In all revival work there is a threefold basic purpose: (1) to deepen the spiritual atmosphere of our churches, (2) to train and set to work an enthusiastic group within the churches, and (3) to secure decisions for Christ.
That the church needs to be sweetened and uplifted is self-evident. The messenger of the Lord informs us as ministers that it is because of the condition of our churches that the Lord does not now work to bring more into the truth. Therefore our work begins with our own members.
On the other hand, we are informed that we should not hover over our churches, but lead them into enthusiastic missionary endeavor. Only that type of work in the churches which teaches them to win souls is endorsed by the Master. This is the work of the church.
When the members are inspired to work for others, then it is that we are prepared to get decisions. People may then be brought into the church witl* the hope of receiving love and fellowship instead of blighting criticism or cold austerity.
Anticipating the revival, the pastor should thoroughly and enthusiastically organize the church. The church should be divided into very small bands, with not more than five or six in each. The purpose of this band organization is twofold: (1) Bands serve as individual prayer groups; (2) they help swell the attendance. Such nationally recognized evangelists as Billy Graham strongly emphasize these prayer bands. They are sometimes organized weeks before the evangelist appears on the scene. Some large cities have called for a thousand prayer bands before Billy Graham's arrival. Often some people are converted before the revival ever starts. For each prayer band a special list of names should be gathered, which is presented before the Lord.
Then as the revival itself begins, each prayer band functions to help build the attendance. Band leaders should meet almost daily to com pare notes, exchange experiences they can pass on to their bands, and encourage one another to greater effort for Christ. Our pastors are encouraged to put much thought and prayer into the prerevival planning in an endeavor to stimulate the interest of the church and help the members look forward with keen anticipation to the joy of actually seeing souls brought to Christ, and further helping with this greatest of all tasks.
The prerevival organization takes some time, but it will net great results. My experience leads me to believe that we can average twenty-five decisions for the truth in each revival where the small-band plan is thoroughly organized and smoothly functioning several weeks before the revival itself begins. The largest number of souls thus far to make decisions during one revival this year is thirty-five. Fourteen of these were baptized before the revival's end, about twenty within the next two months, and still others have made decisions since that revival and are planning on early baptisms.
The revival should last at least two weeks. The first week is dedicated to the church members, but the public is welcome; the second week is dedicated to the public, and the church members are welcome.
The Soul-winning Class
During the first week a regular course in soul winning is conducted. The textbook, Path to the Heart, has nine lessons, titled as follows: "Jesus Only," "Operation Jesus," "Jesus Prepares You," "Jesus Not Argument," "Jesus Not Condemnation," "Witnessing for Jesus," "Jesus Inspires Hope," "Jesus Quickens Faith/' and "Jesus Loves." A brief examination follows these studies, and a certificate is presented to each one completing the course.
Encouraging testimonies are given by those who have completed this simple course, during which a textbook is studied and an endeavor is made to learn from one another. A pastor of one of our larger churches said at the close of the course, "Every member of the church should take this soul-winning course." Scores of people have felt that this was the first time in their lives that they could actually go out and win a soul to Christ.
The second phase of the revival is for the public. The church members composing the bands are to assure the attendance. More people come through personal invitation than through all other forms of advertising combined.
I usually launch the meetings for the public on a Sunday night. In connection with this second week I use a little workbook entitled God's Choicest Gifts. It was composed with spiritual clinic work in mind. It is available for the people each night and is used in connection with the sermon as well as in the aftermeeting. One page is especially for those who need victory over such habits as the use of tobacco or alcohol. After the concluding of the evening service with an appropriate chorus, the audience is asked to consider this chorus the benediction and to feel free on the second singing of it to leave. Any who desire definite victory over evil habits are invited to come forward to the altar.
Sometimes on the very first Sunday night lasting victories over alcohol, tobacco, and other habits have been obtained. Some of the worst cases have had such complete victory that they have joined in visiting others in similar need and claiming victory for them even before the end of the week.
When a man comes forward for victory over outstanding habits such as alcohol and tobacco, he is shown the simple ABC's of release. The A is to ask God for victory while putting his hand right on a Scripture promise. The B of vic tory is to believe and tell God he believes that He has through Christ given him the victory promised in that Scripture. The C is to claim this victory as a present gift while still on his knees, and thank God that he has actually received it at that very moment.
When he arises from his knees I usually ask him, "Do you believe that God has given you the victory through Christ, not because you feel it, but because He has promised it?" As I bid this friend good night, I give him a copy of the little workbook God's Choicest Gifts. He is urged to take this little book with him the next day to work and wherever he goes. It is so small that a man can put it into his pocket and a woman can carry it in her purse. When tempted to reach for a cigarette or a bottle of strong drink, he is to reach instead for the little book of God's promises and go through the ABC's all over again.
A daily praise meeting is also arranged, where God is praised for victory with such individuals every day, with no exception, continuing for a week or two. Sometimes I meet with them twice a day for the first few days. This helps to build up their faith in God. At times several church members are called on to aid in this work, the men working for men and the women for women. God's gifts are for all. "These signs shall follow them that believe" includes the laity.
Church Members' Cooperation
In one place several men of the church came forward to assist, for I was just leaving for another revival and the pastor was leaving to pitch camp for camp meeting. These laymen formed a little committee, with a chairman, and ar ranged to visit a man who had just won the victory, one seeing him on one day, another the next, and so on. The first several days they arranged for two visits each day. An equal number of sisters in the church formed a committee and arranged to visit the women who had come forward and gained victory. At these little prayer and praise gatherings the members are instructed to thank God for the victory that is already won not to ask Him for victory. They go through the ABC's all over again with the individuals, and with their love and confidence it is hard for them to fall. The promises mixed with faith are powerful through Christ.
On one occasion the laymen who were to visit a man claiming victory decided that it would be well for one of them to go home with him, since he lived some miles away, and stay with him until the first few hours had worn away. He was most happy and appreciative of this kind support. Then others arranged for him to go and help pitch camp, where he could be under a good influence for several days. Such work by church members proves a great blessing to them as well as to the new converts.
The pastor is a great key in any revival campaign. It is he who makes sure of the prerevival organization, inspires the church, does the advertising, and often leads the music. Also he baptizes those who make their decision during the revival and are ready before it closes. The pastor and the revivalist spend several hours a day visiting in the homes of the people. As one of them visits with a soul in need, the other quietly claims the promise of the Holy Spirit and prays for wisdom. Then the second minister visits while the first prays silently. This fellow ship between pastor and revivalist is very sweet and is felt not only in the homes of the people but also during the revival meetings themselves.
At the close of the first Sunday night meeting in one revival I invited any who wished victory to step forward while the audience was leaving. The group was new and strange to me, but the pastor knew his flock. Though he had been in the district only a few weeks, he had done a great deal of visiting. His keen eye noticed a man, not a member of the church, who looked wistfully toward the speaker, turned to go out, then turned and looked back longingly once more. By the time the man reached the exit the pastor was beside him, quietly asking, "Didn't you want to come to the altar?" The man quickly responded, "Yes," and followed the pastor back to the front. For more than thirty years this poor man had been a slave to drink, but that night he received complete victory over both liquor and tobacco. Before the week ended he was out praying for others.
The pastor baptizes all the candidates. Thus the new converts are brought close to the minister who will remain instead of to the one who will quickly move on to another revival. Since the revival is of a different nature from the average evangelistic campaign, it is possible to conduct baptismal services immediately. In the revival the group of individuals who already know the truth are drawn from largely. They may be relatives of church members or may have taken one of the Bible correspondence courses. Perhaps they belong to the youth or junior group who have attended church and Sabbath school for years. During this week such persons are converted and openly express their desire to belong to the church. Having known practically all the truth, they usually require only a few hours of final instruction and examination.
However, during these revivals the conversion of a number of those who have never before known the teaching of Seventh-day Adventists has been realized. These people, together with those who have gained victory over alcohol and tobacco, join a baptismal class and are taken into the church later. In the case of an individual who overcomes the habit of liquor or tobacco, I never suggest his waiting because he is on trial and I want to be sure God has given him the victory. This would be doubt. I merely explain that there is other instruction that I wish to give him and that I shall soon have another baptismal service.
Let us be of good courage, brethren. The great day of God's power is at hand. We can hear Him calling, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." Isa. 60:1, 2.