THE PLACE OF REVIVAL IN NAZARENE EVANGELISM
If we can agree, then, that revival is spiritual renewal in the hearts
of Christians, and that
evangelism is the natural and inevitable response and expression of that
renewal, we may discuss
more knowingly, I trust, the place of revival in Nazarene evangelism.
No one, surely, could read anyone's history of the Church of the Nazarene
that revival has been the central thrust of Nazarene evangelism from the
very beginning of the
As has often been said, the Church of the Nazarene was born in revival
fires; and from the
time Dr. Bresee organized the first Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles
in 1895, it was a place
of revival fire and evangelistic zeal. The story of the Church of the Nazarene
in its finest conquests
and victories is the story of its repeated revivals and its dynamic evangelism.
And, thank God, the
church has never lacked for men to remind it of its origin and its destiny.
B. F. Haynes, for instance, the first editor of the Herald of Holiness,
said in one of his
early editorials in 1913 "To preach and testify and push the work of holiness,
so that men and
women are sanctified wholly, is the work to which the Pentecostal Church
of the Nazarene is
called ... To do simply the ordinary routine of forms and ceremonies does
not demand this
movement ... A professed Church of the Nazarene which is just beating time
had as well be wiped
off the face of the earth. We come to bring fire ... This is our calling."
It was Dr. R. T. Williams who said: "We were born in a revival atmosphere
and we must
continue to live in such an atmosphere if we hope to live at all. It is
a genuine holiness evangelism
that brought the church into existence and the same type of evangelism is
essential to our existence
and success. Let there be no tendency to substitute programs and sentimentalism
Holy Ghost, God-sent revivals."
Dr. J. B. Chapman, in editorials, in sermons, and in books, repeatedly
brought the church
face-to-face with the primacy of revivals in its evangelism. "Our principal
business," he said, "is
to promote revivals. The one striking feature of the Nazarene movement is
intense revival fire."
And in an editorial in the Preacher's Magazine of March, 1940, he asked,
"What is the proper
program of the church?" and he answered: "The program of the church is a
revival program ... The
direct fruitage consists of saved souls, but in the process of saving souls,
the church itself is
And who could ever forget the memory or the influence of this same
man, eighteen years a
general superintendent, standing in Kansas City in January of 1946, pleading
with the leaders of
the church, and through them with Nazarenes everywhere, to go "all out for
souls"? Listen to those
words that still scorch our complacency and pride: "Let us get off our high
horses and pay the
price for revival ... A revival that, like a summer shower, will purify
the atmosphere of our
churches everywhere, and which will awaken dormant forces of our people
young and old ... A
revival that will make this namby-pamby, soft-handed, compromising, cringing
sort of holiness as
obsolete as Phariseeism was on the Day of Pentecost ... I want that kind
of revival because it takes
that kind to really revive me."
In the general superintendents' address to the General Assembly of
1936 were these words:
"It is not enough for any generation to be told about the great revivals
of the past. There must be a
fresh baptism with fire for the sons and daughters, and the atmosphere of
revival must prevail in
every new day until the Son of Man shall come."
And in the General Assembly of 1940, the general superintendents said:
"It was genuine
holiness evangelism that brought the church into existence and the same
type of evangelism is
essential to our existence and success ... We want more than protracted
meetings. We want
revivals -- revivals that stir our people to the depths of their souls."
No one could possibly read the history of the formative period of the
Church of the
Nazarene without coming to the inescapable conclusion that revival, real
Holy Ghost revival, was
absolutely central and primary in the Nazarene evangelism of yesterday.
But that was yesterday. And yesterday is history. And even though the
exploits of yesterday
thrill us, and the passionate commitments of those who shaped that day inspire
us, we cannot turn
to that church today, for that was the church that was.
But today is our day, and while we can determine better where we are
by knowing where
we've been -- for churches, like persons, are never wholly independent of
their origins -- yet we
live and work in the church that is.
While I know of the evangelism of yesterday only by hearsay and reading,
I speak of our
evangelism today out of experience, because my entire ministry has been
during the years of the
early forties to the present time. I am now (1966) in my twenty-fifth year
of continuous evangelism
and have conducted over six hundred revival meetings around the world.
Nazarenes today are asking in varying degrees of criticism or concern,
"What is wrong
with our evangelism?" or, "Whom can I get for an evangelist?" There seems
to be the implication
that three hundred evangelists wholly determine the state of evangelism
in the entire church.
Forgotten is the fact that there are over eight thousand other Nazarene
preachers, and over four
hundred thousand Nazarene church members, everyone of whom either helps
or hinders the cause
of evangelism in the church.
But the question is not new. For years now there have been those who
sincerely, and with a spirit of earnest quest, why Nazarene evangelism was
not more effective, and
how it could be made so.
Dr. D. Shelby Corlett, for instance, in an editorial in the Herald
of Holiness of January 2,
1937 -- or twenty-nine years ago -- asked, "Are our evangelistic efforts
successful? Are we
reaping the largest possible results from our evangelistic meetings? These
questions are being
asked by pastors and laymen." And in an editorial entitled "Are We Reaching
the Unsaved?" which
appeared in the Herald of December 28, 1942, he said: "Not long since, an
evangelist said that
during a ten-day evangelistic meeting there were six services when every
person present professed
entire sanctification -- not an unsaved, unsanctified or backslidden person
present in sixty percent
of the meetings ... This situation is causing many to question the advisability
evangelistic meetings." And that was twenty-four years ago!
In the Preacher's Magazine for March of 1938, Dr. Chapman wrote: "I
realize that there are
many who say that the time of revivals is past." And that was twenty-eight
years ago! And even
farther back, in an article by B. T. Flanery in the Herald for February
9, 1921, under the title "Are
the Days of Mighty Revivals Past?" his opening sentence was, "We are often
met with the
statement, You cannot have an old-time revival in these days." And that
was forty-five years ago!
"It is hard work to get a crowd," said E. O. Chalfant in an article
in the Herald of February,
1941; "it never was easy, generally speaking. I know it has been for fifty
years. There has always
been the remnant of the faithful few, but to get the unsaved even to listen
has always been a
difficult task." And that was twenty-five years ago!
And in March of the same year, 1941, A. S. London wrote: "We have discovered
revivals are very unsatisfactory. It is estimated that we are having five
thousand revival efforts
each year in our denomination. They are reaching but few new people. It
is a warming over of the
same six and half dozen in too many instances ... General leaders, pastors,
evangelists and laymen
are discontented with our average revival." And please remember that those
words appeared in the
Herald twenty-five years ago!
And as for evangelists and their prestige and image, P[ascal]. P[erry].
Belew had an article
in the Herald of Holiness, September 23, 1931, under the title "Shall We
Abandon the Revival
Meeting?" in which he said: "For several years the writer has observed a
growing tendency to
depreciate the office and work of the evangelist. At conferences and assemblies
he seldom gets
more than a passing recognition while at preachers' meetings he is most
The evangelist has long been considered a 'necessary evil,' but is coming
to be considered an evil
that is unnecessary." And that was thirty-five years ago!
But perhaps the most revealing example of the persistence of these
questions is found in
Dr. D. Shelby Corlett's message to the first evangelism conference ever
held in the Church of the
Nazarene -- held in Kansas City in January of 1947. In that message Dr.
Corlett said: "It has been
an apparent fact that for some time we have been reaching few new people
in our revival meetings.
We need a revival!
"Primarily, we need a revival among all of us: superintendents, general
our college men, our evangelists, our pastors, our missionaries -- all of
us need to have a fresh
outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us.
"We know our problem. We pretty well know what it will take to pay
the price to find a
solution. The question is, will we pay that price?" ...
[A portion of the text here, containing quotations used by permission,
is omitted from this
digital publication. -- DVM]
While there has been much criticism of evangelism in general, and revival
among writers and leaders of many denominations, the Church of the Nazarene
has been committed
to holiness evangelism and revival as a central agency of that commitment
through its history. And
one need go no farther back than the last General Assembly to substantiate
Yet there are disturbing differences in the questions concerning revivals
and evangelism in
the church today. For one thing, the questioning seems to be more widespread
than ever before.
And for another, there is a new note of cynicism in the asking. Indeed,
some are not so much asking
the questions; they are already convinced in their own minds -- and are
trying to convince others --
that evangelism -- except their own brand -- is a spent force; and that
evangelists are no longer
needed in the church.
Anyone who thinks these are extreme statements simply doesn't get around
and hear people
talk -- even some preachers. Those who make periodic surveys are amazed
and disturbed at the
intensity of the feeling. And, of course, evangelists come in for more than
their share of the
criticism. But far more disturbing than the criticism of evangelists is
the criticism of evangelism,
especially in regard to revivals.
Let me cite a few examples, and I don't mention names because this
is not a discussion of
personalities, but principles. The principle is this: A disparagement or
neglect of revival is always
a spiritual problem.
A Nazarene layman, a professional man, was asked by his pastor why
he was not attending
the revival. "Well," he said, "just to be honest with you, as far as I'm
concerned, revival-time is
not the Church of the Nazarene at its best." Some months later, however,
this man was reclaimed
and confessed before the church that he had been backslidden for years.
Now, reports his pastor,
that man is in Sunday night services, prayer meetings -- and attends faithfully
all services of
revivals, unless he is called out by emergencies.
When I am told that certain people do not attend week-night revival
services, I usually ask,
"Do they attend Sunday night services and prayer meetings? Do they participate
programs?" And with but few exceptions, for reasons of health or demands
of shift work, the
pattern is the same: the very ones who do not attend revival services are
careless about attending
Sunday night services and prayer meetings. Those who neglect revivals will
also neglect anything
else that makes spiritual demands upon them.
There are those who hesitate to invite influential friends to revival
services because they
do not want their friends to have that "image" of the church. And yet dedicated
ministers or laymen, have through the years felt that revival-time was the
image the church should
build and maintain -- if the Church of the Nazarene was to justify its existence
and do the work
God had called it to do.
When members of the staff of a large Nazarene church urged their pastor
to have a revival,
citing several indications that revival was certainly needed, the pastor
replied: "We don't want or
need that emotional flag-waving around here." But, since that time that
pastor has stood in his own
pulpit, and before his ministerial friends, and confessed that he had not
been spiritually what he
should have been and had become so busy with other things that he had neglected
Another pastor, defending his criticism of revivals, said, "All right.
If revivals are so
important, how is it that Church took in thirty-one members on profession
of faith last year and they
haven't even tried to have a revival in eighteen months?" It was suggested
to him that the reason
was a dedicated Nazarene laywoman still true to her convictions and the
urgencies of her faith and
witnessing who was out there day after day, calling on people, praying with
them in their homes,
and talking to them about joining the church.
The neglect and disparagement of revivals also produce a distortion
of emphasis that may
take years to correct -- if it is ever corrected.
A young assistant pastor said to his father, who was an evangelist:
"Dad, what you're doing
is obsolete; it's passe'."
When that father told me that I said, "Isn't that interesting? I have
quotes from two
Methodist bishops whose books were published in 1898 and 1900, who used
those exact words in
describing the need for new evangelistic methods. The old methods, which
had been used with
marvelous spiritual success throughout their history, were now obsolete,
they said. That was in
1900. And yet we Nazarenes came along in 1908 and picked up those very same
evangelism and have used them effectively in our greatest and finest spiritual
Have we really outgrown our methods, or have we outrun our spirituality?
methods become stale, or have we? Are our methods obsolete, or are we too
to use them effectively?
Whether for a layman, a preacher, a local church, a college zone, or
a denomination, the
neglect and disparagement of revival meetings is a spiritual problem. For
revival is always
appreciated by the spiritual, tolerated by the lukewarm, and detested by
But this idea that we can get along quite well, thank you, without
revivals, or that our
methods of evangelism are hopelessly outmoded, obsolete, and passe', has
infected too many of
our people. To be sure, they are not a majority, thank God, but even one
is one too many. And
whoever he is, on whatever level he operates, any Nazarene who disparages
revival is an enemy
of the Church of the Nazarene. He is tampering with the very God-blest agency
that has given
dynamic and thrust to holiness evangelism, which alone made our existence
necessary, and which
alone makes our continued existence meaningful.
When I hear those who say we need to change our methods, I ask them
just what methods
they'd like to change. Do they mean that we no longer need the altar call?
Do they mean that we no
longer need to preach for a verdict? Do they mean we no longer need times
of reviving, or
renewing, of coming to new levels of commitment and involvement?
If that's what they mean, other churches have already traveled that
road. I attended a
conference on evangelism in San Francisco. Throughout the conference, speakers
were quoting one
of their leaders as saying they had lost something vital at the heart of
their denomination. After the
bishop, who was at that time chairman of the Board of Evangelism, had given
a talk on methods, he
opened the meeting for discussion. One pastor asked, "Bishop, should we
ever give an altar call?"
The bishop looked at the floor for a while, then answered: "Well, once in
a great while, perhaps --
if you know how to use real wisdom." During the discussion the pastor of
one of the largest
churches said, "We all know there was a time when the altar call was vital,
but we also know that
that time is past. We simply cannot appeal to the intelligent people of
our congregations today
through the means of an altar call."
As I went away from that session I thought, Here they are saying they
have lost something
vital, and now they're saying the altar call is no longer vital. Is it the
altar call that is no longer
vital, or is it that they have lost the spiritual vitality that made it
They did away with the anxious seat because no one was anxious anymore.
They gave up the mourners' bench because their preaching made no mourners.
They gave up the inquiry room because no one was inquiring about the
salvation of his soul
They gave up the altar call because their preaching produced no conviction
for sin and
there were no seekers.
They quit proclaiming the gospel of a crucified and risen Lord and
began quoting Tillich
and Niebuhr and Sartre. But no one was ever convicted of sin by quoting
to him Tillich or Niebuhr
or Sartre. It is still the gospel, and only the gospel, that is the "power
of God unto salvation."
I submit that if that is the end of the road that some would have us
travel, then we should
know it now. And if we are going to be nothing more than a second-rate edition
of some old-line
denomination, then there is no need or excuse whatever for our existence.
We justify our existence
only by being Nazarene churches, true to our mission of holiness evangelism.
David could do nothing in Saul's armor, and neither can we. And before
we make fun of the
slingshots and the stones, let's make sure we're killing Goliaths with our
fancier weapons. Before
we make fun of the crude, heavy nets that others have used to catch boatloads
of fish, let's make
sure we're able to land a few with the flimsy, gossamer nets spun out of
our psuedo intellectualism
and phony sophistication.
This is no plea for what was, merely because it was. But until we come
up with something
better, let us remember that change is not necessarily progress. I doubt
very seriously that anyone
is going to come up soon, if at all, with something that will make unnecessary
the very methods
which have been used in our finest spiritual and evangelistic conquests.
But that's just it: if these who are crying new methods -- and ridiculing,
sometimes openly, the old -- were producing in the salvation of souls and
believers and the real fervor in their congregations that which characterized
the old-time methods,
then we could afford to listen to them.
But the sad truth is they aren't producing those results. In one area
of the church a survey
revealed that almost one-fourth of the churches had not scheduled a revival
meeting during the
entire year. Almost a third of the churches had not had a single seeker
in the altar during the entire
year. Is it any wonder that there was a decrease in church members, a decrease
in Sunday school
attendance and enrollment, and a decrease in General Budget giving for the
year? In one of our
larger churches it took 35 members and $4,622 to get one member on profession
of faith last year.
In another it took 75 members and $22,132 to get one member on profession
of faith, and the
church showed no gain at all in members for the entire year. In still
another it took 68 members and
$10,071 to get one member on profession of faith last year. And in another
church, of medium size,
it took 91 members and $19,070 to get each of the 3 new members it took
in on profession of faith
last year. In fact 4 churches with a combined membership of 3,350 took in
only 63 members on
profession of faith last year.
Contrast this with a survey another district superintendent made in
which he found that the
7 most productive churches on his district had had at least three revivals
last year, and one of
them, a church of less than 50 members, had 4 revivals -- and that church
took in 18 members on
profession of faith.
The facts may be unpleasant, but they are clear facts, and they prove
that those churches
that are most faithful in running a distinctly Nazarene program are the
most productive of solid
spiritual results; while those churches which are trying to ape the older
and more formal churches
and are, by design or default, getting away from the distinctive Nazarene
emphasis of Holy Ghost
revivals, are the least productive and least fruitful of our entire church.
There are any number of other churches doing everything else we are
doing -- except
having holiness revivals -- and are often doing it better.
Building buildings? Other churches are building bigger and fancier
ones than we can put
up. But when has any dead man, or any dead church, been revived by placing
it in a fancier and
more expensive casket?
Gaining in social prestige? Other churches have had more than we'll
have in the
foreseeable future, and they have had it for years.
Getting bigger and more professional choirs and staffs? Others have
bigger and more
professional ones and they have had them for years.
Everything we're doing, you see, except having holiness revivals, the
other churches are
doing, and often doing it better. It is interesting to know -- and should
be disturbing to contemplate
-- that these older denominations have made their biggest membership gains,
have built their
biggest buildings, have had their biggest increase in finances, have gained
their highest social
acceptance and prestige -- after they lost their mission.
Some Methodist bishops were saying in 1900 that they needed new methods
-- and they got them. Then in the 1930's another bishop, Edwin Holt Hughes,
was saying, "During
the past thirty or forty years a marked change has been taking place in
Methodism ... Not only have
revival meetings been going out of vogue but the evangelistic spirit has
Then in the 1960's another bishop, Gerald Kennedy, said at a conference
in Denver: "We
have lost our mood for evangelism, and we no longer have an evangelistic
I submit that this is an inevitable progression. Whenever any church
-- no matter whether it
be Methodist or Nazarene -- begins to disparage and discredit the very dynamic
which made it
vital and necessary, that church is on the way to losing its vision and
First, a church loses its passion and abandons its methods. Then it
loses its message. Then
it loses its mission. And flashier statistics do not compensate or hide
To quote statistics about increases in finances and members and churches
as proof of the
blessing of God can be as absurd as the president of General Motors getting
up before the
stockholders and saying, "Friends, God has certainly blessed us this year.
We have had the biggest
volume, the biggest net, the largest increase in dealerships at home and
overseas, and the highest
public acceptance in our history. It is truly wonderful what the Lord has
We need to listen well to those who warn us against the danger of using
godly labels on
things that are not necessarily God's. And statistics, alone, whether for
a local church or a
denomination, do not necessarily mean that God is blessing or that the organization
is keeping true
to its mission. And the greatest tragedy that can come to men, or movements,
is to lose sight of their
Let me repeat: This danger is only an incipient one for us today. The
great majority of our
people -- preachers and laymen -- still believe in revivals and vital holiness
evangelism. But it is
too late to cry, "Fire!" when the house has burned to the ground. It is
too late to call the termite
exterminators when the building is crumbling. The time to warn and to speak
and to act is when the
danger first appears on the horizon.
The need is so great and the urgencies of our times are so demanding
that we need all the
methods we can think of. My plea is that we should not give up that which
has been tried and
proved productive until we've come up with something better. The doctors
didn't throw away
aspirin when they discovered penicillin. They didn't throw away their scalpels
discovered Xray. And the greatest argument for revival is that no one --
repeat -- no one has ever
found an adequate substitute for it. And those men and churches which feel
the least need of
revival are the very ones that need it most.
If we allow the fire of revivals to go out, there is no other flame
to take its place.