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.
More and more these days, I suggest to host pastors a couple of things to make the meeting more meaningful and last longer. See what you think.
First, 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 as well as an impossibility.
Some will try to assess what was accomplished during the week and decide whether the meeting was a “success.” Was it worth the investment of time and money? This rarely goes well. I sometimes tell churches, “There are four steps to assessing the accomplishments of a revival. First, wait one hundred years. After that, I don’t know what the others are!”
But I do have one suggestion for a church after a revival ends.
At the very next service after the revival ends…
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 is going to ask for responses from the church. He should ask the congregation 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? (Okay, 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. Otherwise, if you choose to ask the question, do not encourage criticism of the sermons or music. Do not leave the impression you are working to find some negative or are encouraging the people in that way. In the ultimate sense, none of us are the judges.)
How to do this…
First, the pastor may want to alert the congregation ahead of time that, “This Sunday night, I will be asking you to tell the rest of us what this week has meant to you. So, you may want to give some thought to what you’d like to share.”
Now, 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, let them continue to hold the mic, rather than hand it to the one talking. Laypeople are notorious for mishandling microphones, keeping them either too close or too far away. ) The person on the sound board stays alert and is always ready to switch the mic on or off.
If the pastor is concerned that some will abuse the privilege of having 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. 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 which draws in discussions where one friend responds to something another friend said, the congregation will do this also.
There is something about voicing our commitments
If I made a decision in the week to get serious about reading God’s Word, saying so in church will help to set it in concrete. Likewise, if my decision was to begin tithing or witnessing or joining 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 from time to time 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 may 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.