Growing up we had church meetings twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday. Once a year, however, a week was set aside to have church every day and this was called a "Revival."
Some of you know what I'm screamin'.
Revival services were led not by the local pastor but by an itinerant preacher known as an "evangelist," which in most cases was a misnomer seeing how evangelism was not the point of a revival. Re-vival was the point. Or was it? Wednesday nights (which in my early childhood was the middle night of revival services-- later on it became the last) was set aside as "Bring 'em Back Alive" night. On this night we were encouraged to bring our friends who were not Christians to church where they could become alive. The hope was that these souls who were dead at 6:30 p.m. would be alive by 10:00 p.m., just in time for the local news.
The problem with this is that in all of East Texas there are only about four or five people who don't claim to be Christians.
So rather than bringing our nonexistent non-Christian friends we instead brought not people who didn't worship, but rather people who worshipped at different places and in different ways. Revival weeks were times to pick off members of another congregation and add them to yours.
Another result of being in a place during Revivals where everyone was (or called themselves) Christians was the phenomenon of people who were thought by all to be of the faith who came to the realization that although they prayed to God and read their bibles daily and believed in God the Father, Jesus the Crucified and Resurrected Son, and the Holy Spirit, they were not, in fact, "saved," (which is the words we used for being a Christian.) Sometimes these people got "saved" at every revival. It was somewhat scandalous, yet extremely enjoyable to watch
When I got to college I began hearing the word "Revival" in different contexts from the once a year week long meeting I had grown up attending. People began to say "revival is coming," yet not once reference an evangelist or a "Bring 'em Back Alive" night. It seemed they were talking about something that was at best, True. At worst, Fun.
Later I learned that when people said they thought revival was coming what they really meant was that soon something will happen and the faith of everyone else will look just like my faith. "Revival is coming, and when it does, I want to be there," really meant "Revival is cominig, and when people look for the reason for it, look no further than right here at me."
It's funny, but I haven't heard anyone talk about revival in the past five or six years. I can't decide if incessant revival-talk is primarily an East Texas occurance, if something people in Waco are too sophisticated for, or if people have just gotten tired of it.
To tell you the truth, I haven't missed it one bit.
Looking back on the revival meetings of my childhood I realize the greatest thing about them was the sharing of meals that would happen before each service and the opportunity to hear a different preacher (even if they yelled much louder than ours--a feat that seemed impossible but that occured nevertheless.)
I typically cast a cynical eye towards revival talk. Maybe this isn't good, but I think it's a defense mechanism because generally people going through what they claim to be "revival" can be a bit too exclusive and snoody for my taste, without even realizing it.
(This post has been a ramble-- trying to make it into a book chapter.... sorry for the abrupt ending.)