Outgoing Southern Baptist Convention president Bobby Welch, in this BP News article, is calling for every church in the SBC to have more revivals. Specifically, to have two annual revivals. From the article:
“I would urge you: If every church in this convention attempted to have two revivals in one year, it would change everything,” Welch said during the annual meeting in Nashville.
“You say, ‘But we don’t do any revivals anymore.’ I say to you: If you had two of them, it would do you better,” Welch continued.
“You say, “Well, if I said revival, nobody would know what we were talking about.’ Well, talk about something they know about, but you give them a revival. Spend a few days trying to visit people, spend a few days trying to share the Gospel, spend a few days preaching the Gospel and watch what God will do,” Welch said.
What is the purpose of a revival?
The word revive means:
1. To bring back to life or consciousness; resuscitate.
2. To impart new health, vigor, or spirit to.
3. To restore to use, currency, activity, or notice.
4. To restore the validity or effectiveness of.
5. To renew in the mind; recall.
So it would seem that revivals are important. But why are revivals so ineffective these days?
I would venture to guess because we have forgotten what a revival is for. A revival seems to be a time when we refresh or recharge our spiritual batteries; to reaffirm our mission and ministry; or perhaps to receive a fresh vision of what the Lord is doing. Oftentimes, however, we view a revival as a time “to get right with the Lord” instead. Granted, we must seek to repent of our sins and be forgiven, but that is not the sole purpose of revival. Further from the article:
Mathis, who is in his seventh year of vocational evangelism, said the revivals he leads, even in smaller membership churches, usually reap 10-12 professions of faith, and in larger churches many more. But the interesting thing to Mathis is that two-thirds of the converts are adults.
“I’m discovering that adults in the 40 to 60 age range are especially receptive to the Gospel,” Mathis said. “And it’s therefore a mistake to regard the traditional revival as ineffective. In many cases, churches are baptizing more people as a result of revivals than they baptize throughout the rest of the year.”
Now, let’s ignore the age-issue of this quote and focus on the principle. Revival is a time for the saints to be encouraged and uplifted by one another and through the preaching of the Word. It is not a time for people to get saved. It is not a time for evangelism. That’s right, a revival is not a time for evangelism! Look at that first definition. To revive something is to bring it back to life. The lost are not alive, they are dead; furthermore, they were never alive to begin with. A revival is not for a non-Christian. Since only believers were alive to start with, a revival is for Christians.
And Christians, when revival time rolls around, what do they do? They start acting a little holier; they start reading their Bibles a little more; they start coming to church a little more regularly; they start trying to figure out if they need to rededicate their lives; they start acting more evangelistically through inviting their non-Christian friends to the revival; and so on. In other words, they do, for that one or two times a year, what they ought to be doing every week, or even better, every day! And because this is a once- or twice- a year event, their pre-revival behavior continues for a few weeks to a couple of months after the revival, and then tapers off until the next revival; at which time they realize they failed to live up to their pronouncements from the previous revival and need to “rededicate” their lives.
How horrendous. Our current view of revivals says that revivals are for weak Christians. It may even go so far as to view all the faithful as weak. We are seeking the lost and those Christians with weak faith, instead of seeking to lift up and encourage the saints by the power of God’s Word.
What we really need is not two revivals a year. We need to reform revival! What we need is a commitment from our churches to discipleship. What we need is the preaching of the Gospel year-round. What we need is to raise up believers who are strong in the Lord and in the power of His might in-season and out-of-season. Revivals, as we currently practice them, don’t do that. They are band-aids attempting to cover a gaping wound.