How To Plan, Promote, And Conduct A Revival
Larry L. Lewis
The crying need of our day is revival. Anyone who visits very many churches will surely cry with the psalmist of old, “Wilt Thou not revive us again?” (Ps. 85:6)
Leonard Ravenhill pleads the cause of true, heaven-sent revival: “On the Day of Pentecost, the flame of the living God became the flame of the human heart to that glorious company. The church began with these men in the `Upper Room’ agonizing—and today is ending with men in the supper room organizing. The church began in revival; we are ending in ritual” (Why Revival Tarries, Bethany Fellowship, p. 161).
Much of what we call “revival” is a cheap imitation of the real thing. Many churches have “revival,” they say, at least once a year. But are these protracted meetings really seasons of revival? Do carnal Christians become loving, Spirit-filled, devoted followers of Christ? Are backslidden church members sorely rebuked and sincerely convicted of their sinful ways? Do they repent and become as new? Does the “fire fall” and the church come alive? Do sinners cry out to God for salvation?
If not, there is no revival. Revival is not a series of meetings—it is a resurrection of the dead! For “. . . in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
If true revival prevailed in most Southern Baptist churches, would the average church baptize only 10 persons per year? Probably, the pastor alone should win that many to Christ, even if he doesn’t have witnessing church members.
Leadership Is The Key
Everything rises and falls on leadership. True revival will seldom, if ever, come to a church if the pastor and the evangelist are not revived, Spirit-filled men of God. Pastor and Evangelist, what you are, is more important than what you do. As E.M. Bounds has said, “The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men” (Power Through Prayer, Zondervan, p. 11).
Ravenhill, himself a full-time evangelist and conference speaker, denounces cheap, money-minded pastors and evangelists with a ruthless vengeance: “Why does revival tarry? The answer is simple… Because evangelism is so highly commercialized. The tithes of widows and the poor are spent in luxury-living by many evangelists. . . . Preachers, who have homes and cottages by the lake, a boat on that lake, and a big bank balance, still beg for more. With such extortionists and unjust men, can God entrust Holy Ghost revival?” (Why Revival Tarries, pp. 44-46)
Surely this is not meant to be a wholesale indictment of all evangelists and preachers. Ravenhill certainly is aware of the scores of God-called men who labor faithfully and successfully in the field of evangelism.
But every pastor knows of the few who seem far more concerned about the love offering than the lost. Their priorities seem to be their own self-promotion and registered “decisions,” no matter how superficial. Great crowds may come to be entertained and many decisions may be registered, but genuine revival will not result.
Pastors are just as guilty of these grave ills as evangelists. E.M. Bounds says: “The pulpit of this day is weak in praying. Prayer is with the pulpit too often only official—a performance for the routine of service…. Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause. . .” (Power Through Prayer, p. 15)
It can just as surely be said of true revival as it can of casting out demons: “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
E.M. Bounds asks a pertinent question: “Where are the Christly leaders who can teach the modern saints how to pray and put them at it? Do we know we are raising up a prayer-less set of saints? Where are the apostolic leaders who can put God’s people to praying? Let them come to the front and do the work, and it will be the greatest work that can be done” (Power Through Prayer, p. 85).
The formula for true revival is simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. It remains unchanged throughout the ages: “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
If true revival is so utterly dependent on God, is there any need or place for planning and preparation? Should you not simply tarry and pray, and wait for the “fire to fall”?
No, this is not God’s way. Many would like it to be, for little effort would then be required and small sacrifice would need to be made. The blood of souls stains the hands of those who let their sham “spirituality” excuse their lazy indifference.
God always works His miracles through prepared people. He prepared His people for the Land of Promise in Moses’ day. He organized them by companies, set leaders in their midst, and then the fire fell (Exodus 18:13-26; 19:18). He prepared them to inherit the land by commanding them to “sanctify themselves” and follow their spiritual leaders into the waters (Joshua 3:1-17).
Before Pentecost, the disciples agonized (Acts 1:14) and organized (Acts 1:23). After the fire fell, they advertised (Acts 2:6) and evangelized (Acts 2:14-36; 40). Is it any different today? If these early apostles felt the need to plan and promote, as well as pray, can you do otherwise? Perhaps a rather familiar cliché is appropriate: “Pray as if everything depended on God; work as though everything depended on you.”
Consider some helpful techniques which may be of value in planning, promoting, and conducting a revival campaign.
1 Appoint A Revival Campaign Committee. Enlist a revival campaign committee to help you plan, promote, and prepare for the special meetings. Let the committee represent a cross section of the church family. Old and young, men and women, rich and poor should all be represented. In some cases the church council might function as this committee if it has a real burden for true revival.
What are the duties of this committee? They will consider important matters such as pre-campaign prayer services, publicity, transportation to the revival meetings, hospitality for the campaign team, attendance plans, special nights and events, and many other pertinent matters. Of course, if the evangelist has sent along a campaign plan sheet or suggested ideas, the committee should work diligently to carry out these plans.
The committee should have its first meeting about six months prior to the scheduled revival. Every matter suggested above should be carefully considered and job assignments made to appropriate individuals. Then the committee should meet when necessary to check these assignments and be sure that the plans are being implemented.
2 Organize Prayer Efforts. Prayer is the one most important ingredient in any true revival. Don’t neglect this important matter. Challenge your people to remember the campaign in prayer, constantly and continually. Urge them to make prayer lists of lost and backslidden persons and pray for them daily.
* Round-The-Clock Prayers. For the 24 hours preceding the first service of the revival, have one or several in the church at the altar on their knees praying for revival. Day and night, for 24 hours, they should pray. A prayer clock may be constructed with different persons signed up for different periods of the day and night.
A less effective variation is to let the people pray at home, at work, or wherever they may be. Regardless of how it is done, saturate the revival effort with prayer.
* Prayer Fellowships. The “cottage prayer service” idea still remains a mighty source of revival power. Here members get together in the intimacy of someone’s home for old-fashioned, on-their-knees prayer for revival.
* Pre-service Prayer Groups. It is well to have groups of people praying prior to the service each evening. Why not have men meeting in one place, women another, and youth in yet another with a leader for each group? Pray specifically and by name for the lost, the un-churched, the backslidden, the revival campaign team, and the meetings in general.
3 Select And Promote A Revival Campaign Theme. A campaign theme, such as “Lord, Send a Revival,” “Let’s Just Praise the Lord,” “Jesus Never Fails,” or “Revive Us Again” can be used and will add interest and purpose to the meeting.
It is great if an appropriate song can be selected to help support the theme. Also, it is good to have a large banner hanging across the front of the church promoting the revival theme.
4 Advertise And Promote The Revival Campaign. “It pays to advertise” is an ancient adage, but also a profound truth. One reason there was such a large crowd on the Day of Pentecost was because “this was noised abroad” (Acts 2:6).
* The Local Newspaper. Prepare an attractive news release for the local papers. Usually, the newspapers will print a good story with a picture if it is prepared in proper form. Use a few brief announcements before the meetings, then a good feature story at the beginning of the campaign.
* Radio And TV Stations. Attractive news releases should be prepared for all local radio and TV stations. Always make original copies; never send carbons or Xeroxed copies. It is best to deliver releases by hand, meeting the news editor personally and answering any questions he may have.
Although they may deny it, many radio, TV, and newspaper officials will give better news coverage if you also purchase advertising space. When time and space are limited, it is logical that preference should be given to paid advertisers.
* Paid Advertisements. Again, it pays to advertise. Good promotion, however done, is not a cost; it is an investment that returns great dividends. Buy an ad in the newspaper—maybe even spot announcements on TV and radio.
* Printed Circulars. Print some attractive circulars with pictures of the revival team. Much good can come from printed circulars.
Enlist a group of youth, a Royal Ambassador Chapter, or a children’s department to pass out circulars door-to-door through your community. After the job is complete, take them out for a treat. It will be money well spent.
Also, circulars can be hung in store windows, sent by mail to prospects, used as bulletin inserts, and made available to your people for distribution.
* Letters To Members. A letter promoting the revival campaign and urging faithful attendance should be sent to every member family. Perhaps you should send several letters, one each week for three weeks prior to the meeting. Also, it is well to send a letter the week of the campaign itself, with a love offering envelope urging the family’s contribution to the revival effort.
* Letters To Prospects. Another letter, promoting the revival campaign, should be sent to all prospects. Be sure to include a campaign circular. (A much less effective alternative is simply to address one of the circulars and send it.)
5 Have Visitation Before And During Revival Meetings. All the signs, banners, ads, and circulars in the world cannot take the place of the personal touch.
Did you hear what happened to the soldier who wrote his girlfriend 300 letters in 300 days while in the service? He came home and found she had married the mailman! Yes, visitation does make a difference.
Some good approaches for revival visitation might include:
* A Visitation Blitz. Why not have an after-church “visitation blitz” the Sunday before the revival campaign begins? Prepare a light lunch for the people. While they are eating, make visitation assignments. Plan to visit every known prospect, urge his attendance during the campaign, and witness to the unsaved.
* A Telephone Blitz. A variation of the visitation blitz is a “telephone blitz.” Give out prospect cards during the Sunday morning worship service with simple instructions. Have the people make a telephone visit to every prospect, urging attendance at the revival. Also, member family cards can be handed out.
* Visitation Each Day During The Revival Campaign. If you have morning services, ask those attending to make at least one visit on the way home. Have fresh prospect cards ready for those who volunteer.
Surely, the revival team should expect to spend at least three hours each day in personal visitation.
6 Have Special Nights And Events During The Revival Campaign. Many churches like to plan a series of special nights during the revival campaign, such as Family Night, Youth Night, Sunday School Night, Men’s Night, Ladies’ Night, Old-fashioned Night, etc.
Sometimes these special nights can be preceded with a special activity or event, such as Men’s Fellowship Supper on Men’s Night, Hamburger Fry or Pizza Party on Youth Night, Hot Dog Supper on Children’s Night.
All this takes work, costs money, and demands much time and effort. It costs to reach people. Is it worth it? Jesus asks, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)
Apparently, Jesus felt one soul was worth more than the entire world! Surely then, a soul is worth more than a hot dog or a piece of pizza! Surely, a soul is worth the money it takes to buy an ad in the paper or put a spot on the radio. Surely, a soul is worth the effort it takes to assign a pew to someone each evening.
7 Use The Best Attendance Getter Of All. Full-time evangelist CIyde Chiles said: “All other revival plans combined are not as effective as `pack-a-pew.'” He was only echoing the sentiment of most other evangelists and pastors alike. This old favorite attendance-getter remains a favorite with the evangelistic pastor and the growing church.
“Pack-a-pew” or some similar concept is essential for good, sustained attendance. Even the most dynamic preacher will not, in most cases, keep a full house every night, but the personal touch will. When every pew is assigned to someone every night, and the assignee faithfully does his task, you can be sure of a good attendance and a great revival campaign.
Does revival really contribute to church growth? Church growth expert Donald McGavran questions a casual relation-ship between revival and growth:
“Revival bears a close relationship to church growth; yet exactly what that relationship is . . . is often not clear. Under certain conditions revival may be said to cause growth. Under others, its relationship to church growth is so distant that apparently revival occurs without growth and growth without revival” (Understanding Church Growth, Eerdmans, p. 163).
Be that as it may, a good look at churches and denominations that have long ago ceased having revival campaigns convinces even the skeptical of the value of revival meetings. The prayer of every sincere Christian should be that of the Prophet Habakkuk, “0 Lord, revive Thy work. . . .” (Habakkuk 3:2).
Article “How To Plan, Promote, And Conduct A Revival” written by Larry L Lewis is excerpted from “Organize To Evangelize: A Manual For Church Growth”.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”