I interviewed an old-time Baptist evangelist once. He was 88 at the time, and this was 5 years ago. He was a really great guy, who basically planned to win souls right up until he died. Being that old he had lived through a number of eras in American church history, and one of the most helpful observations he gave was about the effect of Television on meetings. Before TV people were happy to come out night after night to do anything because if you were holding a special service in town, it would be the most interesting thing going. After TV, the entire mode of reaching people had to change because now you were competing with the world’s ready-made entertainment.
In the old days, in fact, the way that evangelistic meetings were done was usually several weeks, at least, of nightly services. You would break up the ground for the first bit, and often times not even give an altar call until the second week or later, so that when you did it was like a flood gate breaking. Today, it’s very hard to get people to come out to meetings like that day after day, but some churches try to hold evangelistic or revival campaigns that last for several days in a week. These are normally planned outreach events, and they can sometimes be effective, but it seems that it falls a bit short of the Biblical ideal.
Even at good churches in America, a given meeting is likely to vary between moderately boring, and positively breaking through. I believe that part of the reason for this is that the same person is expected to bring the heat week after week. People like and get accustomed to the same person speaking, but it’s extremely difficult to keep hitting high notes in the Spirit week after week, and then also every individual has their own personal flavor, which even if you love chocolate, a little vanilla from time to time helps the chocolate seem all the better. So I do believe that one key of going deep and staying deep in God is mixing up your line up of speakers. Some young “back bencher” may be able to bring more heat than the leadership team because he’s been filling up for 5 years listening and is ready to unload.
With all of this said, I’m starting to think that maybe the way that its supposed to work is that you are supposed to wax hot one week over the other. Instead of just a bunch of random events which are tied to a calendar, maybe week over week, you are supposed to press deeper into God until something breaks. Which also makes me wonder about the “revival services.” Basically Toronto and Brownsville knew they had a revival when they had to go to nightly services. I think one way of being responsive to the Spirit that I don’t think I’ve ever seen done is to actually declare a meeting in response to the Spirit’s initiative in a Sunday morning services, as opposed to a man-made agenda. If things get heavy on Sunday morning, why not call for a Sunday Night meeting? And if that is even more intense, why not open the doors for Monday night, etc, etc, until we either get a hold of God or lose a hold of him?
That’s of course the flip side of meetings. Meetings without God are the worst part of church. Some churches actually seem to respond to God’s absence by calling more meetings!! This is only going to increase the misery. In the case of Toronto, let’s say. They seem to boast about how many years they had nightly meetings, but maybe at a certain point it’s time to say, hey, no more nightly meetings until God shows up again. We’re not going to call it revival just because 10 people are willing to come on a Thursday.