Bill Elliff (left) founding and national engage pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark. and Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., lead a prayer gathering in advance of the 2023 SBC Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting June 11 in New Orleans. (Photo by Madison Sardana)
This article was written by Scott Barkley, national correspondent for Baptist Press, and was published at baptistpress.com.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The signs for revival are apparent, and perhaps it’s time to trust God and get out of the way.
On Sunday evening, June 11, attendees of a prayer gathering in the New Orleans Theater worshipped, heard Scripture and prayed. They embraced times of silence designed for focus, and swung arms over shoulders in times of support.
The event was led by Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and Bill Elliff, founding and national engage pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark. It’s the third consecutive year Gallaty has helped lead or plan such an event prior to the SBC annual meeting.
Gallaty shared how the city and room in which he stood both represented homecomings. Those walking down nearby streets can see the results of sin and lostness. But as he knows personally, there is also redemption.
“I was born and raised in New Orleans. This is where I got addicted to drugs and alcohol. This is the place I got saved. This is where the Lord transformed my life,” Gallaty said.
As a pastor, he struggled with pride and cynicism of peers who had bigger numbers and (it seemed) more ministry success. He prayed for revival. Then, he realized what was keeping it from happening.
“Frankly, I didn’t spend time to hear from God,” Gallaty said. “I didn’t know how to bend my ear to the accent of the Holy Spirit.”
He was the “blood clot” to revival coming to his church, he added. Once he stepped aside, revival showed up.
America’s need for revival is obvious. But just as much, said Elliff, are the signs that revival is close at hand.
Asking attendees to “get at the meat of why we’re here,” Elliff led into a time of “rolling up our sleeves and bearing down” into intercessory prayer.
There have been five times in America’s history, he said, when “God, in His mercy, has chosen to open the windows of heaven and come down and bring a great, sweeping, nationwide revival.”
The First Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening. The Prayer Revival of 1857. The Welsh Revival that spread across the Atlantic. The Jesus Movement of the 1970s.
“Those happened every 40-60 years, almost like clockwork,” he said, with two things consistent in all of them.
First, there was a time of preparation. It included “a rising tide of desperation” alongside “a rising tide of prayer.”
Then, there was “a catalytic moment.”
The roots of the Jesus Movement can be traced to a prayer movement at Asbury College in 1970. Another occurred 52 years later on the same campus.
The 1970 Asbury revival took time to spread to other colleges, but it did. Southern Baptists remember those days and even though their hairlines may have changed dramatically, God’s work has not receded.
Southern Baptists need to pray with a similar expectation.
“I think we’re about to see a great movement of revival this year,” said Elliff.
Gallaty and Elliff led the crowd toward pointed prayers and an atmosphere of expectation, noted Kie Bowman, who has helped the SBC Executive Committee in developing a national prayer strategy. Bowman attended the prayer gathering.
“Robbie and Bill touched on all of the topics that needed to be for this annual meeting and this time in our Convention,” he said.
Bowman, pastor emeritus of Hyde Parke Baptist & The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas, added that a prayerful room was also a worshipful one.
“It was a great worship experience,” he said. “People were into it.”
The June 11 prayer gathering focused on other areas such as repentance and humility.
Gallaty’s own sinful attitude before experiencing revival at Long Hollow came from a place of cynicism.
The antidote to such negativity is obvious.
“You have as much of God in your life right now as you want,” he said. “… There is so much more of God to be had.”