In the old days, camp meetings often lasted weeks or in some cases a couple of months. During off times, after the planting season or harvest time, whole families would congregate and hear preaching that over time would “break up the fallow ground” until the preacher “was not sowing among thorns.” The difficulty we often face in seeing revival in our churches today is not usually the preaching of the Word, but the condition of the soil.
Our lifestyles do not usually allow us to take off for a month to just hear preaching and be around the family of God. Thus, preparation of the soil of men’s hearts before the evangelist comes must be a priority in the local church. Even in our busy, regimented time schedule, there are ways to prepare men’s hearts for the good seed of God’s Word.
Charles Spurgeon promoted perennial revival in the Metropolitan Tabernacle and experienced it during those thirty-eight years that he pastored there. He knew that the most fervent and consistent Christians are “prone to wander and to leave the God they love.” He had much to say about promoting revivals in a church. He said, “Lord, if this is our work, end it; if it is man’s work, break it down; but if it be Thy work, revive it.”
He knew the keys that prompted revival. Again, he said, “Perhaps we imagine that if we could only get up a revival, we should easily secure large additions to the church. Is it worthwhile to get up a revival? Are not all true revivals to be got down?” He often quoted John 3:8 “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
A true revival must come from the blowing of the Holy Spirit, not a powerful speaker! So how do we prepare men’s hearts for the evangelist to come?
Over forty-three years of pastoring, I found that the best meetings our church had were preceded by several things that I would like to share with you:
1. Preaching on Revival and What it Means
Many people in our churches have never seen a real revival. They cannot conceive of God doing something amazing in their church or their community. What is it? I tried to whet men’s appetites for it. I told stories of great revivals in the past.
2. Cottage Prayer Meetings
I liked to schedule cottage prayer meetings in the homes of our people sometimes two and three weeks ahead of the revival. I was careful who led these prayer meetings because the leader sets the pace of a prayer meeting, and I instructed the people for what we were praying. I remember in one cottage prayer meeting before a great revival meeting, a lady requested for us to pray that God would revive the teens in our church during the upcoming meeting. Well, God did just that and when the revival was on, the teens were praying for the adults that they would be revived as the teens had been!
The prayer meetings must be specific, for general prayer gets general answers, and specific prayer gets specific answers. I could usually tell if a good revival meeting were coming by the spirit of those prayer meetings.
3. Tuning out Distractions
Ask people who are serious about revival to fast from TV the week preceding and the week of revival. If you really want to seek the Lord seriously, ask the people to fast from social media for those two weeks! One year I asked the people who would, to fast at least on Fridays before the revival and some to fast for two or three days. Remember Jesus said, “This kind cometh not but by prayer and fasting.”
4. Prayer for the Speaker
Pray much about the speaker. Not all evangelists, though they may preach the Word, have a “revivalist mentality.” They should be men who have exhibited the spirit of prayer and the gift of faith. I used one preacher over and over in the twenty-two years I was at Harvest Baptist Church because he understood the workings of God. I knew him to be a great man of prayer. Someone asked me why I had him over and over again, didn’t I know somebody else? I replied, “God works when he comes.” We must be more interested in God working than having our friends in to preach!
The benefit of revivals to a church are well worth any efforts we may make in preparation. Churches like everything else living, have a tendency to die. Thus, periodic revival is absolutely necessary for the life of a church.