Fewer churches are having revivals these days, and the loss is considerable.
At the age of 11, I was saved in a revival in a Free Will Baptist Church. A full decade later, I was called to preach in a revival in a Southern Baptist Church.
I believe in revivals.
In my retirement ministry—for lack of a better term—I do a half-dozen revivals a year, in most cases beginning on Sunday morning and going through Wednesday night. Often, we'll start with a churchwide dinner on Saturday night to kick it off.
Since fewer and fewer unchurched people attend these services, for the most part we do as the name implies and focus on "revival" of the redeemed. Personally, I try to make the message of salvation clear in every message and make sure the invitation gives opportunity for the unsaved to step forward in faith.
The invitation in my services almost always calls on God's people to fill the altar with prayer. A typical invitation will have church members coming from every direction to kneel at the front, or stand or sit on a front pew for prayer. When they finish, they return to their seats. I cannot tell you why this is so meaningful, but it is. (I encourage them to do this in the future, every time the pastor extends the invitation. Jesus said His house should be called a house of prayer for all the nations. In many cases, it's anything but that.)
During the Revival
I try to do everything I can to make the week a success. "Leave nothing in the locker room" or "on the practice field" is how high school athletes are cautioned. Do what you can to make this week work.
But when the week (or weekend or whatever) ends, and the guest preacher drives away, what then?
Some churches will try to conserve the high they achieved during the week. I think this is a mistake.
Some will try to assess what was accomplished during the week. This is an impossibility. I tell churches as the revival ends, "There are four steps to assessing the accomplishments of a revival. First is to wait 100 years. And I don't know what the others are!"
But I do have one suggestion for a church after a revival ends.
The Next Service
If the church has a Sunday evening service, this would work best then. Otherwise, the preacher has to decide whether to do it on a Sunday morning or in some less structured setting.
The pastor should ask the congregation to respond to questions like:
- What did God say to you during the revival?
- What commitment did you make during the week of revival?
- What did you take away from this week?
- Did the preacher say anything you will not soon forget?
- Were there any negatives? (OK, maybe you'll want to ask this, or maybe not. If there were glaring negatives, they will be discussed among the congregation so you may as well get them out front. But otherwise, if you choose to ask the question, pause very briefly and go on. Do not leave the impression you are working to find something negative or are encouraging the people to do so.)
A Few Thoughts on How to Do This
The pastor will want to work with the audio people and get a couple of cordless microphones. Have two leaders walk around during the Q&A time and hand the mics to those wishing to respond. (Or better, continue to hold the mic, rather than hand it to the one talking. Laypeople are notorious for mishandling microphones, either too close or too far away.) The person on the soundboard switches the mic on and off.
If the pastor is concerned that some will abuse the privilege of a microphone in their face and go off on a tangent or misspeak, he should have a plan with the sound guy ahead of time. A simple "Thank you, Mrs. Jones. Now, let's give others a chance to be heard on this issue" signals the audio man to cut the sound on that mic. However, few churches will have this problem. Usually, a pastor's fears of such are unfounded. And besides, if done on a Sunday evening before a home crowd, even if someone does misspeak, as a rule no harm is done.
Now, if the revival was effective, this discussion will soon take on a life of its own. The pastor will not need all his questions to prompt people from standing to speak. Just like a good Facebook posts that draws in discussions where one friend responds to something another friend said, the congregation will do this also.
Voicing Our Commitments
If I made a decision in the week to get serious about reading God's Word, saying so to my friends in church will help to set it in concrete. Likewise, if my decision was to begin tithing or witnessing or coming to a Sunday school class, or anything else, it's good to share the commitment with people who will appreciate it and will pray for us.
One of the best things a pastor can do during this time (when members are voicing decisions made in the revival) is to stop and pray for the individual who just shared their heart on something important. He might say, "Eddie, thank you for that." And to the congregation, he says, "Isn't that wonderful?" They break into applause. "Let's pause and pray for Eddie in this new undertaking. Let's bow our heads. Anyone who would like, please stand and voice this prayer for Eddie." (Then, the pastor should wait until someone does. The silence is no problem.)
I'm a strong believer in that last part: "Anyone who would like, lead the prayer." It invites spontaneity, of which the typical church service has precious little these days. It may also give people who never get called on for anything the opportunity to pray in public. So this could be every bit as encouraging and enlightening as the rest of the service.
Lord, revive Your church, please. Amen.
After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
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