THOMPSON STATION, Tenn. (BP)–Hundreds of church members prayed, fasted and heard sermons about revival for weeks in preparation for what they hoped would be an awakening in their small community south of Nashville, Tenn. Then God exceeded their expectations.
During a revival Sept. 26-29, Thompson Station Church in Thompson Station, Tenn., tallied 515 total decisions for Christ. The breakdown included 317 professions of faith, 180 recommitments and 18 other decisions to get serious about Jesus. On the final night alone, 311 teenagers went forward during the invitation.
Those numbers are large for any church, but especially one in a rural community with a worship center that seats just over 1,200.
“We are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus,” Tom McCoy, pastor of Thompson Station, said of the success of the revival. “We’ve been praying for months for an awakening, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”
Jay Lowder, an evangelist from Wichita Falls, Texas, led the revival and helped draw students by speaking in three local schools during the week. Though he couldn’t talk about Jesus in the schools, he did speak to them about what he calls social and moral issues — sex, drugs, violence and alcoholism.
“What’s amazing is, here we are [near the largely affluent] Franklin, Tenn.,” Lowder told Baptist Press. “You look at all the success and all the money, and I’ve been in these schools and student after student after student has come to me with issues of substance abuse and suicide.
“Everything looks so great, but then when you talk to the students and get behind the scenes, you find out that these students are going through some tough problems,” he said.
FOUNDATION OF PRAYER
Thompson Station, a Southern Baptist congregation, began preparing for revival about six weeks before it started. McCoy preached a series of messages about revival, beginning with the story from Mark 2 about four friends who did whatever it took to get a lost friend to Christ.
“They carried a man that was paralyzed and dug a hole in a roof and fought their way through a crowd and then had to pay to repair the roof after the man was saved and healed,” McCoy said. “It costs to count. Anything worth having in life you’ve got to pay for. And we were willing to pay the man-hours, and we were willing to pay the thousands of dollars to promote [the revival] and feed [those who came].”
At the beginning of the six weeks, the church kicked off an intentional plan to pray for the revival, which they called “Awakening.” During the Aug. 22 service, church members were invited to make a public commitment to fast and pray for the revival. They could choose to fast one full day that month or they could choose to do what some called a Daniel fast, where they fasted from whatever God laid on their heart for the entire time period. More than 250 people agreed to fast.
About 750 people used a daily devotion based on a study of David and Goliath written by the pastor’s wife, Leighann McCoy. That enabled the church to focus on the same Scriptures and pray in the same ways in preparation for Awakening.
“We really have an attitude at our church that we can do absolutely nothing apart from Christ and that we don’t want to be about anything less than what only God can do,” Leighann McCoy, prayer ministry leader, said. “In our hearts and minds, we really understand that prayer is so powerful because that’s the way we connect intimately with God and that’s where God chooses to channel His power.”
TIME FOR REVIVAL
After all the praying and promoting and inviting, it was time to let God show what He could do.
The first night of the revival was family night, and a potluck meal was served before the service. Monday night was sportsman’s night, and McCoy said fresh Tennessee River catfish was served to nearly 700 people. Tuesday night was steak night, and church members were encouraged to invite their lost friends to enjoy the meal and attend the revival.
The final night was student night, and more than 750 youth showed up to eat pizza, listen to contemporary Christian music, register for prizes like MP3 players and CDs, and to hear a serious message from Lowder about the importance of Christ in every life.
Football players Terone, Bryant and Taylor accepted Christ during one of the revival services, and by Wednesday night they had convinced their coach to let the whole team skip practice and ride a bus to the church for student night.
“The three guys had been invited to church by a teacher, no less,” Lowder said. “I had not yet been in their school when they got saved, but when I walked in their school the next morning to do a school assembly, guess who’s walking down the hallway carrying a Bible.
“I mean, you’ve got students that have been saved for years that won’t carry a Bible to school, and these guys haven’t been saved 24 hours and they’re doing it,” he added. “I said, ‘Guys, aren’t you a little bit apprehensive about what people might say?’ And they said, ‘No way.'”
When the three football players brought their team back Wednesday night, they all heard Lowder deliver a message based on the rich young ruler in Mark 10. The young man’s greatest question was, “What must I do to have eternal life?”
“I believe that’s the question many students all over the United States are asking,” Lowder said. “What does it mean to have more than existence? What does it mean to have a life that has meaning?”
He told the true story of a girl named Sarah whose parents were wealthy and provided a nice home for the family, who was a cheerleader and beautiful and popular and seemed to have everything going for her, but who committed suicide when her frustration with a boyfriend led her to believe there was nothing to live for in life.
“There was something in Sarah’s life that was missing,” Lowder said. “And everywhere I go, this is what I see among students,” just like the story of the rich young ruler.
“This young man was young, he was wealthy, he was a ruler, he was moral, he was respected, but yet he knew he was missing something. He asked, ‘What can I do to have life? In spite of all that I have, there is something that is missing,'” Lowder said. “This is the generation that has everything, and yet they have nothing. This is the generation of young people that literally are dying of starvation in spite of the fact that the cupboards are full.”
Lowder said a survey listed the top responses students gave when asked, “What is your greatest need?” Those needs were: life that has meaning and purpose; love and unconditional acceptance; someone who will listen to them; and a faith in something greater than themselves.
Then Lowder shared his testimony of growing up in a wealthy home where he had every material possession he could want as well as caring parents. Despite all he had, he didn’t know Jesus, and one day he found himself with a pistol to his head because he had come to the end of himself. But God intervened, and Lowder soon heard an evangelist explaining the importance of a personal relationship with Christ, and now Lowder travels the country to reach teens who are where he was.
During the invitation at Thompson Station that night, 311 students made decisions for Christ.
“What God did was something God did because He’s capable of doing,” Leighann McCoy told Baptist Press after the revival. “And what we did was what we feel like was in obedience to what God tells us to do in order to cooperate with Him. It’s not like a magical formula. … He does say in His Word that if we’ll call out to Him, He’ll be faithful and respond to us.”
She said Thompson Station has a good understanding that God is in charge, and they seek His plan. Each week, even when not preparing for a revival, the staff spends an hour together praying to God about particular burdens in their areas of ministry.
And since many sheep were added to the fold during the revival, some changes will be made within the church, starting with a sermon called “What Happens After an Awakening.”
“Everything we’re doing, we will adjust so that we can be good stewards in following up on what God has done,” Leighann McCoy said. “What is an awakening? It’s a waking up time. Now we get up and get to work.”