It was my happy privilege, upon the request of the union committee, to engage in twelve revival efforts of one week each in our churches in 1937. We might ask, Is there a need for revival work in our churches? The Laodicean message of Revelation 3 :13-22 declares: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot." Mrs. E. G. White has written much in elucidation of this charge. We note a few pointed statements: "I was shown that the testimony to the Laodiceans applies to God's people at the present time, and the reason it has not accomplished a greater work is because of the hardness of their hearts."—"Testimonies," Vol. 1, p. 186. These words are clear and unmistakable. We are further told:
"A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer."—"Christ Our Righteousness," p. 146.
"We have not one reason for self-congratulation."
"Some lean upon an old experience . . . they seem to think that a profession of the truth will save them." "It would be more pleasing to the Lord if lukewarm professors of religion had never named His' name." "Many, I saw, were flattering themselves that they were good Christians, who have not a single ray of light from Jesus."—"Testimonies," Vol. 1, pp. 188, 190.
There is page after .page and chapter after chapter of such instruction in the Spirit of prophecy. What are we doing about it ? We read about "an impenitent church" and a "languishing congregation," "steadily retreating toward Egypt," etc.; and that unless we repent, God will remove our candlestick out of its place. Even though we may have a measure of the Spirit of God, "if we do• not progress, if we do not place ourselves in an attitude to receive both the former and the latter rain, we shall lose our souls, and the responsibility will lie at our own door."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 5498. But our members generally do not believe they are in any danger whatsoever of losing their souls, so long as they keep the Sabbath and pay their tithes.
We are in a complacent, self-congratulatory frame of mind and "know not," That is the Laodicean condition,—in need of nothing, rich and increased in goods, not willing to receive correction. (See "Testimonies," Vol. p. 254.) This brings on the "shaking," in which the straight testimony is revived. (See "Early Writings," pp. 269-273.) God says we need a revival.
"If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious Crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God."—"Testimonies," Vol. III, p. 281.
Everywhere we go we find God's people doing little to win souls. There seems to be a strange lethargy, a deathlike stupor upon minds. The unconverted all about us are backsliding from beneath our pulpits. There is little spiritual power, little burden for souls, little importunate prayer.
Shallow Work Brings Reaction
I have long since, through painful experience, come to the conclusion that if I am going to help young people permanently, I must help their parents. I must lift the entire home influence. Hence the revival effort of a week's, or still better, two weeks' length, with children and parents all seeking God together. Personalities differ, but our methods need not be elaborate to be effective. Let the message itself carry the appeal. Mere exhortations or emotional appeals may seem to produce results, but our backs are hardly turned before such shallow work ravels out, and the last state is worse than the first. Present a message that will grip the heart and burn in the soul.
Peter made no appeal on the day of Pentecost (except the appeal of his message), but his hearers cried out, "What shall we do?" The Laodicean message is designed to arouse the people of God, and should be faithfully preached. "This fearful message will do its work." When people are aroused, they should be taught how to become converted, the importance-and duty of being born again, what it means to know God, how to keep God's commandments, the Elijah message to love the blessed hope, etc. A week is such a short time for all this.
A revival is no time to preach hobbies, or to present extreme, fanciful views. Many of our people are starving for the bread of life. They need victory over sin. They need Christ as a personal Saviour. They must understand the sealing work, and what it means soon to stand without an intercessor in the sanctuary. In connection with the preaching of Christ as a Saviour from sin, appropriate warning on the lure of the sins and pleasures of the world may serve to awaken some who have been overcome by the enemy. One or two aftermeetings give opportunity for those in need of spiritual help to seek God, obtain counsel, and engage in special prayer.
On Friday night we usually have a testimony meeting in which victories gained can be related and praise offered to God. This is generally one of the best meetings of the entire week. Merely to exhort, invite, or cajole without presenting a converting, dynamic message is utterly futile. Too many ministers, I fear, are satisfied with shallow work, satisfied with going through the motions, gratified with some sort of response which may mean little or nothing. How much we need the experience of Paul who spoke of "my little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." Gal. 4:19. Isaiah declares, "For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." Isa. 66:8.
When young people are converted, they should be patiently and thoroughly instructed before baptism. They should be taught how to get rid of past sins, and what regeneration and sanctification mean. The importance of Bible study, prayer, and service as means of maintaining a Christian experience when the revival is over should always be emphasized.