LAFAYETTE, Ga., (BP)–Less than 18 months ago, Harbor Lights Baptist Church in northwest Georgia had a for sale sign on the outside and eight discouraged members on the inside.
Today, the 68 people attending the church are anything but discouraged, after a revival meeting -– initially scheduled for four days — extended to a total of 12 days, with 29 people making professions of faith in Christ.
“I’ve never experienced anything quite like this,” said vocational evangelist Mark Yoho, the revival preacher. “It was a God-sent revival, definitely.”
“It wasn’t a normal revival, that’s for sure,” said Jim Powell, bivocational pastor of the church, located on the outskirts of LaFayette, a town of 6,700 people.
“It was an amazing thing,” Yoho recalled. “The presence of God was so strong. People were lying flat on the floor just weeping all over the house when the revival broke.”
“I watched during the invitation as deacons laid their Bibles down on the altar and led people to Jesus,” Powell said.
Another deacon whose job is 40 miles from the church repeatedly asked several co-workers to come to the revival, said Powell, adding that three of them gave their lives to Christ.
“That deacon says there’s a whole new attitude at work,” Powell said.
Other decisions during the revival included the mother of an 11-year-old boy who was upset that her son wasn’t outside waiting to be picked up after the Wednesday night AWANA meeting, a Scripture memorization and recreational activities program for children. That’s because he was in the church, where the invitation lasted 45 minutes.
The boy told his mother he’d become a Christian, but she doubted he knew what he’d done, Powell recounted. The boy found his AWANA leader, who read a tract to the mother explaining how her son became Christian.
“The mom got under conviction, came to the altar and gave her life to the Lord,” Powell said.
Another mother entered the church during the extended invitation, saw her two daughters near the front of the auditorium praying and committed her life to Christ.
Yet another mother and her two sons were converted, as well as a 60-year-old man and several high school students.
While both Powell and Yoho credit God for the revival, each says the church’s willingness to prepare for the initial Nov. 11-14 services was key.
“The church was ready for revival,” Powell said. “They believed God wanted to do something in their lives. The people had prayed.”
“Prayer was vitally important to the revival,” said Joy Brewer, Harbor Light’s Woman’s Missionary Union director, who organized the church’s WMU in several prayer efforts.
“Church women have always been prayer warriors,” Brewer said. She led the WMU to prayerwalk in their neighborhoods and even to drive to other communities and pray. The WMU also organized a 24-hour prayer chain a week before the revival meetings began.
Each preparatory step the church took — including personal evangelism training — is an element of ICE, or Intentional Community Evangelism, a North American Mission Board initiative to strengthen churches and equip believers to intentionally develop relationships and share the Gospel. Yoho is an ICE-trained evangelist certified by NAMB to train others in the ICE strategy.
Yoho and his evangelistic association, Fourth Watch Evangelistic Ministries, will be leading an evangelistic outreach April 18-20, 2008, for the greater LaFayette area in concert with the Northwest Georgia Baptist Association; therefore, Yoho has been training pastors and members of churches in the association for the last several months in preparation for the mass-saturation evangelistic event.
Powell, who’s been in ministry for 10 years, met Yoho at an ICE training session and subsequently invited him to preach for the revival at Harbor Lights.
Powell believes the revival has been in the making for a long time. A year ago he led Harbor Lights to have a community cookout on Labor Day weekend. A tattoo-covered, long-haired heroin addict Powell had known for years wandered up to the event, and Powell, himself a former drug addict, talked with the man, hugged him and said, “I love you, and Jesus loves you.”
The man committed his life to Christ and later became the Sunday School superintendent for Harbor Lights. Some church members were skeptical at first, Powell said, but the man “is on fire for God … and loves to see people in church studying the Bible.”
While Powell is grateful for Yoho and the ICE strategy’s impact, Yoho said revival didn’t come until he preached a sermon on brokenness, which Yoho believes is “a biblical doctrine, but we don’t hear too much about it.”
“I had already preached messages that were pretty strong with little movement,” Yoho said. “Then on Tuesday of the meeting, God gave me a sermon on brokenness.”
“Mark preached on brokenness,” Powell said, “and our hearts were broken and people started begging God for salvations.”
“I didn’t open a commentary, one,” Yoho said. “I’d been fasting and praying, and I just opened my Bible and God led me to the sermon. He gave me the points, and even the illustrations.”
Preaching from Isaiah 57.15 — which says: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy; ‘I dwell in the high and holy [place], with him also [that is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'” (KJV) — Yoho told the people that “God was behind brokenness. It’s His work in our life,” and that the Apostle Peter was an example of brokenness when his guilt of denying Christ set in.
Even before Yoho finished the Tuesday night sermon, people were on the floor of the church, crying. That’s when Powell and Yoho knew revival arrived.
“Tuesday is when the revival broke and the church got right,” Yoho said. “Then on Wednesday, I preached a simple message on heaven, and the invitation went on for 45 minutes.”
“After Wednesday night, we knew we couldn’t quit,” said Powell, explaining that the meetings continued through Friday, and after taking Saturday night off, the meetings continued until the next Wednesday.
“You don’t see these kinds of moves of God anymore,” Brewer said. “The Spirit was just overwhelming. It was just amazing. You stand back in awe.”
Brewer, who also works in the AWANA program, related how a 10-year-old girl asked AWANA leader David Bradford, “If I follow the Ten Commandments and I’m a good person, will I go to heaven?”
Bradford briefly explained the plan of salvation and prayed, after which the girl blurted, “I just got saved!” Brewer recounted.
Brewer wanted to make sure the girl understood, so she read a Bible verse on assurance of salvation. “When I read the verse, she just started squalling and she grabbed me” and said she was a Christian, Brewer said.
Bradford took the girl to the auditorium, where the girl’s mother and brother also had committed their lives to Christ that night.
“The revival is still going on,” said Powell. Weeks later, “People are still committing to Christ. We had five come forward for baptism [on a subsequent Sunday].”
Powell said the church’s oldest member, a man of 87, called him recently to say he’d braved a cold, rainy day to make 17 personal contacts in the community, telling others about Jesus and inviting them to church, and that a team of ICE-trained church members continues to share the Gospel in the community.
Both Yoho and Powell believe the revival at Harbor Lights is but a taste of what God plans to do in the LaFayette area next April.
“I want the world to know [the ICE] strategy works,” Yoho said. “A rural or urban setting, it works.”
“I know this much,” Powell added. “I never want to have another revival without preparation.”
Though grateful for what God did, Brewer said, “This shouldn’t be a special story. Lives ought to be changed every day.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va. Evangelist Mark Yoho is on the Web at www.fourthwatchministry.com.