By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
INDEPENDENCE, La. (LBM) – Two years after seven pastors and other lay leaders in the Independence area began praying for a mighty movement of God to break out, 512 individuals have accepted Christ during extended revival services at Old Zion Hill Baptist Church, according to local reports.
Now, leaders of Old Zion Hill Baptist and other area churches say they are bracing for what they believe could be the beginnings of a tremendous spiritual awakening in their communities.
“Someone who has been at this church a long time told me they have not seen God move so many before at Old Zion Hill,” Associate Pastor Dave Ketchand told the Baptist Message. “The prayer all along has been that we would see an area-wide movement. This has never been about Old Zion Hill. This has been about God moving in a visible way.”
From the very first revival service, Oct. 17, Ketchand said, he noticed a spirit of expectancy among the community. Each night, the pews were packed out in the 550-seat worship center and participants filled the altar as they cried out to God for their need for Him.
The Holy Spirit continued to move and church leaders and evangelist D.R. Harrison of Kingsport, Tenn., agreed that the revival (originally scheduled through Oct. 21) should be extended five additional times through Nov. 118 (with a pause in services at various times including weekend services). Additionally, church leaders have baptized 24 of those who accepted Christ during revival services.
“The conviction for sinners and the saved is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed,” Harrison wrote on his Facebook page. “What is happening here, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This has all happened suddenly. There’s been no sensational advertising. No marketing campaigns, no billboards, no TV ads, just the Holy ghost doing a supernatural work.
“Preachers, pastors and people are making things right with one another,” he continued. “Teenagers are being radically saved and bringing carloads of friends back with them and they are getting saved. Marriages are being restored. Families are being put back together. The hunger for real revival and the disgust for dead religion is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
“God is drawing sinners and cleaning up His people,” he said. “I am so humbled that God is letting me see this. This is what we’ve prayed for. To God be the Glory, great things He hath done.”
The revival even extended beyond the walls of the church building, sparking spontaneous prayer meetings among students at Albany High School. Morgan Crain, an OZHBC member and a sophomore at Albany High, invited dozens of her classmates to the revival services and witnessed more than 15 of them turn to Christ.
She also felt led to start a prayer circle with two friends at school and a few days later more than 30 students had joined.
Crain said the student body, faculty and staff are experiencing revival.
“People at my school are getting bold for Jesus and many others are getting saved,” Crain said. “God has something big planned for us. The revival keeps being extended and God is not through with us.”
Area churches have followed up with those who made decisions for further discipleship. Blaine St. Germain, OZHBC associate pastor of ministry, said his church will offer a variety of immediate discipleship options for the freshly redeemed faithful from the revival: a 10-week class for new believers, an all-day class on Saturday and small groups led by seasoned Christ followers.
“It has been awesome to see God move in the revival services, but we are responsible to make disciples,” Germain said. “We are doing what we can to help empower them for a daily spiritual walk. “We are offering these different options so we will take away any reason for people not to take that next step in the walk in the Lord,” he continued. “This is all about building the Kingdom and not building our or any other specific church. We are hoping and believing all churches will have that same heart.”