LIMA — Revival!
When most of us hear the work “revival” we think of big tents overflowing with the faithful, their arms outstretched in praise. We think of preachers wiping their brows with white handkerchiefs and calling upon the name of the Holy Ghost, exhorting Him to heal the lame and open the eyes of the blind. We think, in short, of Burt Lancaster in “Elmer Gantry.” We think of Robert Duvall in “The Apostle.”
And while these images do in fact reflect the reality of many revivals, be they held in actual tents or in auditoriums and church fellowship halls, Mark Burd believes it doesn’t have to be this way. The co-chair of an organization named Revive Ohio, Burd is spearheading an effort to bring revival to Allen County this fall. And even though there will in fact be worship services every evening throughout the duration of the revival, the thrust of this effort — dubbed Revive Allen County — will be discipleship.
“The evening service is not evangelistic in nature,” he said. “It’s more about equipping and training. It’s building disciples and teaching people.”
The people that the attendees will disciple and teach are the county residents they have encountered during the day. Revive Allen County, Burd explained, is really about touching the lives of people in the community. And that outreach will take place in the mornings and afternoons, when participants fan out and take to the streets, sharing the Gospel at churches, businesses, and with people they chance to encounter on the street.
“That’s what Jesus told us to do,” said Burd, “to make disciples, not just converts. So we call upon people sitting in the evening service to get up and go to a short discipleship training, and then we match people up with people that had expressed a desire to have discipleship that we met on the street that day.”
This approach to revival was developed by the national organization, Time to Revive, which is based in Richardson, Texas. More than a decade ago, Founders Kyle Martin and his wife Laura looked at city of Dallas and decided that it was ripe for revival. So in 2006 they gathered local pastors and church leaders together and laid plans for a 40-day revival that was held the following year. The Dallas revival — with its evening meetings preceded by community outreach during the day — became the model for similar revivals that have been staged in communities across the nation. The movement eventually reached Indiana and when it did, representatives from the organization reached out to Burd, who was pastoring a storefront church in Greenville.
“I was introduced to Time to Revive by Indiana missionaries who are full-time missionaries for Time to Revive in Indiana,” Burd recalled. “They had been having revival in Indiana for a year and a half already when they came and spoke to a ministerial association that I was involved in in Darke County. They presented an overview of what was going on in Indiana and they said, ‘Hey, would you guys be interested in this thing coming to Ohio?’”
After meeting with community and business leaders, the pastors decided that, yes, they were interested in bringing revival to Darke County. It was held in August 2016, and the revival was a huge success.
“Normally,” explained Burd, “the revival comes, and it’s scheduled for a week. But the local pastors in Darke County, we voted to extend the revival a second week. Then, it was going so well with lots and lots of high school students coming to know the Lord and getting baptized, so we voted again to extend it yet a third week.”
Thus, revival came to Ohio and Burd decided to leave his pastorate and become co-chairman of the newly formed Revive Ohio. Revivals in Dayton, Miami County, Auglaize County and Mercer County followed. By this time it got the attention of Lima’s Buck Sutton, president of Teens for Christ.
“I went to one evening service in Auglaize County,” Sutton said, “and I went to one of them in Celina. And I was extremely impressed. I was thinking, ‘Man, this is awesome.’ If you can bring these churches and ministries together, that was really cool.’”
Sutton invited Burd to Lima and after a couple of preliminary meetings, they scheduled a meeting with Lima-area pastors. Sixty pastors attended and it was agreed that the time was right for revival in Allen County.
Revive Allen County is scheduled for the week of Sept. 10-16. Evening discipleship meetings will be held at Lima Baptist Temple, which is serving as the event’s host church. Breakfasts, lunches and training sessions will be scheduled at participating churches throughout the county. So far 25 churches have committed to participate, and Sutton believes that Revive’s goal of 80 is not out of reach.
“Two months ago, when we were talking about this everybody was kind of dragging their feet,” he said. “But we’re in the middle of the summer now, and I think people are starting to jump on board more. So I think that number is going to be jumping up every week,” he said.
Ultimately, however, Sutton believes that the success of Revive Allen County will not be measured by the number of churches that participate.
“The main thrust,” he said, “is trying to get all the evangelical churches and ministries in town to come together, to reach out to the county for that week, to go out and pray with people, and try to minister to people and see where God leads this conversation. God’s got big plans for us.”
Reach Dayton Fandray at email@example.com.