Twenty years ago in a number of movements – the Church of God, the Southern Baptists, the United Methodists, the Assembly of God and others, there was a call to Solemn Assembly. Manuals were produced. Solemn Assemblies were conducted in congregations and by denominational leaders. Some of these events involved thousands – 39,000 clergy in Atlanta. The “Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. with a million men. An estimated 50,000 pastors may have experienced a prayer summit in the same era, a movement in which I participated.

The events were meaningful, but it only introduced the idea of Solemn Assembly. Sadly, we treated these as a series of helpful events, but not a movement that progressed from spiritual blindness to sight, from repentance to the fruits thereof toward revival and onward to cultural awakening. Solemn Assembly and its corollary prayer summits, was too often checked off the spiritual ‘to do’ list and pastors and churches moved on – or rather, back to old habits and practices.

It seems remarkable that the idea of Solemn Assembly, so prominent in biblical history is almost an unknown concept for the typical church member and pastor. Those who know the term often have little understanding of the concept as a pathway to revival, through repentance, and onward to transformation and cultural impact.

A Solemn Assembly is a time of corporate reckoning with God – about the sins of a nation, a state and city, a congregation and its families.

It demands soul-searching and self-examination for the express purpose of righting a people with God, of repenting and reorienting toward mission, of experiencing renewal with purpose in mind. It is not a program, not a service one conducts one time, it is a conceptual template for a biblical process. It is a means of resetting the spiritual and moral compass in our homes and churches, in cities and nations.

The Solemn Assembly map provides a journey for a people to return to God, beginning with the too often avoided process of repentance and proceeding through restitution and restoration by means of consecration and sanctification, of true fellowship with a holy God and one another as holy people. It is not a quick fix. Solemn Assemblies were to be normative among biblical people because they represented regular seasons for seeking God, not simply for individual sin, but also for corporate sin.

Corporate sin can only be confessed and repented of when the corporate body comes together to acknowledge its sin ask God for forgiveness. Fasting is required. Contrition of heart is expected. Genuine humility before God is essential.

A Solemn Assembly begins when the preacher-prophet calls for repentance. The realignment and renewal that follows true repentance by the people of God then allows the church to function effectively in its priestly role toward the world in identificational repentance. Such an action is only only meaningful when it is offered by a sincere, repentant and broken people in behalf of the sins of cities and the nations, sins against God which could invite his wrath and judgment. As a righteous and repentant church stands in the gap for its cities, God is most likely to move and send revival, visiting the unrighteous on behalf of the righteous.

Solemn Assemblies do not happen spontaneously. They are called by leadership.

We are at a critical intersection not only for the nation but also for the Church, for Christianity in America – imagine that! The land is filled with Christians, who like ancient Israel, are blind and unaware of how spiritually bankrupt they have become. They seem to see the problem with nation, but fail to see either how acute the dilemma has become or how their lives are contributing to the mayhem and the coming judgment. They are unmoved by calls to repentance. They rationalize their sin. They seek someone else to pray for them. They do not want a church that is a house of prayer, they want a weekly religious performance – a show-stopping Sunday Morning event. There is little fear of God, or true awe-full reverence in our cozy daddy-god world. Holiness is an old-fashioned term associated with legalism. Grace, easy grace, abundant and endless grace, cheap grace – that is the commodity desired.

There is only one option – we must repent and return to God. The instrument that God has given us, the map, is the Solemn Assembly. It is a time of corporate repentance intertwined with and meant to evoke in each us, personal repentance. The personal and the corporate dance together, as do the church and the home, but they are distinct, and each needs God’s sanctifying grace.

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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.