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Multitude of laypeople testify to revival’s lasting impact

EASLEY, S.C. (BP)–For layman Terry Ballenger, a gratifying result of the revival that broke out in Easley, S.C., in the early 1970s is hearing the preaching of those who were called into the ministry and how their spiritual gifts have developed over the years.

Ballenger, communications manager at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, is equally pleased with the vast numbers now serving as deacons, Sunday School teachers and Christian influences in the workplace.

After listing examples in nursing, accounting and the federal government, Ballenger said, “You’ve got folks like that I can name right and left who went into secular work like me.

“In 1970 I saw myself going to seminary. I told my boss when I came here, ‘I’m giving you one year and if I feel the Lord calling me, I’ll have to go.’ But I never felt the Lord calling me.”

Ballenger isn’t fond of the notion that God’s call refers primarily to becoming a pastor, missionary or Christian educator.

He noted that the tendency to see pastors as a church’s primary witness leads to members expecting the pastor to do all hospital and home visitation when not all pastors have that gift.

“My prayer is more people in the church will get involved in ministry,” Ballenger said. “When the church is the church, that takes the load off the pastor so he can spend his time praying and studying and preparing sermons.”

A pair of church members touched by the Easley revival are among those who have lived out this call over the past 30 years.

Cathy McQueen, who has worked in a variety of occupations, including currently managing a prison industry for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said she shares her faith whenever the opportunity arises.

“If we relied on the pastoral staff to do everything, it couldn’t be done,” McQueen said. “My calling has been to be what I can, to be where I can, where God wants me.”

McQueen, who often led spiritual discussions at the coffeehouse in Easley where the revival began, noted that it couldn’t be identified with Baptist, Presbyterian or with any other denomination.

“It was Jesus-centered,” McQueen said. “I honestly do not think I would be where I am in my faith had I not had that when I did.

“If people don’t have a group to bond with, it’s like trees in a forest,” she added. “If one is alone, the wind could blow it over. But if it’s in a cluster, the wind may blow off a few branches, but it won’t fall.”

Then attending Glenwood Baptist Church in Easley, McQueen was a student at the University of South Carolina when the revival broke out.

Though active with Campus Crusade for Christ, McQueen often drove home on weekends to attend coffeehouse meetings.

“The coffeehouse ministry and all it entailed felt like a safe place,” McQueen said. “The early ’70s was a different time; there was a lot going on. What Terry and Greer [Ballenger] did to hold that together was mind-boggling.

“They gave a lot — to give us the foundation they did. I feel like we’ve been their children because they never had any children. They were willing to answer a call they heard and give us the freedom to find our own call.”

Members of Northside Baptist Church in suburban Columbia, S.C., for 24 years, she and her husband have been Sunday School teachers, choir members and athletic coaches while raising three children. However, because of serious parental illnesses in recent years, they dropped such activities to act as caregivers.

Such strains help McQueen appreciate the spiritual lessons she gleaned from the Easley revival.

“There are times I feel the pull of that foundation,” McQueen said. “Even if things get rough, I can pull back and center myself. That truly is what keeps my life together.”

Gene Odom, a veteran in sales who now works with an executive search firm in the Atlanta area, has been an active church member ever since the Easley revival.

He and his wife attend an interdenominational church where they are active in two small groups. Over the years he has been a Sunday School teacher, youth leader and hosted home Bible studies. The Odoms also started a Young Life outreach while living in Edwardsville, Ill.

Odom grew up at Park Street Baptist Church in Easley and first attended college at Anderson University, then a junior college.

When the revival spread from Easley to Anderson, Odom and a friend formed a music and speaking team that traveled to various high schools, including his alma mater.

“Once I went down there I was hooked,” Odom said of the Easley coffeehouse. “It was a mainstay in the community.”

The revival had a key impact on his life, Odom recounted. While attending the “Explo ‘72” evangelistic event in Dallas with a group from Easley, he met a group from Greenville (Ill.) College, where he had been invited to play for the baseball team. And he met a couple there who offered to help pay for his schooling since Greenville didn’t offer athletic scholarships.

After enrolling at the college, he met his wife.

“This was a turning point in my spiritual career,” Odom said of the chain of events that led him to Greenville. “Next to my salvation, the best thing that happened to me was meeting my wife.”

The coffeehouse also showed him the reality of following Christ in daily life, after previously having seen numerous church members act one way on Sundays and differently during the week.

However, at the coffeehouse, kids had a chance to fellowship in a setting that proved to be authentic, Odom said, noting, “I had an opportunity to see people live their faith during the week, not just on Sunday,” Odom said.

“That has stuck with me all my life. I believe that’s why all our [three] kids love the Lord. We are no different this afternoon than on Sunday.”

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  • Ken Walker