“Let’s Quit Talking About Revival and Have One!”

Man praying

Describe your life as “Evangelist Tim Hill.”

I started as an evangelist, and in some ways I still consider myself an evangelist. That calling, that gifting, has been part of every role I’ve ever played in the ministry. I don’t know that I intentionally tried to hold on to it, but it held on to me.

As a 17-year-old boy in high school, I was preaching all the time. That was 40 years ago, and I haven’t stopped since. My role as an evangelist was to cast the net, go for souls. That’s the primary role. Then, through the years, I saw it move more toward the role of what some people would call a revivalist.

There was a merging of evangelism and soul-winning and revivalist, refreshing and renewing a church to become a greater soul-winning congregation. That’s what the FINISH Commitment is about.

What would you say to today’s evangelists about the challenges they face?

I will admit it is harder today than it has ever been for an evangelist to schedule services.  Different dynamics play into it: the times we’re living in, the competition that vies for the time a family can get to church, and then the different models churches have. It’s a different day than when I did it in the ’70s and ’80s, but I still contend there will always be a demand for a man or a woman whom God is using. They don’t have a problem keeping a schedule.

If I was in a room full of evangelists, I would say “Know your calling and know your gift, and then be the best at it you can be. Strive for a spirit of excellence so when a pastor books you, he knows, I may have not heard this person preach, but I like what I see and I like what I hear others say. I like the spirit that he or she exemplifies.” Because it’s a risky thing for a pastor who works 52 Sundays a year in his own pulpit—he’s created a model, he’s working a ministry—and then in one Sunday that can be torn to smithereens by the wrong evangelist.

Every pastor is going to be careful; I was. I had an evangelist one time that came in and preached, and the whole time I sat on the front row with my head in my hands and thought, He didn’t just say that, did he? Then I had to get up and try to repair it.

If you were in a room full of pastors, what would you say to them about the role of the evangelist?

I would say, “The ministry of the evangelist still has an impact, and can have an effect in your church. You may want a man or a woman with a specialty ministry. You may want one that talks about end-time prophecy. You may want one to do a children’s focus, or a youth focus.”

More and more, that’s what we’re seeing. I think pastors know the season their church is in, and they say, “This is the kind of person I need to come in and hopefully reaffirm what I’ve been preaching.”

Pastors and evangelists need to work hand in glove. If I go in as an evangelist, I hope the Spirit of the Lord will lead me in such a way that the congregation says, “Our pastor has been preaching the same message. This affirms what he’s been saying and what God has been doing.” I think if we do more than just book revivals for the sake of filling up a calendar, and we are really praying about the timing and the person, God can use that to affirm what He is saying to that church.

If it’s on a Sunday, if it’s through the middle of the week, or if it’s a special campaign, every church can benefit.

What are you sensing in your heart about revival in America? What do you understand from Scripture?

Revival is not man’s program. It is not just changing a mode or a method. Revival is going back to 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray. . . .”

Will we ever see a nationwide revival again? I hope the answer is yes. Deep in my heart, I believe the answer is yes. I base that on the fact that when Christ comes, He’s not coming back for an anemic church. I believe He’s coming back at a time when the church is empowered, energized, revived, and doing the work of the Great Commission.

I know the Scripture talks about a great falling away, but it also talks about great revival. God promises to “pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). I see the Church of God playing a great role in that outpouring. For us to be in 183 nations of the world, and represented in the United States by 6,500 congregations with 1.3 million members, I think we have the potential of having nationwide revival.

At the Ministerial Internship Program commissioning in May, I preached on Pentecost. I made a bold statement: “Let’s quit talking about revival and have one; let’s quit talking about church planting and plant some; let’s quit talking about miracles and see some.” Those young men and women caught that, and I believe Pentecostal revival can be contagious again. We’re going to have to meet the criteria, the if and the then.

We do see pockets of revival, but I believe there can be another Azusa Street, another Barney Creek, another Kansas City. It is interesting when you look at revival history how God used pockets of revival in the West, East, and Heartland to blaze where they were, but the fires kept spreading until they connected with each other and then went around the world.

Is revival happening anywhere in America right now? 

It’s more demographic than geographic. Revival is happening first in the younger generation. They’re going to sing it differently and preach it differently. But at the end of the day, they’re committed. There’s not a compromise with who Christ is or other issues some people have been concerned about. They get it.

Second, the multicultural population—missions has come to America. I heard someone say that we have become the third largest mission field in the world. The good side of that is the missionary spirit: The mission field has become a mission force through immigration.

Third, crowds of over 40,000 attended Church of God camp meetings across the nation this summer. I received calls, emails, and texts every day for a month testifying of a marvelous move of God accompanied by hundreds of spiritual results. And then another 25,000 to 30,000 people attended weeklong spiritual convocations we call “youth camps.” When one considers the multiplied and annual effect of these spiritual gatherings, it is astounding.

Reflect on a particular revival you’ve experienced that would cause you to say, “Lord, do that again.”

I was not an evangelist that had a lot of long revivals. I can name a few that went three or four weeks. Every one of them was marked by prayer, fasting, and by a pastor who had the attitude, If revival doesn’t happen, I’m going to die.

In Blytheville, Arkansas, there was a willingness to let the Holy Spirit do and be whatever He wanted to do and be as He would come into our midst. One night a spontaneous baptism broke out, and over 50 people were baptized.

In the opening service of what was supposed to be a five-night revival in Paris, Texas, an explosive thing happened in the young people. It spread out into the community and got into the high schools. They were coming every night for three weeks.

In east Texas, Paula and I went for a three-night meeting in a very small building, but it went for three or four weeks. It got into the region. People drove from all over that region, 50 and 60 miles away. It was standing room only.

Then there were revivals where miracles happened. In Lakeland, Florida, a woman brought her child for prayer who had a club foot. The foot was totally turned in an opposite direction than it should have been. With my own eyes I saw that foot turn around into a perfect direction and posture. I got a letter from the family months later, still testifying of the goodness of God.

What else do you want to say about revival?

Let’s stay focused on why we schedule an evangelist. Is it because we want to fill up a calendar? Is it because a pastor needs someone to come in and give him a break in preaching? Or, is it connected to the Great Commission? I used to tell my church in Danville, Virginia, that everything we do here has to be connected to the Great Commission.

I saw two Mormon missionaries come into a revival one night when M. H. Kennedy was preaching. They walked around just looking at people who were worshiping. Before that night was over, those two men were sitting in my office wanting to interview me. Before they left the building, they committed their lives to Jesus Christ. They stepped in to observe, but the power of the Holy Spirit touched them, and they walked away converted.

Tim Hill recently began his second year as general overseer of the Church of God.