News Articles

Evangelist reflects on 2-month revival’s impact

LAUREL, Miss. (BP)–Revival services in Mississippi led by Arkansas Baptist evangelist William Blackburn ended Easter Sunday after nine consecutive weeks and nearly 1,300 professions of faith in Christ. Blackburn said the revival experience at Highland Baptist Church, Laurel, Miss., “changed my life” and “has given me a boldness.”
Blackburn, a vocational evangelist since 1986 and member of First Baptist Church, Lavaca, Ark., had led revival efforts for the 700-member congregation in 1995 and again last year. In planning this year’s revival, he and pastor Dennis Sewell “talked about a month-long campaign, but one that only committed the church to one week. The pastor and I had come to the decision that you couldn’t have real revival in a Sunday-through-Wednesday revival meeting.”
Sewell and Blackburn were soon proven right, though, as Blackburn said, “When it started out, no one in the church believed it would go this long.”
In the first two weeks of the “Find Me Faithful Crusade,” 300 church members made professions of faith.
“It started on Jan. 31 with a men’s wild game supper. The next morning I preached a message called ‘Examine Yourself,'” Blackburn recalled. He said the message focused on listeners examining themselves to determine if they are truly saved.
The result, he noted, was a mass of salvations as people committed themselves to Christ. “After three weeks, it exploded in two ways,” he said. “First, in the worship services there was excitement — a tidal wave of people wanting to stand the whole time for an hour, shedding tears, coming to the altar and lying flat praying. They really wanted to worship.
“They also got a tremendous burden for lost people — loved ones, relatives and friends,” Blackburn noted. Among the hundreds of people making public decisions, “we had 18 deacons saved, three preachers from other churches get saved and a deacon that had been a big troublemaker saved.”
Blackburn cited other personal stories that were told as more people became Christians. A school principal who made a profession of faith resigned her job to start a women’s ministry. A young boy who was saved had a dream “that his dad had fallen into a big hole that no one could get him out of. He told his dream to his father. His father came forward that night.”
The “explosion” continued when local media outlets picked up on the amazing events. “We had, in the third week, gotten a lot of secular press. Then on the fourth week, the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger ran a full-page story. Then busloads came from out of town,” including other states.
The revival also impacted young people, he related. “Each night, we had 200 teenagers from the youth group come. One teenage boy who was saved spoke at a high school assembly and 25 were saved at the school because of his testimony.”
The majority of salvations were men, he noted, emphasizing “you must preach to the men directly. If you do, you will get the message to the wives and children. We had several families on the verge of divorce where the family got saved and that saved the marriage.”
More than a month later, with more than 900 professions of faith recorded, the decision was made to take Saturday nights off and to conclude the crusade March 25. However, due to large crowds continuing to attend and the number of decisions being registered, the decision was made to continue until Easter.
After Blackburn had preached his final sermon, he said, there had been “1,275 recorded, counseled salvations and they had baptized more than 600 of those.”
Blackburn admitted he faced the disappointment of lack of support for the revival from some other preachers in the area. “This idea of church members getting saved has a negative opinion among some preachers,” he explained.
Despite that disappointment, he said the crusade “changed my life. It taught me how to worship God. I’ve always been Southern Baptist and the Lord freed me up to sing to Jesus, not just about him.
“He also gave me a vision that our problem today is that we have a lot of lost members in our churches,” he said. “The message to examine yourself is the message for today.”
Blackburn said he also gained personal lessons from the revival. “It showed me that, just like salvation is by grace, it was the sovereign grace of God that allowed this to happen through me.
“I was so encouraged. It warmed my heart and gave me a real vision of what God can do,” he said. “We are living in the last days and I think will be seeing more of this.”

    About the Author

  • Russell N. Dilday