Played by Eddie Murphy
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 6, 2007
FEATURE: Lutherans Bring Back the 'Revival'
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Over the summer a white, circus-sized tent appeared on the grounds of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Troy, N.Y., garnering looks of interest from all who passed by, according to Marilyn Dyer. Although known throughout the cmmunity for its "innovative approach to ministry," St. Timothy reached a high point in its aspiration for doing things differently by organizing a "revival" or "renewal" -- an evangelism and worship trend currently making its way across the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Although the congregation heard plans for the revival for more than a year, there seemed to be general skepticism, said Greg Whitney, member of St. Timothy and chair of the committee that organized the revival. Amid the skepticism, the committee proceeded with its plans and publicized the revival through public service announcements, newspaper articles and ads, securing food donations, music and more.
"God is the one who made the revival happen," said Whitney. Members of the church who had expressed some skepticism attended the revival and "not only did they come, but they were blessed and felt God's presence. I think revivals will catch on more in the church once people move beyond their preconceived notions about what are revivals. Once we experience it we'll learn more and take part in worship as a way of listening more to God," he said.
"The word 'revival' has a reputation for being fundamental," said Dyer, but the revival at St. Timothy "was a very moving, lovely experience. Those who attended learned that the word 'revival' is not to be feared and can, in fact, be an unexpected spiritual reawakening."
Dyer, a member of St. Timothy for more than 30 years, said that "stepping out of the box in worship allows for new expressions of faith, a new understanding that different doesn't mean bad or weird. Faith comes in all shapes and sizes, and we know that Christ called the unusual to be his disciples."
More than 100 people attended each day of St. Timothy's three-day revival in August. "The planning and execution of the revival was a remarkable blessing for the congregation. New leaders emerged, and the energy and excitement following the revival has led to plans for increased outreach in the community, so that all will know God's love," said the Rev. Kimberly R. Cottingham, St. Timothy.
St. Timothy is one of more than 20 congregations of the ELCA that have organized a revival, but the "numbers are much higher because congregations have partnered with three to as many as six Lutheran churches in their community for one revival," said the Rev. Kathryn I. Love, director for prayer and renewal, ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission.
Love said revival in the ELCA is "quite different from what you would experience with the 'Billy Grahams' of the world, who are seeking for people to become saved or to do some kind of great confession." She said revivals are not new in the Lutheran
church and date back to the day of Martin Luther -- a 16th century German monk whose teachings founded the Lutheran tradition.
Lutherans "are using revival services as a safe place to pray for spiritual renewal, share stories and our testimonies," said Love. "When the intercessor at the revival asks, 'How can I pray for you,' I'm surprised that about 75 percent of the time (prayers) are not for the individual but for someone else. God is moving in our church through prayer. We are realizing that God is doing things through people, and this is our window of opportunity to assist in the ministries of the ELCA, equipping others to train, lead and support the promotion of the Gospel, so that people who do not understand the love of God may become rich in the knowledge of God's love for them and their communities," she said.
"'Revival' is a word that makes some Lutherans nervous because it has a history, especially associated with the 'Great Awakenings,' that seems to suggest that worship is about a gathering of individuals experiencing or coming to terms with
their faith individually. In other words, it's people in the presence of other people but the communal dynamic can be lost in talk of a decision related to faith in God rather than what it means to be called and gathered into the people of God," said the Rev. Michael Burk, executive director, ELCA Worship and
"So when it comes to a word like 'revival,' Lutherans often say, 'let's talk about renewal instead of or in addition to,' whereas maybe it's healthier to think that 'revival' is a word we too can claim," said Burk.
Revival in the ELCA is defined as "the work of the Holy Spirit, invigorating, molding and shaping congregations to do the will of God," said Love. "In Lutheran revival we desire God's spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of joy, hope, peace and love. In Lutheran revival services, we ask that these gifts be stirred up for the sake of mission and ministry, equipping our congregations as places where witnessing to the Good News is a way of life."
A fear among Lutherans, when they think about a revival, is "losing who we are as Lutherans," said Love. But "it seems to me that after every revival service people become excited about it, particularly after seeing the resources we've produced about
Lutheran revivals. The resources have been instrumental in breaking down the barriers, the fears that (exist) in the beginning, and offer an opportunity for Lutherans to talk with one another about what revival really means to Lutherans."
Love said Lutheran revivals are centered on the sacraments, such as Holy Communion and the Word. "We have dipped ourselves into who we are as Lutherans, using the sacraments and services to fashion revivals that can be acceptable in the Lutheran
Church," she said.
The resources include a DVD with companion booklet that shares the story of Lutheran revival, seasons of renewal and the Holy Spirit. Insights from the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, are featured.
The book "Renewing the Passion: A Guide to Spiritual Renewal" offers several revival worship models and outlines on how to plan a prayer event, conference, retreat and more.
The resources were developed as a result of the ELCA's evangelism strategy -- "Sharing Faith in a New Century: A Vision for Evangelism in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America." Adopted by the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the strategy has three overall objectives -- call the church to prayer, prepare and renew evangelical leaders, and teach discipleship.
Love said the third objective of the strategy contains the directive for congregations to "'host a variety of inspirational evangelical mass rallies, gatherings or revivals.'"
Churches don't have to pitch a tent, "but some congregations want to feel like they're in revival," said Love. Most revivals take place inside a church building, are organized by three or more congregations in the same town or extended community, and can take place over the course of three days. Most include meals served either before or after the revival. When three congregations are involved in a revival, each congregation hosts a day and/or evening in its church building.
WELS Revival Pioneer Keith Tullberg
"Last Fall we did try to 'pander' to the black community in which we are located. We had a Revival = 'a stirring up of religious faith' (Webster) about 150 visitors were in church and 8 have since joined who were at the big revival. I think Siloah is the first WELS church to try a Revival (as far as I know) Gospel songs, testimonials, and singing on the church lawn with a trumpet accom. all went with the service. It was so inspiring that we are having Revival #2 the last Sun in Oct, 1990. Maybe if Wather (sic) had used Revival meetings to spread the Gospel in the last century the WELS would have more than 3 black pastors in the U.S., and so few blacks in the pew. Just food for thought."
Pastor Keith Tullberg to Gregory L. Jackson, 4-19-90 Siloah Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, 3721 N 21st Street Milwaukee, WI 53206.
GJ - Here are some comments and quotations from my "ready-to-go database" (Larry Olson):
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787), came to America from Halle as a Pietist and organized the Pennsylvania Ministerium. His motto was ecclesia plantanda, the church must be planted, so he worked to establish Lutheranism in many locations. For many years this Pietistic Lutheranism leaned toward generic Protestantism and considered union with the Reformed. Many Lutheran-Reformed union congregations were formed in Pennsylvania, then divided legally in the 20th century. ELCA then began creating new union churches. The Muhlenberg tradition divided after the Civil War, when the confessional General Council formed and left the revivalistic, unionistic, and Temperance loving General Synod. The General Council built a seminary in Philadelphia. The Muhlenberg tradition came together again when the General Council, General Synod, and United Synod of the South merged in 1918 to create the United Lutheran Church in America.
"The pietism and unionism of Muhlenberg and his colaborers was the door through which, in the days of Wesley and Whitefield, revivalism had found an early, though limited, entrance into the Lutheran Church."
F. Bente, American Lutheranism, 2 vols., The United Lutheran Church, General Synod, General Council, United Synod in the South, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1919, II, p. 78
Benjamin Kurtz (1795-1865), edited the General Synod Lutheran Observer, advocating the temperance movement and revival meetings. Many General Synod congregations had a "mourner's bench" near the altar to land anxious sinners in need of a public confession and grace. Children were expected to have a Pietistic crisis of faith during their adolescence. Needless to say, General Synod congregations were short on the liturgy, Lutheran hymns, the Creeds, and Lutheran doctrine.
William A. Passavant (1821-1894), was the greatest of all Lutheran leaders in the Muhlenberg tradition. As a young pastor he was involved in the worst excesses of revivalism, but he repented and became a confessional leader of remarkable accomplishments. He helped found the General Council, established charitable institutions and schools. His independent paper, The Lutheran, supplanted the name of the revivalistic synod paper. ELCA's magazine is still The Lutheran, but it is not Passavant's in substance or style. Passavant's energies were conservative in nature. He did not promote Reformed doctrine in the name of love, but orthodoxy in the name of Christ Jesus. He was deeply loved and respected in all synods, including the Augustana Synod, which was guided in its early days by his example of orthodoxy and charitable work.
"Fuller Theological Seminary was founded in 1947. It was brought into being through the efforts of Charles E. Fuller of the 'Old Fashioned Revival Hour.' He secured the services of Harold John Ockenga, then minister of the Park Street Church in Boston, as president of the fledgling institution. The school opened its door with four faculty members: Wilbur Moorehead Smith, Everett F. Harrison, Carl F. H. Henry, and myself."
Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 106.
"Mrs. Barnhill looked at me and said, with such a loving look in her gray eyes, 'Oh, Grace, Christ said, 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,' and, my dear, you have no way of approach to a holy God unless you come through Christ, His Son, as your Saviour.' "The Scripture which she quoted," Mrs. Fuller continues, "was the Sword of the Spirit, and at that moment Unitarianism was killed forever in my heart. I saw the light like a flash and believed at that moment, though I said nothing. She had quoted God's Word, the Spirit had used it, and, believing, I instantly became a new creation in Christ Jesus. She might have talked and even argued with me about it, but instead she just used the Word."
[conversion of Mrs. Grace Fuller, wife of Charles Fuller, Old Fashioned Revival Hour broadcast, founder of Fuller Seminary]
J. Elwin Wright, The Old Fashioned Revival Hour and the Broadcasters, Boston: The Fellowship Press, 1940, p. 54.
GJ - Grace Fuller was converted to the Christian faith by the efficacy of the Word alone. I wish the Fuller Seminary graduates would study their own history a little. They might study the history of Lutherans in America as well. The Pietism of the General Synod led to the Unitarianism and Paganism of ELCA today.
The Tullberg argument, used so many times before, is that that revivals "work," especially among Blacks.
The LCMS had a powerful Black ministry long before the liberals thought about it. They did not pander to Blacks. They taught Lutheran doctrine, Lutheran liturgy, Lutheran hymns. Missouri's Black ministry is so old that I found a booklet about it printed in German. Can anyone imagine a Fuller graduate being able to read or comprehend German?
Black Catholics and Lutherans are offended by the notion that the only way to reach them is through revivals and emotionalism. That is why I posted the photo of "Buckwheat," the Saturday Night Live icon for that patronizing attitude.