A few years ago, Churches and religious communities started doing something new that was a throwback to days long past. They started having tent meetings on the lawn of their Churches with a revival speaker to challenge the crowd each night. These gatherings were supposed to inspire people and recapture a piece from the past that would help the Church on its mission.
The problem with these events is found in the flawed thinking that stands behind it. The idea is that if we could somehow reproduce this past event, we will get the results back from when they were popular. In the late 1940s through the 1960s, tent revival meetings were a huge boost to the faith. A Church could bring in an outside speaker who had a few compelling sermons, and he would preach stuff to inspire people. His speeches were only compared to the local preachers and were always better in different ways. People who had slowly quit attending Churches for various reasons would be challenged, and their faith revived. They would go back to worshipping regularly on Sunday, bring their family with them, and possibly invite their neighbors. A tent revival meeting meant that God would do something exciting in a town as they would make new disciples and grow old ones.
Today, the world has changed. A Church will decide to set up a tent in the summer and leave their climate-controlled building and go outside to sit in hard metal chairs. They will invite in a speaker, who might be slightly better than the local preacher, but does not compare to the thousands of sermons found on the internet. A few highly committed people will come, and they are usually those who attend every meeting to support their friends in the faith. A handful of people will recommit their life to Jesus often because they feel someone “ought to do something” after all this effort. The local Church is unchanged, but the community feels better that “at least they are trying something” to reach the lost for Jesus.
Tent meetings demonstrate a fundamental concept that the followers of Jesus must understand if we are going to reach people with the gospel message. The issue is that the believers do not need to recapture some past event to get past results. Instead, they need to focus on the future to reach people in the future. Tent meetings are dead activities that give the appearance of life. We need to pour our resources and energy into living events that actually lead to growth.
At our Church, we are pouring our efforts into our website, social media, and learning to create helpful videos. I blog, and I am launching a podcast soon. We are upgrading our children’s ministries with decorations, videos, sound, and lights. I know we are behind large Churches who are doing cutting edge ministry, but we are continually seeking to improve.
A preacher I know describes the Church as a crayfish. We tend to back blindly into the future while looking longingly toward the past. For the Church to reach our children and grandchildren for Jesus, the ministry will not look like anything we have attempted before, and accepting that fact is the first step toward reaching more people for Jesus.