Revival and the Responsibility of the Ministry
E. L. MINCHIN
Associate Secretary, General Conference Missionary Volunteer Department
THERE is no greater or 1 more solemn commission given to the ministry than that of bringing, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the promised and greatly needed revival of spiritual life and power to our people. The servant of God has told us that this is “the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work.”—Selected Messages, vol. I, p. 121. Without it the work cannot be finished. Without it the church would be unprepared for translation. With it God will cut short His work in righteousness. O that we would delay no longer in bringing to our trusting people this deep and more truly spiritual ministry! Our people are hungry. They rightly look to us for such leadership. They are disappointed when we fail to give it. The dangers of worldly compromise, the needs of our youth in this hour of peril, solemnly challenge the ministry.
We do not need to reproduce here the many unequivocal statements of the Bible on what God intends to do for His people when the way is prepared. The promised “outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” “the latter rain,” “the loud cry,” are expressions familiar to all of us. Ever since I was a child I have heard our ministers preach and pray concerning it. I have longed that I might be privileged to share in that last glorious display of God’s power on this earth, when we are told that the scenes of Pentecost will be eclipsed. But as yet the promise of its fullness has not been fulfilled.
We have been told that “when the way is prepared for the Spirit of God, the blessing will come.”—Ibid., p. 124. Here is the key to the blessing of heaven. Here is the secret of power. Here is the explanation for our failures of the past and of the present. The entire story of the Bible is a history of revival. Read the story of that mighty revival recorded in 2 Chronicles 15. The people sinned. They became like the people around them and served other gods. God raised up His messenger and through him spoke messages of love and power. What happened? They were convicted. They put away their idols. They raised an altar to the Lord and had some great meetings. The people came from all around, even from other countries, when they saw that the Lord was with them. Make no mistake, the hunger of the soul for God is universal. When the glory of the Lord is manifested and the fire is on the altar, when sin is put away and Christ the Saviour is made Lord, the crowds will come and mighty revivals will take place.
The Men God Uses
When God finds truly humble and dedi- cated instruments who are willing to pay the price that a truly spiritual ministry demands, He has mighty weapons in His hand for the breaking down of strongholds and the establishing of His kingdom in the hearts of men. The greatest preparation for any revival must take place in the hearts of the instruments God will use. It is the preacher’s inner life that matters most, and argely determines the success or failure of any revival. It is not his education, his cul- ture, or his organizing ability, important as they may be. If he is a born-again servant of God, and has a passionate love for Christ; if he has a tender and understanding heart in his dealing with souls, and a growing love for and familiarity with the Word of God; if he is an unworldly man whom the people know comes to his task from the higher levels of fellowship and communion with God, a vitalizing power will attend his ministry. If he does not have this his ministry becomes mediocre and ineffective. Successful ministry is costly. It is a spiritual work. Find a man who will diligently cultivate his own soul and you will have an instrument of power. Otherwise, we merely preach but we do not woo. We talk, but nothing happens. We pass multitudes of resolutions, but nobody quakes. There is no vital movement toward God. The simple fact is this: when for any reason we become separated from the God we vowed to serve, we cease to become effective channels of His grace to His people. Then let the fire fall. Let the cleansing, energizing power of the Holy Spirit take possession of us. Let Jesus Christ and His will become the passion of our lives. Let self-glory vanish and the blessing will come, and the fires of true revival will be kindled in every land.
During the last four years it has been my privilege to minister to thousands of our youth and our people in revival efforts in twelve cities, and in our colleges and academies in North America as well as in other lands. We give praise to our heavenly Father for what we have seen, especially among our youth. Surely one of the most heartening things that we see in all God’s work today is the response in the hearts of our young people to the call of God.
As these were youth-centered revivals, we have worked through the union and local Missionary Volunteer secretaries in preparing for and organizing the meetings. They in turn worked closely with the conference president and local pastor. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the local pastor’s influence in the promoting of the revival. His vision, support, and participation are essential to its success and to the follow-up.
We have followed the plan of holding meetings for nine-night periods, from Friday night until the Saturday night a week later, in a center where a number of churches could combine. The organization of Friendship Teams among our young people and members at least six weeks before our meetings were to begin, has been a special feature and especially “blessed by the Lord.
Prior to our crusade in Los Angles, Desmond Cummings, the MV secretary of the Southern California Conference, followed a plan of Friendship Team participation that produced remarkable results. In the city of Chicago, three weeks before the meetings began, more than 1,100 former Seventh-day Adventists and discouraged church members were being visited by members of the Friendship Teams. In the more recent Orlando, Florida, effort there were 60 Friendship Teams contacting more than 200 former members. Many times our hearts have been blessed and stirred by the sight of scores of our consecrated teen-agers and young people bringing their needy friends to the meetings and coming forward with them when the call was made. We have had the joy of seeing hundreds of back-sliders reclaimed, sin put away, and families reunited in a new and tender relationship of love to each other and to their Lord.
The Sabbath prior to the recent Orlando, Florida, effort, was a day of fasting and prayer. The churches held all-day services of intercession for the meetings. Hundreds, both old and voung, devoted the day to prayer and heart-searching. We are told that “a revival need be expected only in an- swer to prayer/’—Ibid., p. 121. There is no substitute for prayer. Real praying involves an outlay of time and effort that flesh and blood does not like. It is a spiritual work. Let the ministers lead the people into an experience of deep heart-searching and prevailing prayer, and results must come. “Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 362.
I am sure that no one in Orlando who attended those prayer seasons fully realized what was going to happen. The way indeed was prepared and the blessing came. Increasing and unprecedented crowds of up to 1,500 packed the Orlando central church each night. The meetings were extended by urgent request. The presence of God was felt in a powerful way, especially in the hearts of our youth who came from Forest Lake Academy and the surrounding churches. The last Saturday night witnessed a Pentecostal season in a meeting that lasted nearly four hours. It was impossible to close it. Great and marvelous victories were won in the hearts of our youth, many of whom were in very great need. Strong men wept as they saw and felt the power of God working upon the hearts of our youth. Surely this is not the work of man. Who among us has power to convict of sin and to turn sinners to righteousness? It is God’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. Let us be careful lest we take the glory that be- longs to Him, or treat lightly the work of the Holy Spirit upon human hearts.
Someone might say that we have to be careful about emotionalism. That is true, but there is a vast difference between emotionalism and godly emotion. We cannot have too little of the former and too much of the latter. A godly sorrow for sin touches the emotions. Our Saviour wept for sinners and His heart bled and was broken for a lost world. Brethren, our hearts also must bleed if we would be ministers of the saving power of Christ’s blood. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion of Him who “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7).
We follow the plan in most of the meet- ings of either making an altar call or of holding an after-meeting. Altar calls are made when the Spirit of conviction is markedly present. Sometimes an invitation is given for those who feel their need and who wish to stay for an after-season of prayer to come to the prayer room during the singing of the last hymn. It is in these after-services where much of the real work of the campaign is done. Here we come into a closer, more intimate contact with those who are needing help. The pastors meet with us. Decision cards are used for follow-up work. If any wish personal help the pastors take them aside right there in the church or in some anteroom for counseling and prayer. What blessed seasons, what reaching out to the Lord, what victories claimed by faith have been experienced in these after-services. During the week the pastors and local workers meet each morning for an hour of prayer, heart-searching, and Bible study. The rest of the day is given to visitation in the homes of those especially in need of help and to those in the academy and church school.
The final Saturday night is devoted to praise and testimony. These meetings have been among the most powerful and blessed of all. A distinct blessing comes to those who have found a new experience in Christ when they give expression to their faith and love in testimonies of praise. Frequently many more decisions have been secured as we have used the earnest testimony of some youth who has found Christ anew as a basis of appeals to others in the audience. We need to use the personal testimony method more than we do. There is power in it. The servant of God calls upon every youth who loves the Lord to confess Him before his fellow youth. “Tell them how you found Jesus and how blessed you have been since you gained an experience in His service. Tell them what blessing comes to you as you sit at the feet of Jesus and learn precious lessons from His word.
Tell them of the gladness and joy that there is in the Christian life. . . . This is genuine missionary work, and as it is done, many will awake as from a dream.”—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 48.
Yes, brethren, “many will awake as from a dream.” We have seen this happen time and time again. During the final service of testimony in one recent campaign, a well- known youth who had wandered far from Christ came to the microphone and gave a broken and heartfelt testimony of his decision to turn from a life of sin and follow Christ all the way. Previously he had held back largely because of his companions. Now an appeal was made to his buddies in the audience to join him, to finish with sin and disobedience and with him confess Christ as their Saviour. More than twenty lads were soon on the platform beside him, some of whom were sobbing and under deep conviction. The personal testimony and witness of one youth did a work in the hearts of others that all the sermons of the previous week had failed to do. Scores were awakened “as from a dream.” It was a Pen- tecostal season. Hours after the meeting closed, youth tarried in the church with anxious hearts, wanting to know how to find Christ and get right with Him.
The Science of Preaching
The work of preaching and of soul win- ning, especially among youth, is a science so deep and so vast that we cry out, “Who of us, O Lord, is sufficient for these things?” I have not written of anything or told of any methods that are new to our men. What must be new among us is to be found in our hearts. If we would be God’s instru- ments, the fire must be kindled anew there. It is the atmosphere of spirituality around the preacher, the warm throb of his heart, his yearning for the souls of his people, his deep understanding of the longings, of the failures, and of the needs of his flock that gives his words power and wings them home to the hearts of his hearers. Fortunate the congregations who get such ministers.
Then, too, our great need is simplicity in presenting the love of God in Christ to our people. There is no substitute for this. “To invest the simplest truths with novelty and singularity, is to rob them of their power to win souls to Christ.”—Sons and Daugh- ters of God, p. 266. Let us shun the spectacular and the novel and hold to the simple, direct preaching of Christ and the Word. In music let us discard the superficial and the showy and hold to the grand old hymns and songs of the cross, of Zion, and of Christian experience. Many of the greatest hymns of the Christian church were born in times of mighty spiritual awakening when men’s souls were stirred to deep devotion to Christ.
If we would see sinners brought to the foot of the cross and the saints established in holy living we must preach on the great themes of the Bible. J. H. Jowett once said, “Our visions always determine the quality of our tasks.” Too often the preacher’s vision is limited because he has not, like Isaiah, seen “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1); consequently his sermons are inadequate for the desperate needs of his flock. Let the great themes of the love of God in Christ, repentance, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, a full salvation through Jesus Christ, and His glorious return be presented. No sentimental preaching of the gospel, no preaching merely of lofty idealism will bring healing and salvation to the people. We are warned against this type of preaching. “The Lord desired His servants today to preach the old gospel doctrine, sorrow for sin, repentance, and confession. We want old-fashioned sermons, old-fashioned customs, old- fashioned fathers and mothers in Israel. The sinner must be labored for, perseveringly, earnestly, wisely, until he shall see that he is a transgressor of God’s law, and shall exercise repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.”— Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 19.
This precious Advent message was born in one of the greatest revivals in history. It will close in the mightiest revival of all time. Brethren, our task is a holy one. It is an imperative one. Thousands of our youth and of our people must be brought to realize that “a mere profession of Christ is not enough to prepare one to stand the test of the Judgment” (Ellen G. White in The Review and Herald, Jan. 25, 1887), and that “only those who are clothed in the garments of His righteousness will be able to endure the glory of His presence when He shall appear with ‘power and great glory.’ “— ELLEN G. WHITE in The Review and Her- ald, July 9, 1908.
In the last message the servant of God sent to the General Conference, in 1913, she says, “I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement—a work of revival—going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line, responding to God’s call.” —Testimonies to Ministers, p. 515. Could the scenes we are witnessing in places here and there on the earth today be a part of that greater movement, that work of revival and reformation which the servant of God foresaw forty-six years ago? This work is long overdue. The power of Pentecost is our supreme need. May we, His servants, not fail Him or His people in this last solemn hour.