Sunday, March 19, 2006

Revival Ramblings...

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.)


Blair said...

Very much enjoyed it.

The Table Guy said...

I caught a sent of your book as soon as I read the title. How's it coming?

This looks good.

Amanda said...

Sooo much of this rings true to me. Whatever did happen to those revivals? :)

Janalee said...

According to my mom, revivals are still alive and well in Mississippi. My old church had one a few weeks ago. There was only one decision, but mom told me the preacher made a hero out of my seminary from the pulpit because we kicked out a gay student. guess they'll keep the scholarships rollin' my way now.

Yeah, I don't really miss them either.

holly jones said...

i had forgotten about revivals... trust me, they are alive in west texas as well

Aaron said...

I appreciate your insights on this subject. The word "revival" can mean a number of different things. Revivals did not originally begin as week-long events scheduled on the calendar. They were, rather, spontaneous events of extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God, particularly with regard to bringing sinners to conversion. From my understanding, evangelicalism's roots go back to the revivalist-conversionist theology of the Great Awakening.

The best book I have seen on the subject is Iain Murray's "Revival and Revivalism," where he draws a contrast between what was originally known as "revival" and what it has become today.

Katy said...

Have you read "The Damnation of Theron Ware"? It's incredible. Fiction, of course, but it's this really eerily accurate look at life from inside an evangelical sub-culture. You should read it. Good book.

Nathan Lorick said...

we held a 4 day revival at my church last fall. I had the opportunity to baptize 9 new believers on the last night. We are scheduling another for this fall. They are still working here.

StandingOutInTheCold said...

Its funny, it seems to me that the "revival is coming" call had more to do with politics than with faith. Maybe its just a coincidence and I'm too young to see the other causes. However, I did not grow up in the South, I grew up in Colorado where we are generally a little more... secular than the South. But the good Evangelicals heard Carman talk about revival and jumped on the wagon (although we never had "revivals" we just talked about a "revival" that was going to come). From what I can tell that mostly meant "Those darned liberals are ruining our country. They keep pushing their secular, non-Christian -- no, anti-Christian -- ideas into the mainstream. Soon a revival will come and everyone will start acting like respectible Christians again." Now that Conservatives have had control of the government for some time and not much has changed culturally (or its only gotten worse) people are having a harder time blaming "those darn liberals" for their problems and they would have to admit that things within the church need to change if a positive cultural change is to take place if they examined that state of things. So instead they just keep quite and hope no one will notice.