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The calling of a revivalist (part 1)

Nolan Harkness
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. (Photo courtesy of Nolan Harkness)

One of the most recognized revivalists is the late Pastor David Wilkerson. He founded Time Square Church in New York City and Teen Challenge Ministries, which is now worldwide. The late evangelist Steve Hill, who was mightily used in the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida, was by clear definition a revivalist.

The revival, which started on Father’s Day, June 18th, 1995, lasted six years, touching thousands of lives. People traveled from all over the world and stood in line for hours to come into the awesome presence of God as they listened to the fiery preaching of Evangelist Steve Hill.

Still among us is another respected preacher with a heart for revival. Dr. Michael Brown, whose website is, is a regular contributor to The Christian Post and the author of several books. In addition, he hosts a nationally syndicated radio broadcast called Line of Fire radio. He too is gifted with the exhortative message of the revivalist.

The revivalist, however, does not have to be a big-name evangelist or Doctor of Theology. Many revivalists are pastors in their local church, Sunday School teachers, or just faithful believers in their communities who are passionate about seeing sleeping congregations or brethren come alive with new life in Christ.

For me, the specific calling came following a time period of being personally revived by the Lord. I had been saved at age nine, but eventually slid away from God and the church. However, when I was 22 years old, God suddenly intercepted my life and introduced me to His glorious Holy Spirit. My rededication to Christ and my first-time realization of just how real the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were, launched me into a radical transformation. The change in my life was so dramatic it shocked my family. I went from someone who used to make my mother blush at the table with ungodly humor to someone often quoting scripture and trying to show everyone the latest insight that the Lord had been teaching me. I suddenly just loved to pray. It wasn’t something that I had to do; it was something that I loved doing.

Although I had spent all of my childhood attending evangelical churches, I had never heard of or experienced the actual presence of God. It was glorious. In these newfound places of prayer, I experienced His presence over and over again. During those early months of intense prayer, I began to sense that the Holy Spirit was showing me He was about to reveal my lifelong calling. Then during an early morning daily men’s prayer meeting at our local church, God led me to chapters two and three of Ezekiel. To paraphrase what God said to Ezekiel in chapter one, He told Ezekiel that He was sending him to the children of Israel. They and their fathers had rebelled against Him and they were hard-headed and hard-hearted. Then in chapter two, God said even though you speak my words to them they will not hear you but even though they will not hear you, you must speak my words to them. The words leaped off the page that morning straight into my heart and initially I was excited.  However, over the next many years of my life, I learned the heartache experienced by revivalists and what it is to have sermons birthed by the Spirit of God that many people did not want to receive or believe that they came from God.  

Over and over again throughout the scriptures, we find that God’s children slid away from the Lord. God’s prophets, comprehending and motivated by the awesome undeserved love from the Heavenly Father, repeatedly sounded Holy Spirit-inspired messages calling God’s children to return wholeheartedly to Him. In Ezekiel 2:6a (NKJV) God described to Ezekiel the very difficult road that was before him in a way that he was familiar, saying: "And you son of man, be not afraid of them and be not afraid of their words, though briars and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions…” It is not so different today for the ministry of the revivalist!

Several years ago I began searching history books for other preachers who may have shared a similar calling to that of Ezekiel. What I found is that most of the preachers of the 19th century preached powerful fiery messages that permanently changed people’s lives. Evangelist Charles Finney, a converted lawyer in the 1800s from Adams, New York, led over 800,000 people to Christ during the course of his lifetime. Several books have been written documenting his sermons. He felt a passion for people who he believed were in the church but not truly born again. A very large percentage of his converts openly confessed to being formally religious but not fully surrendered to Jesus. Many of his converts found themselves under great conviction for their sins and openly wept because of their deep contrition. It has been noted that Finney had an 85% “stick rate.” In other words, 85% of the people who got saved went on to become outstanding and active members in a local church. This is the highest rate ever documented. Sadly, some modern-day well-known evangelists have reported that only 2% of their converts ever darkened the door of a church after their conversion. May God’s people realize our need for the God-sent teaching and preaching of true revivalists.

I would like the reader to realize that God’s love often persists in spite of our lack of willingness to serve Him with our whole heart. Like a good coach calling us to work harder to get in better shape or a doctor needing to firmly warn us of a life-threatening condition which we cannot delay addressing, a true revivalist urgently and passionately charges us to get right and stay right with God. We may not like their messages sometimes, but may God help us to be willing to receive them.

Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is

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