To draw in nonbelievers, leaders of several churches in Lamar, Missouri,
including First Baptist Church decided to host a community-wide revival. It
seemed like a solution to the challenge of sharing Christ over a large
geography dotted with farms and a rural landscape of hard-working people
separated by distance. But despite good cooperation, the organizers knew that
when several churches come together, its unrealistic to expect everyones ideas
to be the same. Challenges will arise. Who does the preaching? Who will supply
the music? Who pays for the auditorium and sound equipment rental, publicity
flyers or programs? And the one question that could cause the biggest argument
and free-for-allwhen someone makes a decision to follow Christ, which
congregation will disciple the new believer?
Lamar organizers gave careful attention to preparing decision cards, asking
if the person had a church preference, if they were making an initial decision
or a recommitment and if they wished to be baptized. During the revival,
several ministers and church counselors stood at the front to receive people
who made decisions and to escort them into a counseling room.
If they indicated a church preference, the appropriate local minister
counseled them. When no preference was indicated, they were asked if they were
attending with someone who had a church home.
And, if they had no church background, two ministers were prepared to
counsel them about their decision to follow Christ and to give them Bibles.
What First Baptist Church learned was thatby joining togetherthey could
share expenses and work, and they could create a larger and more exciting event
that had a better chance for success than small events at each church.
They also learned that planning is essential. Challenges exist, but they can
be overcome with foresight and good organization.
And they never lost sight of the purpose of their community revival: To
glorify God and share His simple plan of salvation. The result was not only new
believers but also a stronger community exhibiting a common ground of
Christlike fellowship and love.
Laying the groundwork
Commit to plan and pray toget-her. A community revival is only successful
if everyone shares responsibilities.
The event in Lamar was a result of a weekly ministers prayer meeting. We
decided we needed to do something together in recognition that God is working
to draw us together as a body of ministers, says Kevin Sheat, a rural Southern
Baptist minister. Each one of them committed to making the revivals work by
focusing on common beliefsgrace, Gods love, victory in Jesusrather than on
Encourage camaraderie among church leaders and members which is necessary
before anything can be done. The group of ministers in Lamar became a band of
brothers. Their enthusiasm and cooperation carried over into their
Try to find a neutral meeting place, eliminating any possible feeling of
competition in deciding which church building to use. Also, people who feel
intimidated when attending other churches will often go to a community
building, school or park.
Set the date so that the revival does not interfere with other community and
Decide how to meet expenses. Consider items such as auditorium rental and
childcare. Lamar ministers ensured support from their church boards before
making further plans. Also, the Ministerial Alliance placed a box for a
freewill offering in the foyer of the auditorium, and proceeds helped cover the
Plan something for the children. Whether children are cared for on site or
at another location depends on available facilities. In Lamar, the leadership
team paid the staff of a local day care to plan activities for the
Within a week after it ends, while memories and impressions are still fresh,
organizers should meet to make notes of what worked well and what they might
change next time.
Be realistic about frequency in planning a future community revival. Lamar
congregations decided that repeating once every four years would be enough.
Planning the serviceNo minister or church should
dominate any service. Large and small congregations can share duties of Master
of Ceremonies, preaching and music each evening. Two Lamar ministers preached
every evening, with diversity in delivery styles from dynamic to the quiet
conversational type. Sermons were limited to fifteen minutes each, and services
lasted one hour.
Different congregations can provide special music, including ladies groups,
childrens choirs, mens quartets, vocal and instrumental or a bell choir.
A Youth Night featuring testimonies from local youth could be planned.
Arrange for other teens to greet people and hand out song sheets.
Involve your membersChurch members can help with
planning and publicity, participate in the services, greet and seat attendees,
sing in the choir or special music.
Church members can serve as counselors during the decision time. Provide
training in sharing the gospel, so they will be well prepared for this crucial
part of each service. A bonus benefit to participating in a community revival
is raising a group of on mission Christians who become awakened to their call
to share Christ as a natural part of their lives and who have opportunities
during the revival and after to use their newly honed skills in personal
Counselors can use a neutral tract that explains the plan of salvation. The
American Tract Society has several that would be appropriate. To order tracts
from the American Tract Society call 800-548-7228 or visit www.gospelcom.net/ats.
LeAnn Campbell is a retired special education teacher and freelance
writer living in Lamar, Missouri.
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