my growing relationship with Him (who is in His very essence Truth).

So this old dog wants to constantly learn new things that help him to understand all sorts of Truth.

This is revival. This is renewal. This is what sets old dogs free. Pray for God to send newness to the heart of your city, town, or village—starting with this old dog.

And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Revelation 21:5a

Revival is the renewal of spirit that happens when people rediscover the excitement of something special. For instance, when someone re-discovers a favorite musical program, or an interesting book, the public might be treated to a revival of that program or literature.

In the Christian faith, revival is more specific and meaningful. Revival is when Christ-followers find renewed hope in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They re-discover the joy that once was theirs when they first said yes to Jesus.

Today, we begin a series of special services designed to lead us to that place of revival. Here is my prayer (for myself, for FBC of Mulberry Grove, and for our world at large):

“Father, bring us back to you. Teach us to love you more. Lead us into the newness that You have already given to us. Let us carry the message of redemption and renewal to our community, our region, and our world.”

“This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.” – Jesus, Praying for Believers (John 17:3)

FLightShineSlideirst Baptist Church of Mulberry Grove will be partnering with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, Texas) to hold its annual Spring Revival. As part of the “Revive This Nation” program of the seminary, Mr. Jacob Oladipupo, a student from Nigeria, will be preaching.

Leading music for this year’s

JacobOladipupo_1218.jpg

Mr. Jacob Oladipupo

revival will be Bro. Ray Barnes, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church of Odin, IL. Pastor Barnes also sings with the gospel group “The Misfits.”

 

The theme for this year’s revival is “Let Your Light Shine focusing on Matthew 5:16. Services will be held Sunday through Wednesday, March 13-16, 2016. Sunday services will be in the morning at 10:45, and evening at 6:00. Weekday services will be each evening, Monday-Wednesday, at 6:30. Please join us and bring your friends to this exciting week of gospel preaching and singing.

Let me pause for a moment for an advertisement:

LightShineSlide

Revive This Nation Spring Revival

First Baptist Church of Mulberry Grove will be partnering with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, Texas) to hold its annual Spring Revival. As part of the “Revive This Nation” program of the seminary, Mr. Jacob Oladipupo, a student from Nigeria, will be preaching.

Leading music for this year’s revival will be Bro. Ray Barnes, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church of Odin, IL. Pastor Barnes also sings with the gospel group “The Misfits.”

The theme for this year’s revival is “Let Your Light Shine focusing on Matthew 5:16. Services will be held Sunday through Wednesday, March 13-16, 2016. Sunday services will be in the morning at 10:45, and evening at 6:00. Weekday services will be each evening, Monday-Wednesday, at 6:30. Please join us and bring your friends to this exciting week of gospel preaching and singing.

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” – Jesus, Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:16)

In the late 1980s Southern Baptists set aside the Fall (’89) and Spring (’90) for simultaneous revivals. The object was for churches to engage in these revival efforts in one fell swoop with the theme “Here’s Hope Jesus Cares for You”. The convention even partnered with her publishing arm (Holman Bible Publishers) to prepare themed New Testaments (NKJV) to be given out by the churches in the effort.

I do not know the full results of the revival effort, but I do know that the sentiment presented in the theme is one that bears remembrance during this Christmas Season—Jesus Christ is the Hope that is available to all mankind. Whether we find ourselves in distress or over-extended this Holiday, we can find all Hope in the One who cares most for us. He cares so much that He offered His own life in place of ours. That’s why He came on the very first Christmas, and why we can still say, “Here’s Hope! Jesus Cares for You!”

I grew up in an era of revivalism, in what was then part of the cherished “Bible Belt” in the home of a Southern Baptist preacher. We had revivals twice a year—spring and fall, regardless of anything else. I have a deep-seated, special place in my heart for week-long revivals because I said Yes to Jesus for the very first time in the last night of a revival meeting. My dad has long reminded me that he was not preaching when I came to know the Lord. It would be important to note that both my mother and my father have always lived their faith so faithfully in front of me that I would have to be blind not to learn of Jesus at home long before I went to church (and I went to church nine months before I was born).

Not so very long ago, I was attending a “Bible Conference” hosted in one of our churches in the southern part of our state. One of the speakers, a vocational evangelist listed among the hordes of them in our denomination, quoted statistics. Here are his observations, the age and veracity of the study cited is unknown to me:

  • Churches not holding a Revival meeting during the year reported one salvation for every thirty-six members for that calendar year.
  • Churches holding Revival meetings, but having no salvations reported as directly related to said meeting reported one salvation for every twenty-four members.
  • Churches that held Revival meetings and could track at least one salvation decision to that meeting reported one salvation for every eighteen members.

His point was that we are able to effectively reach twice as many people with the gospel message when we schedule and hold revival meetings as when we do not. Underlying that point is the one that continues to stick in my craw—“Hire me (or someone like me) to come and preach for you, and you will be able to boost your numbers to report to the denominational headquarters.”

I’ve turned into quite the skeptic over these numbers issues. Firstly, because I’m not sure whether it is a biblical principle to hire a highly emotional preacher to come in and stir the pot in order to reach more people. I believe that I know why, historically, the extended meetings known as revivals or camp meetings were highly effective in turning out decisions for Christ: (1) At one point in history, the church was the center of the social makeup of every community and the annual or semi-annual meeting known as revival was part and parcel of the entertainment—people who had not yet accepted Christ as their savior would come to see the show, hear the message, and be moved to decision. (2) Even as the church became less and less influential in her sway over the community, members of the church spent months preparing for the event. Advertising was up to date, non-Christians were made a specific part of prayer times for both individuals and groups, special attention was given to the conducting of the meeting with emphases such as “old fashioned night” where people were encouraged to dress in ancient attire, “children’s night” and “youth night” focusing on different age groups, and “pack a pew night” where members were encouraged to get as many unchurched people into the building to hear the gospel message as they could—some even signed up for a pew. (3) Pastors and evangelists took time during the week to visit in the community giving verbally “engraved” invitations to all who would be willing to attend.

I can also speculate what is happening in most churches that hold special meetings with emphasis on a revivalist moment: (1) Advertising that was up to date and worthwhile in 1962 looks unprofessional and uninviting in a day and age of sound bites and Internet podcasting (stop it with the black on white—or black on goldenrod—flyers, people don’t read them). (2) Church members are uninvolved in the inviting process—in fact, the handful of people that we do get to show up more than once a week are those who show up anyway, who decided to follow Jesus two lifetimes ago. (3) Pastors are lazy (dare I castigate myself?) and evangelists have become demanding—I have gotten reports of some who show up at the church three minutes before they are to speak and leave before the last “amen” is uttered.

The bottom line though is: why do we do it? For the church it seems that numbers boosting is the point. For the revivalist or evangelist it seems to be about making the money to put in their pockets.

And the question that I’d love to know the answer to is: How many people of the newer generations are we reaching?

If you’d like to help out, here are some questions you can answer in the comments section (aside from the ones already posed): Does your church have annual/semi-annual revival meetings? If so, how long are they—2 weeks, 1 week, 4 days or 3? Do you prefer professional evangelists (vocational is the word they prefer) or local pastors to lead the effort? Have you seen any increase in the numbers of people making lasting decisions for Christ as a result of your special revival efforts? What do you do as follow-up to help those who make decisions to grow in their faith?

Talk freely among yourselves.

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