“When God shows up and stays awhile”
July 26, 2005
I remember being in Love County, Okla., just outside of Marietta and Mrs. Montgomery – that was Mr. Montgomery’s mother (and Mr. Montgomery was old) – said I was short and kind of chubby and that I reminded her of a preacher she heard one time. She told me they gathered near the river and heard a man preach for several days. She remembered a whole bunch of people being saved and that the whole county was different after that because God showed up and stayed awhile.
Who was the preacher? D.L. Moody.
Then there was Ruby Wheelock, Niles’s wife, who told the story of a great time when God showed up. It was in East Tennessee after the Civil War. Ruby’s dad had given land for the church and she was still kind of “the matriarch.” She said her mom told her of a day when a young lady stood up in church and confessed sin and God showed up and stayed a while. Not long after that Ruby told me the church records said there was a day when some 300 souls were baptized. I always thought that was too many zeros, but when God shows up and stays, you’ll see more zeros added.
Another time God showed up and stayed was the late 1960’s and 1970’s. It was simply called “The Jesus Movement.” Even though it was largely begun and sustained by college and high school students, the effects reached far beyond. Churches were started and the lost were reached in record numbers. In fact in 1972 Southern Baptists baptized their largest number ever in one year. For five years in a row – Southern Baptists baptized more than 400,000 souls each year and we have not been able to do that since.
Horizon Church Fellowship, Calvary Chapel, Elmbrook Church, and many other churches started and exploded during this time. Tom Eliff, pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., and past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in 1970. He says, “From that moment on, I saw that God would do His greatest work as a result of prayer. I’ve never been able to shake that.”
Henry Blackaby tells of God’s call in his life and God calling him to Canada. At this same time, Gary Galioti, professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bill Mackey Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, as well as evangelists Kelly Green and Jay Strack, all speak of the movement of God during this time in their life.
Then there was Bob Thomas, Roy King, and Roy Bowery, who were young men in a Bible Study with me. This time the year was 1972. God touched all of our lives. Bob left college and went with Wycliff Bible translators. Roy King became a seminary professor and mission specialist. Roy Bowery went to work with Campus Crusade and became the point man for translating the Jesus film into many languages in Asia. The great Asbury Revival occurred during this time, along with Explo 72, the gathering of 100,000 souls in June of 1972 in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. Lives were changed and redirected as God showed up and stayed a while.
In the year 2006 and following, Alvin Reid of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary says there will be more teenagers in the U.S. than there has ever been at any other time in our history – and they need Christ. In the meantime, most Southern Baptist churches are getting “more gray.” What can we do so that God might come and stay awhile?
We might begin to think like Abraham and become patriarchs who invest in the future knowing full well that we may never see the fruit of our work. Abraham never saw all the provision that came from the promises God made to him. God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Abraham obeyed God. Are we ready to make sacrifices today, like others have made in the past for the sake of those who will follow? The Jesus Movement had all the characteristics of the great revivals of the past – brokenness over sin, a passion for the lost, a spirit of prayer, and sacrificial obedience.
When this happens again in our lives and our churches, God will show up. Let’s have our hearts in tune with Him so He will stay awhile. And one final request: If the Lord dealt with you in a special way during the Jesus Movement, let me hear from you with your story. (Ron Barker is the personal evangelism and spiritual awakening specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention. He can be reached at email@example.com.)