I grew up hearing many sermons and Bible studies on Revival through much of the late ‘70’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s. Those messages had much impact on me as a young man and then as a young preacher. Chiefly was the fact that when those messages had been preached there were long extended altar services following the messages. The altars would shore up the hunger that I felt for God and a desire to see the Kingdom of God press forward. Far too many times to count now were the times that I knelt at the wooden altars and many tears flowed not just from my eyes but from my soul. In addition to that there were some small rooms on either side of our platform that served as prayer rooms and often I would go there and allow God to add more to my life.
As I get older there are moments of great reflection as to how those sorts of things took place in my life. One of the things was I had a pastor, Joe Patterson, who was hungry for our church to have revival and spiritual growth to take place in the lives of those to whom he was preaching to. Secondly, I grew up in a home that literally served as an incubator for spiritual things to take place in my life and my brother, Mark’s life. I have to confess that there are still times that I pour out my gratefulness to God for such blessings that came to me early in life.
The reflection over time has given rise to my belief that the messages that we heard and the altar services that we were involved in were not so much about revival as they were hunger for God. When ministers and churches get hungry for God, the revival will take care of itself. When an insatiable hunger for God prevails in your life, prayer is of little effort as it will flow from a huge wellspring. Hunger for God also gives rise to evangelism because the closer to God that you are, the more willing you will be to reach out and witness to others the great impact of God in your life. Hunger for God gives way to sacrifice as one will be more willing to sacrifice his time, talents, and treasures for what God is calling him to do. I have found that a hunger for God will generally pull one more toward holiness and a desire for a clean heart and a right spirit.
Back in the ‘70’s, Brother Patterson would go to a meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, called “Deeper Life.” In fact there are still some of those old cassettes lying around the church that have managed to survive 30+ years of storage. In the ‘70’s, Brother Patterson was bi-vocational and ran a backhoe sometimes up to 70 hours a week and on top of that he was in the process of building a home missions church. There wasn’t an expense account to pay for lodging and travel, he simply went out of the sacrifice of his own pocket because he felt it would benefit the church. In retrospect, I see the great value in all of this as every minister needs something coming into his life because of so much that is going out.
I have only heard a few of the messages that were preached at “Deeper Life” but they always were those kinds of sermons that were spiritually probing and had a high call for commitment. That kind of preaching is in great necessity of reappearing in our generation, especially at the conference level. Time passed and for whatever reason (I am still unclear as to why) “Deeper Life” gave up the ghost. However in the early ‘80’s, Anthony Mangun and a few of his friends gave birth to Because of the Times. So with “Deeper Life” now deep-sixed, Brother Patterson started making the trek to Alexandria and he went to the first four or five of them by himself (except for once when he went with a neighboring pastor). Then in 1988, he invited me to go along with him. I made the first trip with Brother Patterson, my dad, and Richard West (now a pastor in Enterprise, AL) and have not missed one since 1988.
Those messages that I heard in my early years at BOTT poured it out concerning prayer, evangelism, and revival. Sermon after sermon moved men deeply to pursue and hunger after God. I would sit with some of my friends and we would soak it in and honestly I think that all of us were hungrier for God to build something within us than to help us build a great church. More and more I am coming to discover that if God will build the man in the pulpit, the church will take care of itself. It is simply an outflow of His grace that brings any success at all.
Significant during that time frame were all of the books that I had pushed in my direction by some thoughtful people. Brother Patterson pushed me in the direction of Leonard Ravenhill. I heard Sister Vesta Mangun mention A. W. Tozer and also Ravenhill. I did not have a book expense account (still don’t) at the time and had to make decisions about what I was going to do without to purchase those books. Whatever it was that I “sacrificed” at the time obviously pales in comparison to what I have gained from them. It is my thoughts to share with you some of those books.
Sadly, this genre of books is almost extinct now in most Christian bookstores. Books that demand sacrifice, prayer, and transformation have given way to all types of self-help, your-best-life-now, monster-within, relationship-mending, fourteen-ways-to-create-spiritual-do-dads-in-your-life, six-steps-to-emotional-bonding-with-God stuff. If life-application books could only give way to the deeper things of God, spiritual life would flourish.
Some of the books that drastically altered my way of thinking and put some spiritual muscle where flab could have been are listed as follow:
Leonard Ravenhill -- He is not for the faint-hearted! In fact, recently a minister told me that he knew someone who would not read Ravenhill because he demanded so much change to occur in the spiritual life. Ravenhill will do this for you. It is becoming more and more difficult to find his probing writings but the man who can track them down will greatly value from them.
Why Revival Tarries -- This is probably Ravenhill’s best known work. It is loaded with some quotes at the beginning of each chapter that will strike fire in your soul immediately. In fact, there have been some of the quotes that have been leaping off points for sermons for me. Some of the chapter titles: With All Thy Getting, Get Unction; Prayer Grasps Eternity; Where are the Elijahs of God; Is Soul-Hot Preaching a Lost Art?; The Prodigal Church in a Prodigal World; and Give Me Children or I Die.
Sodom Had No Bible -- This would be the second most well known work of Ravenhill. It is also a very heart rending and yet soul building book. Some of the chapter titles: We Need A Baptism of Holy Anger; Pentecost At Any Cost; Why This Suffocating Indifference; No, No! It’s Not An Easy Road; and Spirit-Anointed Preaching. One of the most valuable assets in this book is the section that Ravenhill gives “portraits” of revival preachers. He writes of Francis Asbury, Billy Nicholson, Gideon Ousley, John Wesley and others.
Revival Praying -- Another work that is geared toward the sacrifice of prayer that is required for revival to occur. The chapter, “The Prayer Chamber Our Mirror” is a very convicting chapter that will work like water priming a hand-pump well, it will put you on your knees. Other chapters: The Shame of Our Nakedness, Prayerlessness is Sin; The MUST of Prayer; There Were Giants In The Church; “I Say This To Your Shame,” and Sow in Prayer—Reap In Power, among others.
Revival—God’s Way -- There is a painting in the front of this book entitled “The Sleeping Sentry” that shows a watchman on the wall that is asleep. His head is lying on the top of the wall and with his trumpet about to fall from his hand he is sleeping deeply. In the background, there is a huge army approaching the city and they will be destroyed because the sentry is asleep. When you mull that around in your mind, much serious contemplation is given to what you are doing with your ministry of being a watchman. Chapter Titles: We Are Still A Valley of Dry Bones; Growing Out of Spiritual Infancy; Have We No Tears for Revival?; The Cost of Intercession; and We Plead or We Perish.
(Ravenhills other works that I do not have: Meat For Men; Tried and Transfigured; America Is Too Young To Die. You also can find sermons of Ravenhill at sermonaudio.com. I was very surprised at the lack of emotion in the messages.)
A. W. Tozer -- I was very struck by his book The Pursuit of God. This is probably his most famous book but it is just the tip of the iceberg to his thoughts. The chapters of this book are Following Hard After God; The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing; Removing the Veil; Apprehending God; The Universal Presence; The Speaking Voice; The Gaze of the Soul; and a few others. His other books are Men Who Met God; That Incredible Christian; Born After Midnight; The Root of the Righteous; Rut, Rot, or Revival; Man: The Dwelling Place of God; The Set of the Sail; and the two-volume Tozer Pulpit is also filled with some very good words concerning the press for Revival.
Charles Finney -- Finney’s autobiography was one of the first books that I ever read when I first started preaching. I was greatly blessed to read of the conversion experience that happened in the life of the young lawyer. The more and more one reads of his writings, the more one realizes that there was a great depth of spiritual life present. Finney was instrumental in a number of revivals that shook entire towns during his times.
E. M. Bounds -- His writings on prayer are very weighty but they will also press you into a place of prayer. I have mentioned him with some frequency in the past and will not belabor the point here. You simply must acquaint yourself with his writings on prayer and give yourself to this ministry.
Ron Auch -- He wrote a book that was recommended to me in 1990. The title was “Pentecostals In Crisis.” I purchased it but it laid around for several years before I even opened it. Once I did, I was so shocked by it that I ended up scouting around and finding everything else that Auch had written. In the “Crisis” book, he basically is talking about the sectarian cycle where groups have a diminished effect the longer that they are in existence, especially the third generation. Some of the chapter titles, The Power Encounter; Cisterns That Hold No Water; Technology: The Holy Spirit of Today’s Church; Rebuilding The Ancient Boundaries; and Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way. (Other works: The Seven Spirits of God and When He Appears.)
Wesley Duewel -- This is one of the accidental findings that I am thankful for. I first purchased Mighty Prevailing Prayer and found much fodder in it. He writes about fervency, desire, and importunity in prayer. This led to another book Revival Fire which is a composite of revival history primarily beginning with George Whitfield, the Wesleys, and concludes with Evan Roberts. Very good resource! I then ran across Touch the World Through Prayer and it was sub-par compared to Mighty Prevailing Prayer.
There are some older writings that you may find beneficial in your quest and hunger for God. The publishers at Schmul Publishing which contains a lot of the old revival and holiness works that have been reprinted are some very good avenues to travel down also.