CORPUS CHRISTI—Bill Elliff, founding and national engage pastor at The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark., announced that revival is near during the president’s lunch Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the 2022 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting.
Elliff is the author of numerous books, including The Presence-Centered Church, a work mentioned by SBTC President Todd Kaunitz in his introduction. Kaunitz called Elliff one of his “spiritual heroes” who did not disappoint in person.
Neither did he disappoint Tuesday’s audience of more than 500 who filled Henry Garrett ballrooms of the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.
Elliff recounted his first experience with revival when, as a freshman at Ouachita Baptist University in 1970, he participated in “an extraordinary moment of the manifest presence of God.” Scores of students confessed sins and embraced Christ following a short chapel message by a visiting Texas preacher.
“I realized that more could happen in five minutes than in 50 years of human effort,” Elliff recalled of that moment. “It created a hunger for more of the Lord,” a longing he admitted—voice cracking as it often did during the lunch—that he still feels.
That college experience led Elliff to explore God’s work in revival—which he called “a necessary, extraordinary movement of God that produces extraordinary results,” paraphrasing pastor and author Richard Owen Roberts.
Referring to Habakkuk 3:2b, “Revive your work in the midst of the years,” Elliff said revival is God-ordained: “God thinks we need moments like this.”
Why do we need revival?
Revival is necessary, Elliff said, because humans drift spiritually: “We always walk away. We always wander away.” God’s discipline descends. He sends revival when we cry out in humility and helplessness.
“We need revival when our hearts are cold,” Elliff added. It is “God’s glorious work, whether we join Him or not.”
Prayer is vital to revival, Elliff urged. Prayer must be at the core of any building programs, ministries, or sermons.
“I am so capable of pastoring without God,” he lamented.
God’s work in revival is often surprising and unexplainable, bringing equally surprising results, Elliff noted, describing five great national revival movements: the First and Second Great Awakenings, the 1857 New York Prayer Revival, the Welsh Revival, and the Jesus Movement of 1969-1972.
Revivals awaken the lost, he said, giving examples such as the 15 percent of colonists converted during under two years of the First Great Awakening (1735-1745), a percentage comparable to 1.5 million coming to faith in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex today.
Revivals bring dead churches to life again “by the thousands,” and they “transform the culture,” spurring major mission movements, as with the Welsh Revival. They “accelerate the mission” and “make God known,” Elliff urged.
Revival is near
The last great American revival, the Jesus Movement, ultimately fizzled because churches rejected hippies in their pews, preferring the traditional, Elliff said with regret. Noting the dates of the great revivals, he suggested we are overdue. It has been 50 years since the Jesus Movement.
“Revival is near, whether we realize it or not,” he said. We may well be in the midst of God’s familiar cycle of revival, in which increased judgment and desperation bring desperate prayer.
Historically, a time of God’s working begins 8-10 years before a major revival. This time of preparation is happening now, Elliff said, describing reports of “a rising tide of prayer” among Americans.
“And I feel we are right on the cusp of this again with every fiber of my being,” Elliff said, advising the audience not to quench the Holy Spirit and to do exactly what the Lord says.
Return to what should have been there all along, he urged: “Move your life and the life of your church into extraordinary prayer.”