Revivals Without Regrets

Reprinted by permission from "The Pastor" Magazine How to Conduct a Revival That Will Meet Present-day Needs and Conditions

JAMES H. JAUNCEY, Reprinted by permission from "The Pastor" Magazine

 — OT all revivals or evangelistic campaigns prove to be channels of blessing. Some turn out to be gutters of trouble. Sinners are confused instead of converted. Saints are harried rather than helped. It is not for nothing that many church troubles and splits follow in the wake of the special meeting.

Does this mean that we should be done with them altogether? Not unless it is logical to give up eating on account of a few gustatory tragedies! What is the answer then? Just a little bit more of the guidance of God superimposed on some good common horse sense.

Ever been to a revival where the evangelist has explained the plan of salvation every night to a congregation of Christians? Is it any won­der that even they begin to lose their interest? Let us be realistic enough to realize that even in the most renowned revivals the proportion of unconverted is small. Why not then gear the message to the whole audience?

Needless Distinctions

"But wait a minute," you say, "that wouldn't be an evangelistic campaign. That would be a deeper life crusade." But why divide the pur­pose like that? The "gospel" means "good news" and the modern Christian needs the good news of the secret of victorious living as much as the sinner needs the good news of salvation. The bulk of the New Testament was written to believers, but who would dare claim that it has thereby lost its power to save the lost?

Some of us have seen conversions at Bible conferences where not a word has been spoken to the unconverted. What happened? The Chris­tians started getting right with God, which then gave the Holy Spirit freedom to do what He had previously been prevented from doing. The truth is that any preacher who really knows the Word can find a relevance to sinners and saints in every message.

Church membership in America is increasing at two and a half times the rate of population increase. By far the greatest amount of this harvest is being reaped by the regular pastoral ministry together with a vigorous program of personal evangelism. If our special efforts are directed towards stimulating this as well as directly winning the outsider, they will be more effective in the long run. Furthermore the products of the personal approach are far more likely to stick!

Should the meeting be a union venture of all the churches in town or should the local church run its own program? It all depends what you want. If you want a big splash with the maximum advertising appeal then the un­ion meeting is the thing. But if a maximum permanent increase in church membership is desired and this at the greatest economy in time, money, and effort, then run your own crusade.

It is not at all necessary to have the church packed to the doors to have a good meeting. If the evangelist you want will not come to a church as small as yours, you are better off with­out him anyway. . . .

Choosing the Evangelist

Avoid the sensationalist like the plague. He may bring a few more people but he may also discredit your whole work. It pays to choose a speaker who is a trained and experienced min­ister. . . . Education tells in terms of depth, insight, and stability. Experience as a pastor on the part of the evangelist is likely to keep him from making mistakes which can hinder the church's work after he has left.

Money is often wasted unnecessarily on the advertising. Expensive radio, television, or news­paper advertisement may fail to bring one extra person. It is essential to let the people know, but it is good to remember that over advertising has a negative effect. Strict honesty is es­sential. Do not build up the speaker as a second Spurgeon. Nowadays pure oratory alone has little attraction anyway.

The best advertising is by word of mouth. Have the people talk it up and prepare for it by house-to-house visitation. Seeing that num­bers attract numbers, it pays to gain outright pledges from the membership that a substantial proportion will attend every night. If used with above, cards and leaflets are effective. A good principle to remember is that no method is automatically successful. It has to be used with forethought and care and always followed through.

How to Drive People Away

Musical features add to the enjoyment and become an attendance incentive if, and only if, they are first class. So also do worship features which involve audience participation. Stunts should be avoided as too artificial in relation to the spiritual purpose. People quickly see through any attempts to bribe them to come. Late starting, poor planning, long announce­ments, and unduly lengthy services will drive people away.

The effectiveness of many a campaign is marred by the appeals for decisions. At all times the personalities of the people in the congregation must be respected. High-pressure methods may produce results without conver­sions. Public decisions can be very helpful in crystallizing the surrender of the will if they are not merely the reaction to emotional pres­sure.

The ideal is persuasion without pressure, truth without tricks, seriousness without sen­timentality. A good test of the genuiness of a conversion is whether or not there is willingness to enter forthwith into active church membership...

Never let a special effort just die out. Have it end on the crest of the wave.

Someone has aptly said that when the meet­ing is over the service begins. That is good psychology. After a great crusade there is dan­ger of a letdown in which dangerous dissatisfac­tions can breed. If the slack is taken up by a planned program of service, this can be avoided.

On the personal level, nothing is more dan­gerous than decisions which are not harnessed into action. Character is undermined and Chris­tian living becomes reduced to mere sentimen­tality. On the other hand, when the decisions are carried out, the results become permanent and the blessing spreads.

There is a tremendous future for the revival idea if it is kept realistically geared to con­temporary needs. A meeting a year can be made to be a tremendous shot in the arm to the church's program and outreach.


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JAMES H. JAUNCEY, Reprinted by permission from "The Pastor" Magazine

May 1956

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