The recent news that the SBC’s total membership figure has experienced a decline has generated all kinds of comments and conversation among the bloggers of the Baptist world.  Even though the statistics have pointed in this direction for a long time, and the total membership figure, over 16 million, isn’t even close to representing the real numerical strength of the SBC, which is closer to 6 million, the abrupt news of a sudden drop in that total figure has the effect of crossing some kind of line in time.

This is a local church problem that a denominational program or emphasis will not fix.  Our churches need to be touched by the Spirit, and set ablaze by revival.

So what does real revival look like?

I teach a Sunday school class of 70’s and up.  The department director, a spry, active 90 year old gentleman, prays for revival every week.  So one Sunday morning, I asked the class what they thought real revival looked like.  A few of them described it in terms of their recollections of revival meetings of days past, when an evangelist would come and preach for a week or so, and a special musician would come and lead the music.  Most of them laughed when I suggested that the excitement they experienced was simply because they got a break in the routine of their regular music director and pastor.  But a couple of them recalled a time when, whether a series of special meetings was being held or not, a great conviction came over the church, and many people experienced repentance, forgiveness and deliverance from sin, and a real movement of the Holy Spirit that resulted in changed lives.  They remembered spiritual movements among students on a college campus, or among several churches in a specific community.  They all had some things in common, among them, a sense of being convicted by the Spirit, leading to genuine, heartfelt repentance, and the evidence of a changed life. 

There are several examples of revival in the scriptures.  In 2 Kings 22, when Josiah becomes King in Jerusalem, he orders a restoration of the Temple, which had been neglected.  During the restoration, a scroll is discovered, brought to Josiah, and read to him.  As he hears the scriptures, he is overcome by conviction and tears his clothes in despair, weeping and crying in repentance.  He sends his high priest to the temple to pray and intervene with God in sorrow and repentance on behalf of the people.  Through a prophetess named Huldah, the Lord sends word that he will indeed judge Jerusalem and its people, and will destroy the city and the temple because of their disobedience.  However, as a result of Josiah’s intervention, sorrow, and genuine repentance, the Lord postpones the disaster until after Josiah has passed on from the scene. 

“‘And I have indeed heard you,’ says the Lord. ”  2 Kings 22:19b

That’s what real revival looks like.  Conviction by the scriptures.  Sorrow and repentance.  Confession.  Restoration by the Lord himself, who hears you. 

One of my favorite songs of late is Stay Strong, by the Newsboys.  I’ll close with the words to the bridge and the chorus:

Get up, there’s further to go
Get up, there’s more to be done
Get up, this witness is sure
Get up, this race can be won
This race can be won

We’ve gotta stay strong
You are not lost
Come on and fix your eyes ahead
Our Father’s dawn will light our day, our day
Come on and stay strong
His grip is sure
And His patience still endures
There’ll be no letting go today, no way

Come on, and stay strong
You and I run
For the prize that lies ahead
We’ve come too far to lose our way, our way”


About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

5 responses

  1. Ken Coffee says:

    Great thoughts, Lee. Might I suggest to your readers that as they study scriptural revivals they investigate the place prayer had in each of them. Even here, in the passage you sited, “God heard”, so someone must have prayed. Prayer is the engine of this vehicle we call “church.” When our churches get on their knees, then and only then will we see revival. “When my people….humble themselves and pray….THEN will I…….”

  2. Colby says:

    Christians on their knees, praying? I must confess, in the church I grew up in, and in the one I attend now, there is little emphasis on that. The first real prayer gathering I ever participated in was at a World Changers project, when I was in high school They do what is called a “concert of prayer” on the first weeknight of the project, and let me tell you, it brought a real revival, both for me personally, and for our youth group. That was almost six years ago, and it is still going on. I think we are more caught up, at least in our churches, in the theatrics, the “look and feel” and the PR value and political correctness of worship than we are in the Holy Spirit. For some reason, Baptists are afraid of the Holy Spirit, it would shake too many of us out of our dream world.

  3. KGray says:

    Colby, do you think many younger church members share your view that Baptists are afraid of the Holy Spirit?

  4. Colby says:

    It’s my view, from my own observation. In non-denominational churches, I see people who are very comfortable with expressive worship, to the point where they may even experience some kind of emotional reaction, or even what I would say is some kind of visible manifestation. In the Baptist congregation I belong to, that sort of thing would get you shown the door.

  5. KGray says:

    That is my observation, too. And I think younger churchgoers look for more freedom in worship. Not necessarily a praise band, just more freedom to participate and respond.