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How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 13

By Reuben Archer Torrey


      By revival meetings we mean consecutive meetings, day after day and night after night, for the quickening of the life and activity of the church, and for the salvation of the lost. We speak of them as revival meetings because such meetings result from new life either in individuals or in the church as a whole, and if properly conducted always result in the impartation of new life to the church and the salvation of the lost.


      The importance of revival services can scarcely be overestimated. There are those who say that we ought not to have special revival meetings, but should have a revival in the church all the time. It is true that there should be a revival in the church all the time. There was a continuous revival in the apostolic church; there are churches which have a continuous revival in these days; but it is almost always the case that the churches which have a continuous revival are those which believe in and make use of special revival services, and what are known as revival methods.

      1. THE FIRST ADVANTAGE OF SPECIAL REVIVAL SERVICES IS THAT WHICH COMES FROM REPEATED AND CONSECUTIVE IMPRESSION. An unsaved man hears a sermon on Sunday evening. An impression is made upon his mind by the truth he has heard, but the impression has not been profound enough to lead to his acceptance of Jesus Christ then and there. Before the next regular preaching service of the church comes, the impression has faded away, and an entirely new impression has to be made. If the Sunday evening sermon had been followed up by another on Monday evening, the impression of Sunday evening would have been deepened; if that had been followed by still another sermon on Tuesday evening, the impression would have been made deeper still, and very likely before the week was over, the man would have been converted. Only those who have made a careful and prolonged study of this matter can realize how important in the work of bringing men to Christ is the element of repeated and consecutive impression. Men who have attended church for years, and who have been only superficially impressed, are oftentimes readily brought to Christ in a series of consecutive services.

      2. THE SECOND ADVANTAGE OF REVIVAL SERVICES IS THAT, IF PROPERLY CONDUCTED, THERE WILL BE AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF PRAYER, AND UNACCUSTOMED EARNESTNESS IN PRAYER. Some one may say that Christians ought always to pray, and so they should, but we have to take the people as they are. As a matter of fact, the average Christian does far more praying in a time of special revival services than he does at any other time. The professed Christians who spend as much time as they ought in regular prayer day by day, when there is no special effort being made for the salvation of the lost, are very rare indeed.

      3. THE THIRD ADVANTAGE OF REVIVAL SERVICES IS THAT AT SUCH TIMES cHRISTIANS PUT FORTH SPECIAL EFFORTS FOR THE SALVATION OF THE LOST. Every Christian should do everything in his power every day of his life to lead men to Christ, but in point of fact very few Christians do this. How often those who are cold and indifferent and do almost nothing at all for the salvation of the lost under ordinary circumstances will display a great activity at the time of special services, and not seldom those who have never been known as workers before not only take hold of the work during special meetings, but continue it after the meetings are over.

      4. REVIVAL SERVICES AWAKEN AN UNUSUAL INTEREST IN THE SUBJECT OF RELIGION IN THE COMMUNITY. The outside world is aroused to the fact that the church exists, and that there is such a thing as religion. They begin to think about God, Christ, the Bible, eternity, heaven and hell. People who are never seen in the house of God at any other time in the year will flock there during revival meetings. Many of them will be converted, and others will become attendants at the church. They find out what the church has to offer, and suddenly wake up to the fact that what the church has to offer is just what they need.

      5. AS A MATTER OF EXPERIENCE AND HISTORY, REVIVALS HAVE BEEN GREATLY HONORED OF GOD. This is true in the history of the church as a whole and also in the history of local churches. The church of Christ has been saved, humanly speaking from utter ruin by the revivals which God has graciously sent from time to time in its history. As regards local churches, the churches which have grown and prospered are those that have believed in and made use of revivals. Study the yearbooks of the various denominations, and you will find that the ministers who have believed in revivals and have fostered them in their churches, are the ones who have been able to report from year to year accessions to their church, and gifts to the various branches of Christian activity. On the other hand, it will be found as a rule, an almost universal rule, that the ministers who have pooh-poohed revivals have had their churches run down on their hands. If there is anything that the history of the church of Jesus Christ absolutely demonstrates, it is the tremendous importance, if not the imperative necessity, of revivals.


      When shall revival meetings be held in a church or community?

      1. WHEN THERE ARE INDICATIONS OF SPECIAL BLESSING. An alert pastor who keeps in touch with his people and the community will often be able to detect signs of special interest and blessing. He will notice a new interest in his preaching on the part of his congregation. He will have a new sense of liberty and power as he preaches. He will see tears in the eyes of his congregation as he speaks about sin and its consequences. People will come to him for spiritual counsel and to be shown the way of life. Perhaps members of his church who are more spiritually alert than himself will say to him that they think there are signs of blessing in the church or community. All these things are indications that God is ready to favor that church or community with an especial outpouring of His Spirit, and arrangements should be made at once to take advantage of these favorable conditions, and to gather a harvest of souls, by holding special revival services.

      2. WHEN THERE IS SPIRITUAL DEARTH IN THE COMMUNITY AND CHURCH. When the Gospel seems to have lost its hold upon the people; when the congregations are constantly declining and conversions are few; when iniquity and infidelity are rampant in the community, such a time is also an important one. Special effort should be put forth to arouse the church and to save the perishing. God has promised His special blessing at such a time. He has said, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him" (Isaiah 59:19). When everything goes hard in a church, and infidelity and irreligion and immorality seem to triumph, the minister whose trust is fixed upon God and in His Word need not become discouraged. Let him cry to God with a new earnestness and faith, and then go to work to bring about the conditions upon which God is always ready to bless His people.

      3. REVIVAL MEETINGS SHOULD BE HELD IN EVERY CHURCH EVERY YEAR. This is entirely feasible. The writer of this book has been the pastor of four different churches, all quite different from one another; a village church with the usual village congregation and environment, a young suburban church in a large city, and an established metropolitan church with a large and varied membership. In each of these churches he found it quite possible to have special revival meetings every year. Largely as a result of these special revival meetings, each of these churches had what could probably justly be termed a continual revival, there being accessions to the church at every communion. Many other pastors ministering to churches of still different varieties from these here described testify to the same experience.

      As to the time in the year when these services can most wisely be held, this depends upon local conditions. It seems to be the experience of most pastors that the especially favorable time is the week of prayer, and the weeks immediately following. People expect something to be done at that time, and to a certain extent are ready for it. There is, however, a growing tendency to begin these meetings during Easter week or earlier in Lent. This is an especially favorable time in large cities on account of the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian elements. In large cities the social life is at an ebb at that time. Even the theaters take this fact into consideration. While we may not personally believe in observing times and seasons and days, we ought not to lose sight of the fact that other people do believe in it, and we should take advantage of this fact as giving us an especially good opportunity of getting hold of people, and getting them out to hear the Word of God.


      1. When it has been decided that the time has come to hold special services, A LETTER SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, STATING THE PLANS, AND REQUESTING THEIR INTEREST AND PRAYER AND CO-OPERATION IN EVERY WAY. It is sometimes well in connection with this letter to give all members of the church some book to read that will stir them up to self-examination, to prayer and to effort. A book largely used by some evangelists and many pastors for this purpose, is the book, How to Pray , by the author.* It can be secured in paper cover for this purpose at a very low price. In the letter there should be a request that all members should answer it, pledging themselves not only to read the book that is sent, but also to prayer and co-operation in the work. The members of the church who have been absenting themselves from the church service or from the prayer meeting should be visited personally and dealt with gently but earnestly, and led to realize their responsibility to Christ and His church, and also their responsibility regarding the unsaved in the community.

      *{In 2001, How to Pray by R.A.Torrey is currently in print in a copyrighted Whittaker House edition, and is also available in a free public domain and freely distributable etext edition from the Christian Digital Library Foundation {}. }

      2. MEETINGS FOR UNITED PRAYER SHOULD AT ONCE BE BEGUN. Sometimes it is wisest to hold these at the central church, but oftentimes, especially when the membership of the church is very much scattered, it is better to have cottage meetings at first, in the various neighborhoods of the parish. These separate cottage meetings can afterwards be brought together for a united meeting at the church. If the revival services are to be of a union character, it is well for each church to begin prayer meetings by itself, and for them afterwards to come together for union prayer meetings. There short addresses should be given upon the importance of prayer and how to pray, but the major part of the meeting should be devoted directly to prayer. The people should be instructed as to what they should pray for; they should be drown out in prayer for the membership of the church, then in prayer for the unsaved, and not merely for the unsaved in general, but for specific persons in whom they are interested; their duty to uphold the hands of the pastor in prayer should be emphasized; they should be instructed as to the lines along which they should seek God's help for the pastor -- in his personal life, in his selection of topics to preach upon, in his preparation of his sermons, and especially that his preaching may be in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 6:19); they should be encouraged to pray for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the community. Oftentimes it is important to get them to take a higher outlook than the needs of their own local community, and to pray for a general outpouring of the Spirit throughout the world.

      3. IN THE NEXT PLACE, A CANVASS OF THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN. The whole village or city or section of the city should be carefully mapped out, different districts assigned to different workers, and every house and store in the community visited. Those visited should be informed of the meetings that are to be held, but more important than this, as far as possible they should be dealt with and prayed with personally in regard to their salvation. If the services are to be of a union character, the visitors should go out two and two, each one representing a different church in the community.

      4. AFTER THIS PRELIMINARY WORK HAS BEEN DONE, MEETINGS SHOULD BE ANNOUNCED AT THE CHURCH. The number of meetings to be held each day will depend very much upon the location and the interest. In many places it will be possible to hold only an evening meeting at first. In other places the meetings can be begun with as many as three or four meetings a day, for what may be best in this line in one place is utterly impossible in another. The ideal is a meeting for prayer, a meeting for the study of the Bible on the part of believers and an evening evangelistic service for the unsaved, with possibly a fourth meeting for children; but this ideal is not attainable in every community. Where it is not, there should at least be in addition to the evening meeting, a gathering for prayer. It may be held for prayer and prayer alone, or it may be wiser to have a meeting in the afternoon, part of the time being given to prayer and part to the study of the Word of God. One great reason why our modern evangelistic movements have lacked the old-time power is because the emphasis is not laid upon the prayer meeting that was in former days. In the great revival of 1857, more time and strength was put into prayer meetings than into anything else. In many places the meetings were entirely prayer meetings. We have swung to the other extreme, and in many cases evangelistic meetings are entirely meetings for preaching and singing. This is a great mistake. Wherever the church becomes lax in united prayer, the meetings will soon lose in power and come to a close as far as any real results are concerned.

      The question often rises whether it is wiser to hold the meetings at a church or in a hall. This will depend somewhat upon circumstances. Each method has its advantages. Doubtless many people can be gotten out to a hall or to an opera house who will not enter a church; on the other hand, if people are gotten out to church and converted there, they will be more likely to remain in the church after the special meetings are over than if the meetings are held in a hall or opera house. The wisest plan in many instances is to begin the meetings in a church and then go to a hall or opera house, and then back to the church before they close, in order that those who have been interested in the opera house may be accustomed to and interested in the church before the special interest is over. As to whether the meetings are held in a church or hall oftentimes too is dependent upon whether they are meetings of an individual church or a union of several churches. Here again there are advantages in each plan. There is likely to be more harmony and united effort and less controversy and suspicion if the meetings are held by an individual church. On the other hand there can be no doubt that a community is moved by a union of all the churches in it, as it is not moved and cannot be moved by revival services held by an individual church. If revival services are held in the summer, oftentimes it is well to hold them in a tent.

      5. THE CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN IN TIMES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. Special meetings for the children should be held. As a rule they should be held in the afternoon just at the time the school is closing, so that children can go directly from school to the meeting. They should be held at least five afternoons in the week. More about these children's meetings will be said in the chapter upon children's meetings.



      The first question that arises is as to who should do the preaching. Wherever it is possible, it is well for the pastor of the church to do the preaching himself. It is said that some pastors do not have the evangelistic gift, and this is doubtless in a measure true, but most pastors can, to some extent, cultivate the evangelistic gift, if they only will. There is a great advantage in the pastor himself preaching. There is not such a likelihood that the interest will suddenly die out when the special services are over. When it is not possible for the local pastor to do the preaching, he can often call in the help of some neighboring pastor who does possess the evangelistic gift. Even when the pastor himself is an evangelist, there is an advantage in calling in a fellow pastor for a special series of meetings. His is a new voice, and he is likely to preach the truth from another standpoint from that to which people have become accustomed. Many will go to hear him out of curiosity who might not attend special services conducted by the pastor, thinking they could hear him any Sunday. But we cannot depend altogether upon the local pastor or upon fellow pastors. It is by the ordination of God that there are evangelists in the church, and evangelists as a class have been greatly honored of God in the past history of the church. However clear it is that the pastor is possessed of the evangelistic gift, and however much he may have been used of God in leading the unsaved to Christ, if he is wise he will occasionally call to his help a man whom God has especially appointed to the work of an evangelist. Of course there are evangelists and evangelists. Some evangelists are mere adventurers, others are indiscreet and do much harm, but there are beyond question many men whom God has called to this specific work, and whom He wants in it, and there are indications that God is going to multiply the number of really reliable men who are in evangelistic work.

      (2) WHAT TO PREACH.

      What shall we preach in times of revival interest? (1) First of all, we should preach the Gospel, the Gospel that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again. We should never get far from the Cross. We should preach the atonement over and over and over again. (2) We should also preach the utterly lost and ruined condition of man. (3) We should preach the bitter consequences of sin here and hereafter. We should declare the whole counsel of God regarding the judgment and regarding hell. (4) We should present the truth about conversion, regeneration and justification. (5) We should preach the Divinity of Christ. There is great correcting and converting and saving power in that doctrine. (Acts 2:36-37; 9:20,22; John 20:31.) (6) We should also preach to Christians about the Holy Spirit and His work, about prayer, about the power of the Word of God and the necessity of Bible study. One will find much instruction in regard to what to preach at such a time from the sermons of such men as Moody, Spurgeon and Finney. A study of the texts given in the first division of this volume in connection with the different classes of men with whom we have to deal in personal work will suggest many texts and topics for sermons.

      7. IN REVIVAL SERVICES THE MUSIC IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE. If possible there should be a large choir of converted men and women. They should have the leadership of a godly chorister. He should be a man who not only knows how to sing himself, but who can get others to sing. If there are in the community, or if there can be secured, men or women who can sing Gospel solos effectively in the power of the Holy Spirit, their services should be obtained. Impress upon the singers that they are to sing not merely to interest the people, but to convert them, and that they need a definite anointing of the Holy Spirit for their work.

      8. THE TESTIMONY OF SAVED PEOPLE TO THE POWER AND BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL IS OF GREAT VALUE IN SPECIAL REVIVAL SERVICES. Especially is the testimony of those recently converted effective. When men hear one who has recently come out from their ranks tell of what Jesus Christ has done for him, a longing is awakened in their hearts to find the same Savior.

      9. WHEN THE MEETINGS ARE HELD IN A CITY OF CONSIDERABLE SIZE, IT IS WELL TO HAVE A NOON MEETING TO WHICH MEN IN BUSINESS AND OTHERS ARE INVITED. Many can be gotten hold of in this way that can be reached in no other way.

      It is well usually in a series of special services to hold meetings for men alone, in which sin is very plainly dealt with, and Christ as the remedy for sin presented. Meetings for women are also desirable. As a rule they should be conducted by women, though there are some men who seem to have a special gift in preaching to women. Generally, however, the men who are most inclined to take such meetings are least qualified to do it.

      10. CLASSES TO TRAIN THE WORKERS IN HOW TO DEAL WITH INQUIRERS ARE OF THE HIGHEST IMPORTANCE. Oftentimes it is well to hold these training classes before the general meetings begin, so that from the very first meeting you can have workers whom you may depend upon to do the work.

      11. EVERY MEETING SHOULD BE FOLLOWED BY AN AFTER MEETING. Definite instructions an to the conduct of after meetings will be given in a separate chapter.

      12. ALL THE CHRISTIAN PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY SHOULD BE SET TO WORK. They should be so aroused upon the subject of religion that all they will talk about everywhere is Christ and His claims upon men. They should be encouraged to go from house to house and store to store laboring with people and endeavoring to get them to accept Christ. Harm may be done in this way by indiscreet workers, but the harm that is done will be small indeed in comparison with the good that is accomplished.

      13. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO MAKE USE OF GOOD RELIGIOUS LITERATURE IN TIMES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. Tracts and books should be generously used. The Bible Institute Colportage Association has a very large selection of the most useful literature along these lines that can be secured at a very low cost.

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See Also:
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 1
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 2
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 3
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 4
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 5
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 6
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 7
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 8
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 9
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 10
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 11
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 12
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 13
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 14
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 15
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 16
   How to Work for Christ: Book 2: Methods of Christian Work, Chapter 17


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