It was time for our annual church revival. To me, revival is for those who once were alive but now are in danger of death. One cannot revive what was never "vived." This also causes me to ponder where the concept originated. A paramedic performs CPR on a patient and he is revived. That is obviously a situation which refers to patient being in danger of physical death. But once a person is sealed with the Holy Spirit until the Day of Redemption, he is not in danger of spiritual death (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). Of course one is always facing physical death, but it is the human spirit for which a church holds a revival.
Pastor told us to invite everyone we knew to attend the week-long evening services, and I, being a relatively new and totally naive Christian, took him seriously. My wife and I held Bible studies at our home every Friday night, and usually about twenty people came to learn "at the feet of" a great Bible teacher named Lee Frerichs. I invited them to come. We attended a Navigator group meeting on base every Tuesday evening, and I invited all thirty or so, as well. On the first night of the revival, about fifteen of my invitees came, and we all sat together as a group. When the congregation was asked to welcome each other, everything seemed normal. Pastor had asked me to speak with him after the service, and after everyone else had gone, we talked in his office. He told me that some of the church members were unhappy because I had invited my friends to revival. They didn't mind those coming who were white, but many of my friends (brothers and sisters) were black. I remember saying, "Well, I hope you straightened them out!" He responded by gently reminding me we were in the South (the year was 1972), and "some things take time." Imagine, 1972! Slavery had ended more than a hundred years earlier, the Civil Rights Act had been passed about ten years earlier, and the people objecting claimed to be Christians! I was devastated.
I told my friends that the "church is uncomfortable with you attending" and to my amazement, they understood. I seemed to be the only one who was surprised and upset. The next night, our youngest daughter was sick, so I took our two older daughters (nine and seven), and Judy stayed home. I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable and the desire to leave was almost overwhelming. I prayed for God to give me peace and to help me love my unloving brethren. He did not. As I sat there, I prayed, "If you want me to leave this church, let the next hymn be "The Old Rugged Cross." We hardly ever sang it, and I always thought it strange to be singing about the weapon used to kill Jesus. I had no sooner opened my eyes from prayer when the song leader said to turn to Hymn number (I don't remember the number), "The Old Rugged Cross." Normally, our youngest would have been in the back, and my wife would have been next to me. But because she was at home, I didn't have to try to explain to her why I wanted to leave in the middle of the service. I didn't have to go to the back and explain why I was taking my child and leaving. It was clear to me that God wanted me to leave and He didn't want me to disturb the service. Apparently Pastor explained my absence from that time on, because no one ever called or visited to find out why. Sadly, that was just fine with me. Tomorrow, Lord willing, the "saga" continues.