I'm the pastor of a church associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. For many reasons that's a good thing, but today I'm not too proud of it because I got this from our main press organization, Baptist Press. It's an article promoting "revival meetings" to reach the younger generations.
I'm sure SBC evangelists think they are trying to get the word out on what they believe is important, but it feels more like they are low on cash and need to put out some pro-evangelist propaganda. And if it was just propaganda, I wouldn't freak out about it. But it's much worse than that.
The author (who is the president of an organization of Southern Baptist evangelists) seems to think "revival" meetings are the key to evangelistic success among 9 to 29 year olds, who happen to be coming to Jesus in fewer numbers. He says, "What is the cure? Hold an old-fashioned revival meeting." Why?
"Thirty-three to 50 percent of all baptisms come from revivals and harvest days. Use an evangelist! Ninety-eight percent of the time that a vocational evangelist is used to preach the revival services, someone accepts Christ. If there is adequate preparation for the revival, that figure jumps even higher."
Wow, this guy has God figured out. Push the right buttons, get the right results. God is a cosmic vending machine.
The article continues as the evangelist talks about "Homer," his ventriloquist doll, who tells kids not only to accept Jesus into their hearts, but then to raise their hands and come forward during the invitation. Here is Homer's advice for kids...
"I ask the children not to pray if they are not going to come forward at the end of the revival service. The word "faith" means commitment."
Look, I'm all for a faith that is a living faith, a real and committed faith. But the invitation system forces faith into an extra-biblical mold. So now our commitment to Jesus isn't enough. It's not enough to talk to your parents or pray with your pastor I guess. Why not just tell the kids the truth: "Little ones, you need to walk up and shake the hand of the funny chubby guy with the doll so he can prop you up as his trophy and notch your name on his belt."
Here's my response to these issues and more in this article: In 2003 the SBC boasted of more than 16 million members while the average attendance of church worship services was less than 6 million. Could this be because decades of "old-fashioned revival meetings" have produced a lot of empty decisions but very few disciples? Could this be because we love numbers more than souls?
This is the problem between real revival and "revivalism." True revival is something God does in the hearts of people that brings real change. "Revivalism" is a program or event that produces emotionally manipulated decisions through 14 verses of "Just As I Am" led by some guy with a bad comb-over and a peach colored suit.
Hey, I know some people have probably been genuinely converted through "revival" meetings, The 700 Club, and maybe even through the preaching of false teachers like T.D. Jakes. I don't mean to discourage these people as they follow Christ. Stay faithful.
But we need to call it like it is and reject this kind of evangelism. We shouldn't reject it because it's "old-fashioned." We should reject it because it's unbiblical and ultimately turns the culture off to the life-changing gospel.
Programs are not the answer for emerging generations. People are the answer, people who know Jesus and who love and serve others. We need to be people who are willing to be transparent and real so that we can have genuine and meaningful relationships where the gospel is not only spoken, but lived out.