On occasion, the Lord’s presence descends in a place so thickly that it is as near to physically encountering God as you can get on this earth. It is as if he suddenly walks in the room to be with the people who are there. It happens without warning. It can’t be contrived or manipulated into happening. It happens for reasons only known to God. It is extremely rare; especially in these days in America.
But when it happens, it is undeniable to everybody present – believers and unbelievers alike. Those that are saved are immediately overcome, broken over their own sin before God, many on their knees, weeping with godly sorrow, confessing, praying, crying out to God. Unbelievers suddenly turn to the Lord for salvation. Those present aren’t entirely sure what to do because nobody there has ever been in the presence of God like that before. It is unnerving, fearful, and indescribably wonderful all at the same time.
It happened in 1995 at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, Brownwood, Texas, on a Sunday morning. Yesterday, I was at CABC to provide training for their leadership team. Two of their current pastors were in the service in 1995 on that Sunday morning. On this twentieth anniversary year of the revival that broke out, I received the incredible blessing of these two eye witnesses taking an hour to tell me the story.
There were two Sunday morning services: 8:30am and 11am, with Sunday School sandwiched in between. It happened at the end of the 8:30am service. It was a very normal Sunday morning. As the service was drawing to a close, a male college student they all knew came walking down the aisle with his bible, crying. He interrupted the pastor and asked if he could address the congregation. Now, one of the first things they teach you in seminary is, never agree as a pastor to such a request. The pastor’s number one job is to protect the flock from danger; if you don’t have a feel for what the person is going to say to your flock, you can’t know if you are putting them in danger. At the same time, a pastor has to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading because when God does show up, it isn’t going to come with forewarning. On this particular occasion, the pastor felt deeply impressed by the Spirit to agree to this request.
The young man took the microphone and through his tears, simply read Joel 2:12-14 and confessed his sinfulness to the church. That’s when it happened. People started standing up one by one, some just stood, and others started coming and kneeling at the front of the worship center. Then others came and took the microphone and confessed sin. People were getting on their faces before God. The time came for the service to end; nobody left. Folks went to their Sunday School classes to get the folks who went to small group first and then 11am worship. Those people walked into the undeniable presence of God and started praying, confessing, and seeking the Lord went on the entire Sunday School hour. Folks started showing up for the 11am service and walked in on this happening in the worship center and they were struck by the presence of God and joined in with what was happening. Unbelievers were giving their lives to the Lord. Around 2pm, the 8:30am service was concluded by the pastor who felt the people should go home and think about all this before the evening worship service at night. When the people reassembled that evening, God was still there. During the next few months, He was there like a thick fog. No matter where people went in the building, the Lord’s presence was there. Churches and some universities started hearing about the Brownwood revival. Some would request an eye witness from that Sunday morning come and share the story. Wherever the story was told, revival would break out.
And then the manifest presence of God was no longer there. All told, the manifest presence of the Lord stayed about a year at CABC. He is like a tornado in that He appears like this rarely, without warning, blows, and then just as quickly, disappears. Listening to the first-hand accounts of these two pastors deeply impacted me. Twenty years later, they still can’t talk about it without being personally overcome, weeping both from what it was like and the desire to experience true revival again. As they talked, I was overcome also; I was reminded again how desperately I want true revival at NEHBC. They showed me the worship center where it all happened and we ended our visit kneeling at the altar where they knelt all those years ago, pleading with the Lord to come to CABC and NEHBC like that.
Many have studied situations of true revival and spiritual awakenings to determine any common denominators that were present when God’s manifest presence suddenly showed up. One factor that is common to all revivals in all countries is group praying. In every case, believers had been meeting regularly to pray together for revival. I was reminded why we started our Sunday night prayer meeting two years ago: to pray for revival. We started Sunday night prayer meeting as a place where those who want revival can gather to seek the Lord together and ask him to come down. If you can join me in praying on Sunday nights, I’d love it. We meet from 6-7pm and just pray in small groups, asking the Lord to move in NEHBC. I desperately want revival to break out in our congregation.