News Articles

Youth group’s revival may stem from elderly woman’s sacrifice

DECATUR, Ill. (BP)–The youth lock-in started simply enough.
Volunteer youth director Becky Kirk had scheduled a few games and
four testimonies from teenagers. As it turned out, she said, “God had
other plans” for the youth at Christmas Tree Road Baptist Church,
Decatur, Ill.
“You almost just had to have been there to be able to put it into
Testimonies from youth kept coming — more than 20 in all. Four
made professions of faith. “When the youth would go up on stage and give
their testimonies, you could have heard a pin drop on the carpet,” Kirk
said. “God was moving.”
The results of that night are still being felt. Since October, 26
youth associated with Christmas Tree Road Baptist Church have made
professions of faith.
Christmas Tree Road’s youth group needed something. In January
1997, attendance had dwindled to four.
But now, the youth are even making some inroads at area public
high schools where most of them attend. They’ve started Bible studies
and share their faith with friends.
“The kids are leading each other to the Lord,” Kirk said. “It’s
just awesome.”
“It’s the closest thing to an absolute sovereign move of God I’ve
ever seen,” said Lanny Faulkner, director of missions for Central
Baptist Association and interim pastor at the church.
One teenager from Christmas Tree Road, who had been talking to a
girl in his science class about the Lord, recounted what it was like the
day God saved her. “We prayed out loud in the middle of this big group
in science,” he said. “Everybody was standing there watching us. That
was awesome.”
But the evangelism efforts at the schools haven’t been without
“There’s a big spiritual battle going on,” Kirk said. “There’s a
lot of youth that are practicing witchcraft, and they’re very bold about
And one principal expressed concern to a student after seeing the
phrases “Jesus saves” and “Jesus rocks” painted on his binder in
white-out. The principal told him to get rid of the binder and
threatened to tell the student’s parents if the binder was seen again.
Despite the opposition, the Christmas Tree Road youth are getting
their share of encouragement from the church. “The church has been very,
very supportive,” Lanny Faulkner said. “The whole church is going
through a real revival.”
One reason for the revival is perhaps an abstract one, Faulkner
said, dating back to 1980.
An elderly lady, Zeva Johnson, owned about 29 acres of farmland
she wanted to give to Central Baptist Association. Her dream was that
the land would one day house a church (Christmas Tree Road Baptist
Church is now located on Johnson’s property).
Johnson was in a nursing home, and ran out of money. In order to
pay her bills, the nursing home was going to take the farm.
Johnson didn’t want that to happen, so she called a cab and
checked herself out of the nursing home. She died only days after
“She literally gave her life away to keep from losing that farm,”
Faulkner said. “I think a lot of the revival is God repaying a promise
to a little old lady. God is blessing her sacrifice.”
Faulkner also credited the church’s AWANA (Approved Workmen Are
Not Ashamed) program with boosting the spiritual growth of the youth.
The program, for kids from pre-school to high school age, is based
largely on Scripture memory. Many of the youth are involved with AWANA,
and many of them teach the younger children. Faulkner said Wednesday
night AWANA attendance averages about 65 to 70 kids.
“The kids are thinking biblically,” he said.
The legacy of former pastor Mitch Flesch, who left the church in
June after a seven-year tenure, also may be a revival factor. “Mitch is
the finest soul-winning pastor I have ever known,” Faulkner said, noting
that many church members have become more evangelistic after watching
Flesch model evangelism for so long.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

    Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›