A One-Man Program
In recent years a new concept of evangelism has been practiced successfully in the Southern Union under the name of Revivalism. It has not only proved successful, but it has fulfilled the highest aims of evangelism in leading the lost to Christ.
The meetings are conducted primarily in the churches, and this is the reason it has been tabbed Revivalism. Through this new program, revival takes place twice as fast, with good results, in small as well as large churches, at only a fraction of the cost of an evangelistic team. This program is best conducted by a man capable of leading music and preaching. At the present time, there are four men conducting similar revival programs in the Southern Union.
One of the biggest questions is: "How can it be done in two weeks?" J. L. Shuler, one of our outstanding workers, said, "There is nothing mystical about the number 'three.' " For many years it was felt that three months were necessary for an evangelistic meeting, then two months, then one month, then three weeks; and now it is being done successfully and thoroughly in two weeks.
In this two-week program it is very important that thorough preparation be made by the church before the meetings begin. To guide the church in making preparation, a step-by-step guide entitled
"Keys to a Successful Revival" is mailed to the pastor in advance. When the minister follows this guide, a good harvest of souls is usually experienced. It is surprising how much can be done in two weeks when everything is well organized.
Meetings are held every night. The first week of revival is devoted to securing decisions and the second week in preparing for church membership. In this short campaign it is important that invitations be extended from the very first meeting. If the revivalist knows the technique, this can be done without any embarrassment from the beginning.
Revival in the Church
For years this denomination has been plagued with the idea that evangelism had to be conducted in a tent or some other flimsy structure. In many cases these flimsy structures have made the community mad and the conference has spent a lot of money, when just as much could have been accomplished in the church. My first impression upon joining this church was that we were ashamed of our churches, but I later discovered this was not the case at all. Our people rejoice in the spirit of revival in their own churches. It does something for our own church members, as well as their friends, when the spirit of revival is experienced in singing, preaching, and praying in their church. Quite often members have said during the revival, "I just can't believe it is happening in our church."
I have discovered that when members bring their interests and friends to a church revival the victory is half won. In most cases decisions are much easier to secure in the church and much more lasting. The surroundings of the church give the interests a much clearer vision of what they are joining. Whenever it is time to transfer new believers from a tent to the church, the evangelist and pastor hold their breath because they realize there is going to be a loss. This sudden change is not noticed in a church revival, because this is the place they have attended and where they made their decision. After attending meetings for two weeks in the church, the new believers acquire a sense of belonging.
A well-attended revival in the church can elevate the work of our church immeasurably in the thinking of our people and the community.
The Revival Schedule
The revival begins with the first Sabbath church service and continues every night for two weeks, ending with a baptismal service the third Sabbath. During the second week of meetings a Bible study class is conducted nightly after the sermon. During this week a visit is made to all who have made decisions and all who should make a decision. They are personally invited to remain after the sermon for a special study class. It is important that all interested ones attend this class, for this is where previous decisions are sealed and new commitments are made. This Bible study class is conducted in the church auditorium and church members are encouraged to attend. If every point of doctrine is covered, this eliminates the statement so often heard, "They were brought in unprepared." It is wise to refer to this class as the Bible study class, rather than the baptismal class, so interested ones will not be frightened away before the class begins.
This Program Appeals to Churches of Every Size
In every conference there are a number of small churches that have gone years without a revival. The larger churches, in many cases, are overworked while the smaller churches are neglected completely in evangelism. Large evangelistic teams cannot afford to go to these small churches. There is an important place for the large teams, but it is not in the small-community church. Therefore, very rewarding meetings can be held in these small churches for the simple reason that for years no one has reaped a harvest. In many cases, small churches have a real missionary spirit and are desirous of bringing their friends to a well-conducted revival in their own church. Often at the close they will say, "When can we have another one?"; whereas, the members of the larger churches often think, "I hope this is the last one for a while." It would be good if we could balance the scales.
Cost of the Revival
The first year this program was tried, it was with the understanding that the entire cost of the meetings would be covered by the offerings. At the close of the first year, 180 new members had been baptized and an overflow of eight hundred dollars was turned in to the conference. All expenses had been paid out of the offerings received, including the motel bills of the revivalist. If Bibles, gifts, and films are used, such a financial arrangement would be impractical. Under the program followed now, the church pastor secures a budget from the conference and takes care of all expenses during the revival. Depending upon the size of the church, the budget runs between $600 and $1,000, with about 80 per cent raised by the offerings.
For a long time it has been my conviction that an evangelist should be invited by the minister and the church rather than assigned by a conference president. Unless the pastor has a genuine desire for a revival, little preparation will be done; and preparation determines about 60 to 70 per cent of the results of a revival. If the pastor has a sincere desire for a revival, the victory is half won. If the pastor and the church have a burning desire for a revival, victory is assured. If the pastor and the church members are satisfied as they are, the evangelist, if he is sincere, is sure to have his heart broken. Therefore, if the minister is holding a revival simply because the conference president asked for one, it is possible that full cooperation during the meetings will never be experienced.
The revivalist usually plans his schedule a year ahead, with the conference president's approval. If there is need of changes or additions during the year, they are made. Most conference presidents are thankful some of this responsibility is off their shoulders and appreciate this method of scheduling meetings.
Results of Meetings
In this short revival program it is possible to conduct twelve to fifteen meetings a year with the revivalist in meetings for two weeks and one week off between. It is possible to have an average number of baptisms at each church, and yet with this many meetings in one year, the total number of baptisms is very rewarding. In the first three years 565 were baptized and hundreds of commitments were made by our church members as the result of the work of one revivalist. Many of our church members have never experienced conversion, thus making the church a field for revivalism. Many others renew their Christian experience.
The Southern Union has found that not only have the results been gratifying but the appreciation shown by the pastors and church members by extending invitations to the revivalists to return the next year has proved the churches like this program and want to support it