When I was child growing up in the South, revivals were a part of the cultural fabric. The fact that my third-grade class (in public school, no less) took a field trip to a local revival service demonstrates just how socially-significant revivals were. (It also reminds me just how old I am!) For Southern Christians, revivals were primarily viewed as events – religious gatherings held by churches annually or semi-annually almost as a matter of course. There was no real expectation of any sort of spiritual awakening; the primary focus was upon promoting an event that, perhaps, would provide the church with some positive visibility.
As we as a diocese look toward the visit of our quasi-rockstar Presiding Bishop next October, it would be very easy for us to fall into the trap of treating our forthcoming Way of Love revival as little more than a publicity stunt. That would be an immense tragedy, for it would represent the misuse – or downright abuse – of a remarkable opportunity for the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac.
A skillfully-planned, well-attended event doth not a revival make! Revival is, instead, a bringing about of new life. It concerns the re-awakening of spiritual awareness, fervor, and commitment among the members of the Body of Christ. To facilitate a true revival, the lion’s share of the preparation made must be the preparation of hearts and minds.
During its heyday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would routinely begin its preparations for a crusade one or two years in advance. Be assured, however, the concentration of its labors was not upon the mundane logistics of securing venues, scheduling talent, and plastering posters. Instead, a great deal of work went into to preparing the community spiritually for what was hoped to be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Those who would be hosting the event were encouraged to “prepare the way of the Lord” through fervent prayer, focused formation, and faithful engagement with the target community. The “event” itself was largely the culmination of intense, spiritual efforts beginning long before Dr. Graham ever set foot on the rostrum.
During the next six months, we who are members of the Body of Christ, resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, have the opportunity – yea, even, the responsibility – to prepare ourselves, both individually and corporately, for a revival. Our Bishop will be preaching about it. Our diocesan and parish leaders will be teaching about it. Our membership will be inundated with calls to participate in it. Don’t let the “it” be, for you, merely showing up at the Fox Cities Exposition Center on Saturday, October 26, 2019, to hear Bishop Curry hold forth. Instead, commit yourselves – your time, your substance, and your spiritual energies – to preparing diligently for a divine appointment, a spiritual visitation, and – God willing – a life-changing revival in the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac.
The Very Rev. Patrick Perkins is Dean of the Cathedral of St. Paul, Fond du Lac and Co-Chair of the Way of Love Revival Design Team.
Additional Resource: REVIVAL! EPISCOPAL EVANGELISM AND BILLY GRAHAM’S LEGACY by Carrie Boren Headington, Covenant Post of The Living Church, March 2018.