[This is a continuation of our thoughts on “revival” – See the previous post here. We are simply exploring what some people consider revival to entail. This does not mean that we necessarily hold to these perspectives. We’d love to hear your thoughts too.]
There are a lot of really good Evangelicals that love the gospel and rejoice in the gospel and live to make the gospel known. They look at the American church and think, “Wow, we are wasting a lot of time doing things that are neither about the gospel or helping people encounter the gospel. We need a revival so people can hear the gospel and get saved!”
For this group, revival is concerned with lost people coming to Christ. These “lost people” are also known as “sinners” or “pagans” or “rebels” or “unbelievers.” And revival is about these people “receiving Jesus” or “asking Jesus into their heart.” So when someone in this group talks about revival, they are referring to lots of people getting saved. Saved as in “not going to burn in hell” or “not going to spend eternity in the flames.” So the focus and thrust of revival is towards people who are outside of good team so that they will get inside of the good team.
Imagine a church service. It’s time for the announcements (The worship pastor music and praise chorus leader is doing the announcements because that’s half of his job. Sing two hymn, read a psalm, and then finish with a rendition of anything by Michael W. Smith or a song from Maranatha. Then the announcements. That’s it. The music and praise chorus leader is done with his job). Anyway, it’s time for the announcements. He starts rattling them off, one after the other, until he gets to the announcement for the revival service! The revival service is going to be held starting on a Wednesday night and will last until Sunday (unless the services are so full that the “overflow” room must be used at which point the revival services may go another week). Now you have to understand that these revival services will be held at the church building. Now I know that these people understand that revival happens to reach non-Christians, but that subtle point gets mixed. These evangelistic revival services are always in a church building. I don’t know why. It’s apparently how the apostle Paul did them, and everyone knows that if it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for us (for example, the King James Bible).
So the church is bringing in an evangelist to preach the gospel at the revival services and everyone in the church is supposed to bring their friends and family. Amazingly, they do. They bring all of the friends and family. Sure, most of these friends and family members already go to churches, but what you don’t realize is that part of the reason for these evangelistic revival services is to accomplish a goal that you can only find out on a need-to-know-basis and… you don’t need to know. But since I know, I’ll tell you. These services will help the church get people from other churches because these revival services will give people the impression that revival is about evangelism and this church is about reach the lost and the church that they go to probably doesn’t, otherwise they’d have revival services that night too! So why not leave your church and join this one!
Anyway, people are going to the services and the preacher is preaching. At the end of the service, everyone is told to close their eyes. Wait, first they are told to stand, then they are told to close their eyes and to make sure their heads are bowed. Then the revivalist will talk about making a choice. Will you fry in hell or will you live happy and successful? I mean, come on. Asking Jesus into your heart guarantees instant happiness… oh, and your kids will have excellent manners and your car won’t need an oil change for a year! After the preacher gets done asking you questions, you’ll hear him ask you if Jesus is pulling on the strings of your heart. Well is He? If He is, you’ll need to raise your hands. Now don’t worry. Lots of other people are raising their hands too. In fact, even if no one is raising their hands, the preacher will make sure that he sees someone doing it. Don’t tell on me, but I once peaked through the cracks of my fingers that were covering my eyes. Trust me, no one’s hands were up. But once the preacher tells everyone that lots of hands are going up, people start to think, “Hey, I don’t want to miss out on the fun and the good things that God guarantees. I’d better slowly raise my hand.” So they do.
Now this is revival! People are getting saved! People are leaving their churches to go to a new church that is all about people and making them happy and getting them from the pit of hell to the bosom of God’s incredible love by giving them a get-out-of-jail-free-card.
How many people got saved at your revival services? Oh, that’s all? Well, at our revival services, over 300 of our members got saved! Isn’t that amazing? God’s presence was there because He was blessing the preaching and blessing the church by helping it grow! Now that is revival!
It would be helpful to point out that a basic definition for “revive” is “to activate, set in motion, or take up again; to renew; to restore to life; to make operative or valid again.” Some of the people who believe that revival is about evangelism obviously may not be quite as shallow as what I’ve just described, but they really do believe that revival is all about evangelism. Christians benefit from that because the church grows and has stuff to do, but that’s secondary and more of a benefit to the actual goal. You don’t have revival without lots and lots and lots of people going to church more.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Yep, revival scheduled twice a year. This is the kind of church we were a part of when I was in high school. When we had a visiting Evangelist in about half of the congregation would go up to the front at the end of the service in response to the invitation. It seemed like no one responded to preaching by going to the front of the church except during those two weeks. The “revival” messages were on avoiding hell, witnessing more, staying pure before God, and dedicating your life to “full time Christian service.” It seems to me that whether you’re talking about charismatic sensationalism, decision oriented salvation, or whatever we keep trying to stir something up because we don’t much patience for waiting on God and asking Him why He’s silent.
Paul, totally with you dude, been in that kind of church as well. I think all the stuff they preach about is great, but as was pointed out, revival is a reawakening, a making alive again. I did have a preacher who once said “You have to be ‘vived’ before you can be revived.” But, I do truly believe that the gospel should be a part of our lives, revival is really for the truly saved. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
I think Rob Bell would call that first guy in the picture “bull horn guy.”