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Beyond experiencing revival, churches seek to sustain it

MARTIN, Tenn. (BP)–Greg Crocker was a faithful member and
ordained deacon at Bible Union Baptist Church, Martin, Tenn., but it wasn’t until a revival at his church last fall that he actually met the Lord.
“I always assumed I was saved,” said Crocker, a pastor’s son who had “gone forward” when he was 10 years old, “so I hadn’t thought a lot about it until this past year. I’ve been dealing with some issues in my life and I just figured the devil was using them to confuse me. So on
Tuesday night of the revival, I went to the altar and prayed to rededicate my life. But that just didn’t satisfy me; it didn’t feel right. The next night the Lord made it plain what I needed to do. So I went down again and asked Christ into my heart.”
But what really shocked Crocker were the people who joined him at the altar. His mother, sister, niece and nephew also accepted Christ. “I was really shocked when my mom came forward,” he said. “I’ve never been a part of a revival like this before.”
Thirty people made first-time professions of faith during the Sept. 26-Oct. 1 revival at Bible Union, a church averaging 121 in Sunday morning worship. Another 30 people rededicated their lives to the Lord, reported Terry Griffin, Bible Union’s pastor.
“Most all our first-time professions of faith and rededications were longtime church members,” said Griffin, whose two sons also accepted Christ during the revival.
“Four months later, the county is still in a stir about it. Everywhere I go people are asking about the ‘Great Revival.’ I went to lunch in a town 22 miles away, and people came to our table to talk about what happened. We’d already had two revivals earlier in 1997, but
only a few people were saved. This third one wasn’t even scheduled. Even though our church is known to be evangelistic, this went way beyond anything we’ve ever done.”
Malissa Weldon agreed. She has been a Bible Union member 48 years, but she’s only been a Christian since last October.
“When I was 11 years old, a group of us girls were sitting together during a church service and a Sunday school teacher came up and started talking to us. We all went up. But I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart; I just went up.”
For 65 years after that experience, Weldon said she had constant fear that she wasn’t going to heaven when she died. “Before the Bible Union revival, I’d been reading about the second coming of Christ in my Bible. The services made me realize something was missing. So on the last night, I went to the altar and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s different in my heart now. I feel like it’s a burden lifted off me and I don’t have any fears of not going to heaven when I die.”
Evangelist Donnie Guy, a former Southern Baptist pastor, was the special speaker at Bible Union’s fall revival. Guy’s passion for evangelism comes out of his own burden for the lost as well as a personal experience similar to Weldon’s.
“When I was 17, I had a guy put pressure on me and I went through the motions of being saved,” he said. “But I wasn’t. I didn’t mean what I was saying. Somebody told me, ‘Now, you’ll change.’ Well, I did. I got worse. For six years, I kept trying to convince myself I was saved. That’s a dead giveaway that you aren’t. Then I met a deacon from a local church and he began witnessing to me. I saw something in his life that was missing in mine, and then I really came to know the Lord. That’s what I share with church members.”
He encouraged the congregation at Bible Union to sustain their revival’s momentum by developing an evangelism program, training leaders and incorporating evangelism in every area of the church. “Right now in
most Southern Baptist churches, the people who do most of the evangelism are the preacher and the staff,” Guy said. “But true evangelism happens when the church body takes over the job and goes out into their community. Then it can go beyond revival to discipleship.”
Bible Union has done just that. Within weeks of the revival, they developed 10 committees, each focused on reorganizing a specific area of the church in order to reach people more effectively for Christ.
“We didn’t have these committees before,” Griffin said. “We weren’t focused. Now the different areas of our church — youth, education, hostess, visitation, music, publicity — are united in their effort to reach people and bring them in.”
In just a few weeks, Bible Union members have seen the Lord use their new purpose to revive every area of their church. The choir has grown in size and a new music director was hired. Tuesday night visitation slots are full, and several dozen more people have accepted the Lord, rededicated their lives or joined the church in the weeks
since the revival.
“We’re seeing people visiting our church,” Griffin said. “I’m getting phone calls from people moving into the area. We’re putting up a billboard on the highway to increase awareness of our church. People are dropping by and checking us out. These things just don’t happen in a
small country church. But we’ve just made a commitment to keep our church active and the revival spirit alive. Every area of our church has been strengthened because of this. It’s amazing.”
Since a similar revival in his church with Guy, Milton Harrison, pastor of Bethel Baptist in Brinson, Ga., has seen an increasing excitement for evangelism among his congregation. “I was overwhelmed by the results we have seen,” he said. Bethel’s average attendance for Sunday morning worship was 60 people, but during the Oct. 3-8 revival there were 15 first-time professions of faith. Like Bible Union, most were church members.
“We normally have only one revival a year but we decided to host another one anyway,” Harrison said. “There was no comparison with the last one. We’d had good attendance, but no professions of faith. This time, the people understood.”
Harrison’s wife, Alecia, was one of those people.
“I’ve been a church member for 36 years,” she said. “I went forward with some other children when I was 9 and we all were baptized, but I didn’t really understand about salvation. I’ve been a pastor’s wife for more than 20
years. I was a Sunday school teacher and a good church worker, but I wasn’t saved. And I sort of knew it. For 20 years, I occasionally had the feeling that something wasn’t right between me and the Lord, but I just thought he wanted me to rededicate my life or repent of some sin.
“But during the revival, our guest evangelist Donnie Guy said if you had any doubts in your spiritual life to ask the Lord what was wrong. So I did, and he said clearly, ‘Alecia, you aren’t saved.’ It was like a light suddenly coming on in a dark room. I understood! And I was
terrified that I had gone so long without accepting Christ. I’ve had cancer, so I could have died and gone straight to hell.
“But the devil tried to blind me again,” she continued. “Once I knew I had to be saved, my second thought was, ‘I’m a pastor’s wife. What will people think? What will this do to Milton?’ But then I thought, ‘I don’t care. I need to be saved.’
“And the best part is, because I finally understood the Lord, I’ve been able to help seven people in my family find him, too.”
And the momentum keeps going. “We now have 80 in Sunday morning worship service, and several more people have made first-time professions of faith since the revival,” Harrison said.
At Bible Union, meanwhile, morning worship attendance is now over 200, and a new member’s class has been started, with 60 people attending.
Establishing a program to continue the momentum of revival is the key to real, sustained evangelism, according to Guy.
“Before a revival, people are excited,” Guy said. “During a revival, people are excited. But three weeks after, they’re back to square one and they don’t do anything except plan another revival. Each church needs to set up an evangelism program.”
Griffin and his church members know that now.
“Before, we were just an average church in a rural setting. But with our new committees, we now have a plan of action and we’re excited,” he said. “I’m still getting calls from people who weren’t even part of the revival. They say they’re sorry they missed out. I’ve been
telling them they didn’t miss anything. We’re still in revival.”

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  • Kelli Williams