Each year during spring break, Southwestern Seminary deploys preachers across the country to preach revivals in local churches and impact their surrounding communities with the Gospel through a program called “Revive This Nation” (RTN). This year, March 11–14, eighty-seven students and faculty preached from New York to Hawaii, and they collectively saw ninety professions of faith, thirty-one baptisms, and 307 other commitments.
Vice President for Student Services Kyle Walker said RTN offers an opportunity for churches to connect with Southwestern as they bring in a preacher for the week to help them reach their community and to edify their church as they preach the Word of God. He said he is encouraged each year to see how God blesses these revival gatherings.
“Revival is ultimately a way that a church can seek the Lord and come together with the purpose of hearing the Word, asking God to come and move in them in a special way,” Walker said.
One unique aspect of this year’s RTN was a partnership between Southwestern and Harvest North America (HNA). HNA is an evangelistic ministry that partners with local churches and equips them to share their personal testimonies in face-to-face evangelism. Thanks to this partnership, when churches signed up with Southwestern to host a revival, they could select the “Harvest” option and benefit from this unique training for intentional evangelism. Twenty churches did so this year, and God brought a great harvest.
Among the partnership’s many benefits, it allowed for a greater utilization of the preachers deployed from Southwestern, as it established within these twenty churches an intentional means of evangelism. HNA trained “Harvest teams” within these churches to share their testimonies so they could evangelize alongside the RTN preachers, and it provided instruction to church members on making appointments with nonbelievers in which testimonies could be shared.
In short, church members spoke with lost friends, neighbors, and coworkers, informing them that they might appreciate hearing the testimony of someone on the Harvest team (including the RTN preacher). This led to the scheduling of an appointment at a home, coffee shop, etc., in which the church member and Harvest team member met with the lost person, shared a testimony, presented the Gospel, and invited a response.
Pastor Jim Gregory, who serves on HNA’s board of directors and utilized the “Harvest” option for his own church—First Southern Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Idaho—said, “God has used this ministry to do marvelous things in bringing people to Christ, in restoring relationships, and in bringing folks back to church who had long since walked away from church. So what I teach the team is, ‘Once you introduce the person [from the Harvest team], step back and trust God for the results.’”
Southwestern PhD student Bryan Bogue served as the RTN preacher for Gregory’s church this year. Collectively, the church had fifteen appointments in which testimonies were shared. Bogue personally had four.
In one of these appointments, Bogue met with a man named Alex, who had a three-year-old son and a history of drug use. Bogue was accompanied by Eric, a member of the church who also had a history of drug use.
“Eric was able to speak with Alex about his history of drug use and how the Lord changed his life, which really impacted Alex, who was going through [similar problems at that time],” Bogue said. “My testimony was able to come in because I grew up with Christian parents who taught me about the Lord from a very young age, and I came to Christ at a young age and was spared from a lot of that lifestyle—a lot of the issues that people who didn’t grow up in Christian homes deal with.“So what I was able to do is encourage Alex that, if he can trust Christ to deliver him from his current way of life, then he can provide a testimony for his son the way my parents did for me.”
Encouraged by these two testimonies, Alex placed his faith in Christ that day. “Number one, he wanted to be delivered from that type of lifestyle, and Eric’s testimony helped in that,” Bogue explained. “Number two, because he didn’t want his son to go through that, and my testimony encouraged him in that way. So it was really neat how God worked it out.”
In addition to making good use of Bogue’s time during his weeklong stay in Idaho, he said the HNA partnership also effectively mobilized the members of the church. “This was a way to utilize the church members in the evangelism effort as opposed to just me and the pastor,” he said.
“And that, in turn, gave the church members more buy-in for the week, because they had a stake in what was happening. They weren’t just showing up and listening to sermons, but they were actually participating in the Harvest teams, sharing their faith during the week, and then that, in turn, made them more invested in what was going on during the evening services.”
Bogue’s testimony stands alongside numerous others from the week of how God powerfully touched individuals, churches, and entire communities, drawing them closer to Himself. During a time of sharing some of these testimonies following RTN’s conclusion, Walker praised God for what He had done.
“Thank you for the wonderful fruit that, by Your power and by Your Spirit, You produced as a harvest through the efforts of these men to preach Your Word,” he said. “This was accomplished, Father, only because Your Word is powerful and points people to Jesus and always comes and achieves its effect when it goes forth.”
Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a member of North Richland Hills Baptist Church in North Richland Hills, Texas.