By James M. Rice, Jr.

he word “revival” gets thrown around a lot. One traveling in the spring or fall, especially in

the South, will see in front of a church a large sign with the words “REVIV- AL” in bold print with the dates of the meeting and usually the name of the preacher. Once I saw a sign “RE- VIVAL COMING SOON.” I stopped and pulled to the side of the road and prayed, “O God, so let it be. And let it first start in me.” The signs and the hopeful plans say

little about what “revival” really is. It is certainly not just a series of special services. For many years of my min- istry, I traveled to churches as a full- time evangelist. I often conducted 20 or more special services a year in a variety of churches of varying sizes. And I must honestly tell you that only a few times did I see what the Bible means when it speaks of “revival,” which is “to help or make alive.” (Young’s Analytical Concordance)

MORE THAN AN EVENT Quite often we had what we called

kick-off suppers on Saturday evening. And often I would say, “I haven’t brought a revival in my hip pocket.” Revival is not a thing or an event. Bib- lical revival is a heaven sent, heaven empowered movement of God that begins with his people and impacts their society. Our ARP Moderator’s theme for this year, “Building healthy churches and Birthing healthy Chris- tians” is nothing but a call for revival to come among us. Here is how it begins: First, I am

revived when I recommit myself completely to God. That will make my church a better church, As revival 6

catches fire, and more church people are revived, the nation becomes a bet- ter nation. Only when that happens will it be true that we are, “One na- tion under God.” Then it can be said of us, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance” (Psalm 33:12). Habakkuk prayed, “O Lord, I have

heard thy speech, and was afraid; O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (3:2 KJV). The Psalmist pled with God: “Wilt thou not revive us again that thy people may rejoice in thee? Show us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation” (Ps. 85:6- 7 KJV).

Habakkuk and the Psalmist did

so as those panting with little breath left. Spiritual life as it was, was no more. The joy of former days was gone. The sharing of God’s ways and worthiness had faded with the pass- ing days. Sin had taken over where saintliness once was. Prayers of con- fession and calls to repentance were seldom heard. The Lord’s people had (and have) become a relaxed and sat- isfied lot – settled and often prosper- ous and affluent. Every revival has started and

turned on the awareness that we are in a sinful state. Our past joy is gone. Our main mission to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20) and reaching the lost and dying has passed with time.

FACING OUR HISTORY In “Commending What We Cher-

ish,” Dr. Stephen Myers describes the climate during which the ARP was birthed in Scotland. Two views of

evangelism existed. “Many men within the Church of

Scotland became quite cold in their preaching – talking about repentance and faith without offering the Christ who leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and who authors our faith (He- brews 12:2).

Meanwhile, Ebenezer

Erskine and his associates focused on Christ and boldly offered salvation to everyone; telling everyone that if they believed in Jesus, they would have sal- vation from their sin. This approach of Erskine and his friends was known as the free offer of the gospel because the gospel was offered freely – free of requirements and free of limitation. These men not only preached this free offer in their own congregations, but they also traveled around Scotland, sometimes preaching to thousands of people at a time, offering salvation in Christ to all sinners.” It was my privilege to be a part

of the original Presbyterian Evange- listic Fellowship (PEF) founded by the Rev. William E. Hill. As many as 12 full-time evangelists went throughout the former PCUS and other churches. It has been reported that during that period increasing numbers of Professions of Faith were recorded by churches. PEF opened doors for revival to be

birthed. Are there not in our bounds gifted and called evangelists avail- able to birth an ARP Evangelism Team to be a door opener to the re- vival we need and should want? In some places today hundreds go

by our doors, mostly people unlike us – maybe not the same color of skin or

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian


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