BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP)–In a sermon at last year’s Southern Baptist Convention, SBC President Bobby Welch appealed to Southern Baptists to hold more revivals.
“I would urge you: If every church in this convention attempted to have two revivals in one year, it would change everything,” Welch said during the annual meeting in Nashville.
“You say, ‘But we don’t do any revivals anymore.’ I say to you: If you had two of them, it would do you better,” Welch continued.
“You say, “Well, if I said revival, nobody would know what we were talking about.’ Well, talk about something they know about, but you give them a revival. Spend a few days trying to visit people, spend a few days trying to share the Gospel, spend a few days preaching the Gospel and watch what God will do,” Welch said.
Don Mathis, staff evangelist for Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Evangelists’ Fellowship, said Welch’s comments “got me all fired up for revivals, more revivals. What Bobby preached about churches having two revivals annually was no afterthought. It was at the very heart of his message.”
Welch also asked all those at the SBC annual meeting last year to stand who were members of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and who were vocational evangelists, encouraging SBC churches to avail themselves of those God has provided to aid in spiritual harvests.
Paul Bunger, pastor of Spring Creek Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., took to heart Welch’s challenge for a second revival.
“What Dr. Welch said resonated with me. Our church usually baptizes around 20 per year. But I made a commitment to the Lord to try and baptize 50,” Bunger said. “We need to baptize more in our church, and revival is the way to go.”
Bunger said Welch’s challenge for a second revival put Mathis on his heart and mind, especially since Mathis had already led in one revival for Spring Creek.
“God honored our week,” said Bunger, who told Baptist Press the second revival led by Mathis saw 11 professions of faith in Christ while three others joined the church by letter.
“It was a wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God,” Bunger recounted. “God used Don to help win a 19-year-old young man whose Gothic garb and lifestyle wasn’t readily accepted in the church. And the last night of the revival was one of the most awesome. A middle-schooler got saved even before the service started.”
Mathis, who is in his seventh year of vocational evangelism, said the revivals he leads, even in smaller membership churches, usually reap 10-12 professions of faith, and in larger churches many more. But the interesting thing to Mathis is that two-thirds of the converts are adults.
“I’m discovering that adults in the 40 to 60 age range are especially receptive to the Gospel,” Mathis said. “And it’s therefore a mistake to regard the traditional revival as ineffective. In many cases, churches are baptizing more people as a result of revivals than they baptize throughout the rest of the year.”
Mathis also cited a study by George Barna that the Kentucky Baptist Convention commissioned, which found that unchurched people in the state often have had previous church exposure, and many of those experiences were in Baptist churches.
“The best way to reconnect with these people is to understand that they gravitate to what they know. Their recollections are important to them,” said Mathis, reflecting on the Barna study which noted that worship services and special events are the top two re-entry points for people who have been disassociated with church life.
For Mathis, this trend of conversions among adults and also the importance of their memories of church provides an excellent strategy for reaching people with the Gospel, especially through revival meetings.
“Virtually everyone in Kentucky knows what a revival is,” Mathis said. “Where I live, folks are familiar enough with revivals that they are willing to try them again. And, as Barna said, traditional methods are good ways to connect with unchurched people.”
One vital key to the success of revivals is that church members “not only invite their friends and neighbors to church, but that they go and get them and bring them to church,” Mathis said. “If you can get these folks inside the church walls, they will walk the aisles.”
Noting that a weeknight revival service removes some of the intimidation that unchurched people feel in a Sunday morning service, Mathis said, “I believe what Barna found would apply to most states where Baptists have made an impact. Those in the 20 or so states where I preach certainly know what a revival meeting is.”
Mathis said he is “grateful to Bobby Welch for his leading the SBC back to the basics of reaching people for Christ, and especially for highlighting revival meetings as a method God is using in churches of all sizes everywhere.
Welch’s appeal for two revivals per year isn’t new to Mathis. Years ago at an evangelism conference, Mathis heard one of the keynote speakers say that churches which have two revival meetings a year baptize more than those that have one.
“That statement impacted me to the point that for 30 years in the churches where I served as pastor, we always had two revival meetings a year. And I discovered that God gives a revival harvest when we rightly pray, plan and conduct revivals.
“I’m adding my appeal to Bobby Welch’s in urging our pastors to invite a vocational evangelist, an evangelistic pastor or denominational preacher, or even conduct a revival yourself, but do it as soon as possible,” Mathis said. “It’s not too late to have at least one or even two revival meetings yet this year.”
To book a speaker for a revival, contact your state evangelism department or log on to the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ website, www.sbcevangelist.org.