I am a bit cynical, and have also suffered some ill effects from overzealous preachers over the years, so my views on this subject may be a bit unlike most Christians in the church.
Revival. It brings to my mind longer than normal services lasting most of the week, long-winded preachers thumping on their Bibles and shaking their fingers at the congregation, long altar calls with scary stories and several verses of Just As I Am and other invitational hymns, and the need to go to every service so the rest of the church doesn't think you're not a good Christian.
And then there was the "coue de grace": The closing service. That is when the preacher pulled out all of the stops. got his scariest stories out, pulled out the invitational of all invitational hymns - Almost Persuaded - and held off on that last verse until the time when he could use it to scare the devil out of the crowd. As I said, I am cynical.
I really don't have a lot of good memories associated with revival meetings. As an adult, I don't go to very many. I am obviously not the model church member.
It is often a preacher I'd rather not hear.
I go to bed early and rarely go anywhere once I get home from work
I have had too many revival preachers preach my confidence away and make me wonder if I am really a Christian.
I wouldn't go to the altar even if I did genuinely feel the need to - I'd pray at home.
I am not convinced we are doing revival right
I am not going to be in bondage to what others think of me and go to avoid being judged
Revival is not something you can schedule. It isn't something you have in the spring and fall and expect God to show up at the scheduled time and revive the congregation. I am not against a church holding special meetings, but I am not sure we should call them revival meetings and expect revival to happen in the allotted time.
Think about it: a church schedules an evangelist for a revival meeting. As the time approaches, the church is encouraged to pray for it, and there may even be a special time of prayer held for it. Then the week finally arrives. We have scheduled our revival and now expect God to show up and revive us as the preacher in general tries to make people feel guilty enough to go to the altar. (Man, that is beyond cynical.)
Looking back over the years and thinking of the dozens of revival meetings I have been in, I can't remember ever feeling I personally had experienced revival. And I don't remember feeling any time that the church had truly been revived. Oh, some people may have been saved, and others may have received some help; but it was back to business as usual afterwards. Once the evangelist packed up his suitcases and his car pulled out of the church parking lot, everything and everyone was mostly like before revival services. If there is true revival there should be a lasting and marked difference. It used to happen years ago in big enough ways to make the history books and change churches, towns, and even nations.
I may be off the mark..... no pun intended.... but I believe we need personal revival before our churches and our country can ever experience true revival. We are too self-centered, too shallow, we really don't like the idea of surrender, denying ourselves, and carrying a cross. We are too busy, too addicted to comfort and entertainment. God is just part of our life, not all of our life. We approach God and revival as we do going to the drive through at McDonald's. We want it fast, and we want to pick off the menu what we want to have revival. Maybe down deep we like the idea of a church scheduled revival so we don't have to work at our own revival as much.
I think revival takes more than six days. It isn't an instantaneous event, but a gradual thing that there is no time limit on. It is total surrender, asking God to search the heart and reveal what needs to be changed. It isn't getting sinners to repentance and backsliders reclaimed, though that is cause for rejoicing. The definition of revival is:
- an improvement in the condition or strength of something
- an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again
And revive is defined as:
- restore to life or consciousness
- regain life, consciousness, or strength.
- give new strength or energy to
Do those definitions really fit what happens during our scheduled revival meetings?
This could be totally wrong, but I wonder if we stayed prayed up, stayed committed, daily asking God to do the things we ask when we are praying for revival; then revival may come more often and stay longer....with no special speaker or meetings.
I have been praying for God to take charge of my life and make me into the man and Christian I should be, to help me not be shallow or self-centered, to stop worrying what people think of me and do what He wants. I haven't specifically prayed for personal revival, but I can see growth, change, a move towards what God wants of me, and a move away from thinking I know best.
Maybe that is why we don't experience true revival and wind up with just a 6 day night of preaching. Perhaps we need to make revival more personal, and not wait for a series of services to get revived. Maybe we need to focus on revival 365 days a year, not just two times a year. If every Christian in even one church truly got down to business with God and got revived at home, it would change the church and possibly the whole town. It used to happen, and can happen again.