17 October, 2007

Revival Ends Before Session Can Approve It

Larsonville, New Mexico - Over two years ago in the small town of Larsonville something happened that people still call "a special time." It all started one February Sunday morning during regular services at Trinity Presbyterian Church. The pastor, Rev. Colbert Dunnigan, preached the sermon that morning, and went significantly over time with no one seeming to mind.

"I remember it like it was yesterday" said member Patrick Larkin. "When Colbert was preaching that Sunday morning it was as if the floodgates of heaven had opened up. He just kept preaching and people weren't minding. We stayed close to three hours that day. After the service people were staying around and talking. People were getting convicted about sin and were repenting. It was a marvelous time."

In the weeks that followed more and more people began coming to the services at Trinity. Members began holding home Bible studies. Two deacons even claimed that they had just become Christians. In all, the church's attendance increased from an average Sunday morning crowd of 200 to over 600 persons. From that first Sunday in February until mid-July the church recorded over 90 adult baptisms.

All seemed to be going well until one Sunday morning when Dunnigan made a bold statement from the pulpit.

"That Sunday morning I said to the congregation 'we are having a true revival here' " said Dunnigan. "After the service I was approached by three of my elders who wanted to talk with me. One of them said to me 'Colbert, you were out of line with that statement. ' "

The elder went on to say that Dunnigan was premature in making such a remark as it had not been properly discerned as to whether a true revival was taking place or not. Dunnigan tried to persuade the elders but the conversation was postponed until the regular Session meeting on the third Tuesday of the month.

"I had made that statement in July, and after our conversation it was stated that the issue would be discussed at the next Session meeting" stated Dunnigan. "We had already had our meeting though for July so it had to be postponed until August. But the session normally doesn't meet in August with school starting back and vacations and everything. So we didn't meet until September."

The Session did finally meet in September and the issue was deferred to the Worship Committee.

"We decided that the issue of whether or not to say we were having a revival should be handled by the Worship Committee" said Elder Carl Gromlin. "So we would wait for their decision on the issue and then discuss it further."

Unfortunately though, the Worship Committee did not meet during the month of October, so the issue was still not settled by the time of the November Session meeting. The committee did however meet the last week of November.

"When the Worship Committee met we decided that this was too important of an issue for us alone to figure out, so we decided to form a Committee on Revival to study what was going on" said Elder Rodger Wheims, head of the Worship Committee. "We submitted the names of the people we thought would best work on the committee back to the Session."

As usual, the session did not meet for the month of December, so the issue was taken up during their regular meeting in January of 2006. During that meeting there were some questions concerning several people chosen to be on the Committee on Revival, so the issue was referred back to the Worship Committee with the proposed changes. In February the Worship Committee made the proposed changes and resubmitted them back to the session for approval in March. During the Session's March meeting the list was approved. The Committee on Revival met for the first time in April, and decided that the issue would be studied for a period of three months.

The Committee on Revival reconvened in July of 2006 and ratified a report stating that they believed that a "real revival was taking place." By this time though, the church's Sunday attendance had dropped to almost 350, and many of the Bible studies had stopped meeting. The report was sent to the Session for approval, but the Session, as usual, did not meet for the month of August. The issue was brought up during the September meeting but was tabled due to 'more pressing issues.' The Session then took up the issue again in October, but several of the elders questioned some of the research done by the Committee on Revival. The proposal was sent back for clarification. The Committee on Revival did not meet in November, and the Session, of course, did not meet in December, so the issue was not reevaluated by the Committee on Revival until January of 2007.

In January of 2007 the committee decided to restudy the issue for another three months. The group then met again in May of 2007 and "further clarified" the issues regarding the alleged revival. The proposal was sent to the Session for approval. During their June meeting the Session officially approved that the church was indeed "having a revival" and began discussing dates to make it public to the congregation.

"We didn't want to be to hasty about this" said Wheims. "We decided that we were going to have a 'Revival Sunday' to celebrate the events.

The Session decided to postpone the declaration of a date until their July meeting. During their July meeting they set a date of Sunday, September 30 as 'Revival Sunday.' It was then that Dunnigan could officially announce to the congregation that the church was in the midst of a revival.

And so, on Sunday, September 30 Dunnigan stood before his congregation of 125 and announced "Well, we're having a revival."

It is now October at Trinity Presbyterian and all but one or two of the home Bible studies have ended. The congregation groans when Dunnigan now goes past noon with his sermons, and attendance is at an all time low.

"We are really praying that a real revival will come some day" said Gromlin. "We're ready for it whenever it might come, and when it does we'll be there to support it and pray for its continuance."


Corey Reynolds said...

Man, that's painful to read.

Eric said...


I went to school at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. That photo looks suspiciously like a chapel service there (the big, greenish pillars in the background are the give-away). Unfortunately, we never had any type of verified revival while I attended.

Elder Eric

Jim Pemberton said...

I propose we appoint a committee to study the effects of undue ecclesiological deliberation on the responsiveness of the church to the spiritual needs of the community.

Of course, with the holiday season upon us we won't be able to get much done on this until January. The budget for next year is already established, so we won't have an account established for them. When we finally establish the committee by summer, everybody will be taking vacations. By the time they meet in the fall, the first thing they will need to do is come up with their budget for 2009. They need to realize that the budget committee will probably cut their budget by half, so they need to ask for twice what they will need and be sure they will spend every cent or they'll get cut further in 2010...

Stefan Ewing said...