I grew up in a baptist church, and I can remember having revivals, not every year, but every couple of years. These revivals were not times for people to come back to the church and catch up with each other, but a time for the church to reignite their faith and mission to the gospel. When I went to Furman, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that not all churches celebrated revivals in the summer. What also became clear was there were other baptist churches that celebrated something called Homecoming.
Having attended two small schools, Homecoming was a big deal, but only if you knew your friends were coming. If your friends weren’t coming, then there was really no point in making the trek. But my perception of Homecoming wasn’t really what Homecoming was in these smaller baptist churches. No, Homecoming was something you made the trek back to your home church for every year. It wasn’t something you missed because it was a time when people who had been a member of the church and who still were members of the church got gathered over good food and caught up.
It’s something I love about pastoring a small church. We have a similar tradition in our anniversary dinner every year. Because of our size, we literally have to reorganize most of our church in order to celebrate our birthday, but the time we spend getting the church ready and getting the food ready all makes it worthwhile as we gather around interconnected tables to eat and catch up.
These traditions that many of us remember from our baptist roots are often disregarded in moderate and progressive baptist congregations. Mentioning the word “revival” or “altar call” or “invitation time” would bring together almost every committee in most of moderate and progressive congregations pretty quickly. I understand the hesitation because so many of us have hurt and pain associated with these times, and yet so many of us would mark these times as one of our first encounters with the gospel. I know that’s true for me.
I just wonder if in our efforts to be open-minded and affirming if at times if we miss opportunities to invite others to be a part of God’s amazing work in the world. To me God is not a God of rationale exposition, but a God of movement and miracles. Would people encounter that aspect of God in our congregations?
I know they would at a Willie Nelson concert: