A revival meeting is a series of Christian religious services held to inspire active members of a church body or to gain new converts. Nineteenth century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said, "Many blessings may come to the unconverted in consequence of a revival among Christians, but the revival itself has to do only with those who already possess spiritual life."1 These meetings are usually conducted by churches or missionary organizations throughout the world. Notable historic revival meetings in were conducted in the US by evangelist Billy Sunday 2 and in Wales by evangelist Evan Roberts.3
A revival meeting usually consists of several consecutive nights of services conducted at the same time and location, most often the building belonging to the sponsoring congregation but sometimes a rented assembly hall, for more adequate space, to provide a setting that is more comfortable for non-Christians, or to reach a community where there are no churches. Tents were very frequently employed in this effort in the recent past, and occasionally still are, but less so due to the difficulties in heating and cooling them and otherwise making them comfortable, an increasing consideration with modern audiences.
Ben M. Bogard, from 1909 to 1914, conducted revivals full-time in seven southern states. In 1924, he founded the American Baptist Association, the Missionary Baptist denomination, still based in Texarkana, Texas. ABA churches have traditionally held revivals usually once or twice a year.4
The length of such meetings varies. Until the last quarter-century they were frequently a week or more in duration, especially in the Southern United States. Currently they may be held for three or four days. Evangelist Billy Graham planned a week-long crusade in New York City, which ultimately extended from May 15 to September 1, 1957. More than two million persons went to New York's Madison Square Garden to hear him preach.5
Most groups holding revival meetings tend to be of a conservative or fundamentalist nature, although some are still held by Mainline groups, which formerly conducted them with a far greater frequency. Similar events may be referred to as "crusades", especially those held by Billy Graham and Oral Roberts.
Most American Protestant groups other than evangelical churches have become less active in holding revival meetings in recent years, but many are still conducted by nondenominational community churches, most of which are conservative in theology.
Conservative Mennonites continue to hold and promote protracted revival meetings of usually 7 or 8 days duration at least once per year in a given congregation. The visiting evangelist is chosen from among their own or related congregations.
This movement has been portrayed by director Richard Brooks in his 1960 film Elmer Gantry with Burt Lancaster (who received the Academy Award for this film) and Jean Simmons, adapted from Sinclair Lewis' eponymous novel.
- "Benjamin Marcus Bogard (1868–1951)". encyclopediaofarkansas.net. Retrieved August 2, 2013.