Interviewing a pastor who believes in revivals and evangelists
While it appears that fewer Southern Baptist churches are having revival meetings, there are still churches finding that revivals are extremely helpful in awakening the saints and reaching sinners for Christ. Georgia Baptists’ Jon Reed has become one of the state’s most effectual evangelists. The Christian Index has already published an article featuring his strategic plan for revival preparation and his development of a comprehensive user friendly “app” for the plan’s implementation.
Former Index editor J. Gerald Harris wanted to provide an example of what happened when Reed connected with Maysville Baptist Church, trained the congregation using his app, and preached their spring revival. Here, Harris’ interview with Maysville’s pastor, Shane Roberson, provides his view of revivals, how they can still work today, and the results of the church’s recent revival with Reed as evangelist.
The Christian Index: Maysville has been able to create an atmosphere that focuses on reaching the lost over the past several years. I think that should be the focus of every church, but you have set a standard for other churches. How have you been able to establish a culture of evangelism at MBC?
Pastor Roberson: Everything we do at MBC has to include a Gospel presentation and an invitation for the lost to respond. We really take the Great Commission seriously to the point that if we are preparing a wild game dinner for thousands or an egg hunt for a few in the community, we will have a time to present the Gospel and give an invitation for people to respond. If we fail to invite them to make a decision, then we miss out on an opportunity for a lost soul to come to Christ. They will not respond to the Gospel if it is not presented.
Index: You obviously believe that revivals still work. What do revivals/evangelistic/harvest meetings do for your church? Why do you still have revivals?
Roberson: For us, revival is a time to reflect on our current personal relationship with the Lord and really focus on our walk with Him. We live in a “Corinthianized” culture today and more than ever we need to be challenged to move out from a position of complacency to a position of consistency in our walk with the Lord. One way this happens is through revival.
At the same time, it is a great opportunity for us to prepare and pray collectively as a church to reach our community for Christ. The primary reason why we still have revivals is because we are still seeing lost people saved and prodigal Christians come home during the revival meetings.
Index: Jon Reed’s meetings feature weeks of preparation in advance of the scheduled revival meeting. Why do you believe that is important and what does the preparation do for your church?
Roberson: Over the last four years we have taken 30 days or more before the revival to focus on preparation. Many of my peers believe revival is an organic movement that just happens and does not need any preparation. I disagree with that philosophy. I have been preparing for revival ever since I was called into full time ministry.
It gets the church focused on lost people, committed to prayer, and compassionate for the community. It really is a paradigm shift. I was delighted to hear about the app Jon Reed had developed and how that could be used as a tool to help us with our preparation. It really was a blessing to me as a pastor. In the past I developed the preparation manual, but this year I could focus on going through the preparation with the people.
Index: Many are saying that “revivals” no longer work. How would you respond that that statement?
Roberson: In my opinion, those who say that revivals no longer work, stopped working on having revivals. Having a series of revival meetings is hard work. It takes planning, prayer, procedures, people, and promotions.
In our culture today, the one thing we are not willing to confront is commitment. Commitment means some form of sacrifice. We have our weeks/days so planned out that we say we don’t have time to go to the church four nights during a revival. We have recreational event, recitals, receptions, reunions, and every other ritual you can think of that will take away from committing four days to hear from God and give Him time to move in a mighty way.
If you want God to move in a mighty way, then slow down for about four days, turn off the cell phones, open your Bibles, and hear a God-loving, Gospel-preaching evangelist proclaim the Word and give a good ole-fashioned invitation. That’s just my opinion.
Index: If it were true that revivals don’t work, it would appear to me that just doing the preparation – prayer, fasting, visiting the lost, witnessing, seeking pure hearts – would be of significant value if the meetings were never held. Would you agree, and if so, why?
Roberson: Absolutely. Anything worth doing should be done with excellence and anything done with excellence begins with two things, prayer and preparation. MBC experiences revival during the 30 days of preparation and prayer. Those who fast experience a deeper move of God. Preparation is one of the keys to experiencing a move of God. Many times in the Bible, we see God asking his people to prepare themselves as they await His moving. Amos, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and even Jesus Himself had something to say about preparation. A failure to prepare is preparation to fail.
Index: How well are revival meetings attended in your church and what kind of impact does revival meetings have upon those who are already members of your church?
Roberson: Sundays are good attendance days. Everyone is in their place and excited about the week. Monday-Wednesday fluctuates due to members’ work and traffic. We are located on the north side of I-85 and traffic does affect us. Am I satisfied with the attendance? To be honest I want every seat to be filled. However, if just one person gets saved or gets right with God then it was worth it.
Index: How many children, teens, and adults were saved in your recent revival with Jon Reed?
Roberson: We had 22 decisions this year. We have baptized 13 of those so far and have several of the children in a “New Christian’s Class” for discipleship and baptism.
Index: The office of the evangelist is one of God’s great gifts to the church. What happens when churches fail to use those whom God has called to serve the body of Christ as an evangelist?
Roberson: When the church fails to use an evangelist, several things are missed. First, the church misses the blessing of hearing a man of God use his gifts for the edification of the church. The evangelist is there to minister to the body of Christ as well as draw the net of evangelism.
Second, the pastor misses out on a resource that has great knowledge of the spiritual climate of your church. If asked, an evangelist can tell you how your church compares in hospitality, liberty from the pulpit, response from the people, and many other things that he might notice to help the pastor.
Third, the pastor misses out the opportunity to learn from an evangelist on how to draw the net each week when it comes to the invitation. I have learned so much from just watching evangelists give an invitation and incorporating little things here and there to enhance the appeal during an invitation.
Last of all, the Church misses a great time to come together and pray, fast, witness, worship, celebrate, weep, and all the great victories that come when revival takes place. Revival still works, but we have to work revival. It is not a time to take it easy, but a time to take to our knees, then take to the streets, to the highways and hedges, to compel the lost to come hear the greatest news in all the earth … Jesus saves!