MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP)–While a revival that sprang forth in May continues on a week by week basis at Trace Creek Baptist Church near Mayfield, Ky., the Southern Baptist evangelist preaching the services sees no end in sight.
“I’m committed to do it until God releases me,” said Brady Weldon, who has been in ministry 10 years. “But I don’t see that happening any time soon. I sense it continuing on. It grows every weekend.”
More than 650 decisions to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior have been recorded, although Weldon said an exact count is unknown.
“Sometimes we give three or four invitations and people get saved afterwards,” said the evangelist from west Tennessee. “When people are getting saved in the parking lot, we can’t keep up with that.”
Nor has anyone tracked the number of states represented, although visitors have come from as far west as Arizona and as far south as Florida.
Many leave excited, Weldon said. After accepting Christ, a family from Texas went home and dipped into their savings to bus relatives to western Kentucky, he said.
A man from Champaign, Ill., was converted after feeling prompted to drive to Kentucky when he heard about the revival on the radio.
“God told him to get in his car and go,” Weldon said. “He had been involved in church for a long time, but the closer he got to Mayfield the more he realized he didn’t know the Lord. He felt convicted of his sin.”
Conversions have come in other venues, too, such as residents of a low-income housing project in this western Kentucky town of 10,000 whose decisions stemmed from two Saturday afternoon services led by the crusade’s music evangelists, Gerald and Cindy Simmons.
Others have accepted Christ during door-to-door witnessing done by Christians excited by the revival, Weldon said.
Southern Baptist churches are growing amid the excitement. Trace Creek, which is hosting the weekend meetings, has baptized more than 30 people since early May.
Among others in the area: Sedalia Baptist Church has baptized nearly 20 converts; Enon Baptist Church has baptized 23; and New Hope Baptist Church, about a dozen.
The revival grew out of services Sunday, May 7. The Simmonses, members of Pass Road Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss., sang at Sedalia Baptist Church that morning. That night, the couple led a joint worship service at Enon Baptist that included members from Sedalia.
Near the end of the three-and-a-half-hour service, Sedalia pastor Tim Allred suggested meeting again the next night. On May 8, there were three salvations and 20 who recommitted their lives to God, he said.
Those services — and the ensuing revival — reflected a spirit of praise and repentance that began at Sedalia that Sunday morning, Allred said.
“God broke loose,” the pastor said. “You could tell it was a visitation from the Lord. People were just getting right with the Lord … confessing sin and drawing closer to God. It was a hunger, people saying, ‘God, I want to sense you in my life.'”
This activity spurred an impromptu meeting of several pastors who wanted to keep the meetings going.
After learning the Simmonses had a cancellation for May 14, they asked the couple to return. And, despite Weldon’s Internet site saying he was booked, they called him to ask if he would preach. Twenty minutes before their call, Weldon learned a tent crusade set for that week had been postponed because the tent burned.
Anticipating large crowds, the group asked to use Trace Creek’s multi-purpose building, which seats about 2,000 people. It is located seven miles north of Mayfield.
Although originally meeting four nights a week, in mid-June the services shifted to a Friday-through-Sunday schedule. They are likely to go at least through the weekend of Aug. 18, when a mass youth rally is scheduled.
While members from various denominations have attended, the leadership is primarily Southern Baptist, with eight SBC-affiliated churches helping sponsor the outreach.
The crusade’s influence also been felt primarily in these churches, Weldon said.
“People from the Assembly of God and others are coming for the praise and worship and the excitement, but the reports I’ve gotten are mostly Southern Baptist,” the evangelist said. “We’ve been talking about how God is working in the Southern Baptist area.”
That includes the salvation of a number of church members. Of nearly 20 baptized at Sedalia Baptist since the revival began, 11 were already members.
They included a 46-year-old deacon whose father was a pastor and a woman who said she went to the altar as a youngster because that was expected in this conservative region.
“But there was no relationship with the Lord, no Holy Ghost conviction,” Allred said. “So it’s made a definite impact. There’s been people finding out they had religion and not a relationship with the Lord. It’s breaking down the walls of religiosity.”
At New Hope Baptist, a deacon’s wife was baptized in early July after admitting she been putting on a religious show, said pastor Charles Bunton.
She was trembling so bad the night she accepted Christ at the crusade that she couldn’t stand up, so a counselor went to her seat, Bunton recounted.
“It was the Holy Ghost,” the pastor said. “I believe nobody’s going to get saved unless the Holy Spirit moves. That’s a pretty strong belief in this area.”
But the deacon’s wife isn’t alone. Since Bunton became New Hope’s pastor three years ago, 20 church members have admitted they hadn’t accepted Christ and were baptized.
Bunton attributes that to shallow evangelism in recent decades, in which he said salvation was reduced to a formula. After hearing that God has a wonderful plan for their lives, people walk forward and sign a membership card without understanding what they’re doing, he said.
“What you end up with is a lot of unsaved church members,” Bunton commented.
The revival also is affecting the worship climate in many churches.
Even though Trace Creek has blended praise music with hymns for several years, pastor Ronnie Stinson has observed people having more freedom to express themselves in worship.
At Sedalia Baptist, pastor Allred said the crusade has stimulated a more contemporary and casual atmosphere, which he likes.
“This is really breaking down the walls of legalism and religion,” Allred said. “When people come in, they don’t just sit down in their seats. They stir around and visit. There’s more of a freedom.”
Once very traditional, Enon Baptist has revised its worship music. It added a bass guitar and keyboard while “pepping up” old hymns like “I’ll Fly Away,” said pastor Chad Lamb.
The changes have extended to other areas at Enon. The congregation is examining the effectiveness of everything from Sunday school to discipleship training to youth programs, Lamb said.
The pastor has challenged members to “think like a lost person” and ask what it would take to reach someone like that. That means such creative outreaches as giving away lemonade at football games, he said.
“Other than [Southern Baptists’] Cooperative Program and the association, there’s not a lot we’re doing to reach the lost,” Lamb said. “We’re expecting them to ‘come and see’ instead of ‘go and tell.’ We’re going to put our hand to the plow and not look back.”
Revival updates are being posted on the Internet at www.bradyweldon.com or www.geraldandcindy.com.