The Phenomena in Revival

“Man can no more organize revival than he can dictate to the wind.” —Author Unknown

“How careful we should be lest we misrepresent a real work of grace because of some things which occasionally may accompany it! When Whitefield was once preaching in Boston, the place was so packed that the gallery was thought to be giving way, and there was a panic in which several persons were trampled to death. But it would be unfair and unreasonable to blame the revival for this ….
We do not despise the great river because of the sticks and straws that may occasionally float on its surface.”
—William Alexander McKay

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together.” (Acts 4:31).

Two men—one an atheist, the other a churchgoer—were running down the street toward the church building which had caught fire. The churchgoer said to the atheist running beside him, “I’ve never seen you running to church before.” To which the atheist replied, “I have never seen the church on fire before either!” The flame of revival produces a drawing power that defies description.

An honest and fair assessment of any revival must acknowledge that there are things that happen which defy human explanation. We conservative Christians are so afraid of “wildfire” that we often content ourselves with “no fire.” Our fear of the “bizarre” is greater than our disgust for the “bland!” Our purpose here is not to create a desire for the unusual but simply to illustrate that days of heaven on earth possess a supernatural dimension. Jonathan Goforth wrote, “We cannot expect an abnormal inrush of Divine light and power, so profoundly affecting the emotions and changing the lives of men, without remarkable results.”

Historically, you will find that the godly men and women who experienced the “ground zero” of revival never drew attention to the phenomena that invariably accompanied the movement. They were careful to magnify God’s character and holiness. Like Paul—who was reluctant to give the details of his trip to the third heaven—some things are too sacred to elaborate (2 Cor. 12:4). To speak openly concerning these experiences would prostitute holy things. Nevertheless one must acknowledge that, wherever God manifests His presence, men are lifted to a heavenly plane of spiritual ecstasy. They are privileged to walk on “holy ground.” Moses was undoubtedly moved when he saw a bush ablaze, yet not consumed. So it is when heaven kisses earth in revival, there are happenings that defy human explanation.

The Canadian Revival

In 1971 God touched down in Saskatoon, Canada. These meetings continued unabated for eight weeks. Thousands of Christians met God. The impact was overwhelming. Scores were called into vocational ministry. Bible College enrollment skyrocketed. Churches were immersed in love. Hundreds found Christ as their Savior. Afterglow meetings were held nightly, where people would testify how God had met them.

Some of these meetings lasted until seven o’clock the next morning and produced great fruit. A woman who had severe emotional issues had found release from her tormenting thoughts. She called a taxicab at two o’clock in the morning and said she wanted to go to church. The driver thought she was crazy. He thought it was ridiculous to go to church because nobody would be there. This woman excitedly told the driver how God was working in such an incredible way. The cab driver got so excited that he ran the taxi right up on the curb! He was shocked to find people at the church in the middle of the night.

Bill Mcleod saw amazing scenes in the aftermath of the mighty revival at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Saskatoon. He relates the account of one man in the town of Regina who was jolted from sleep at two o’clock in the morning and instructed to attend the church where special meetings would be taking place. Even though the man had never attended this church before, he came and was converted.

In Alberta a man was walking by the church where special meetings were being conducted. He said it felt as if “a hand pushed him through the door of the church.” It seemed he couldn’t resist, so he went in, heard the gospel, and got saved.

Brother McLeod was in Ontario holding a men’s prayer meeting on a Saturday morning. One man requested prayer for his neighbor who was a cold, crusty elderly man. This neighbor became belligerent whenever anybody spoke to him about God. As the group was on their knees praying for this man, someone walked in the room and started hollering, “What’s going on here?” The men were stunned because he was the man they were praying for! They told him they were calling out his name to God and asking God to have mercy on him. He told these men that he was sitting in his house and felt strongly impressed to go down to the church and see what was happening. Before he left, he had bowed his knee to the Savior.

The Turkey Creek Revival

God visited the Turkey Creek Baptist Church of Brevard, N.C. in 1963. Evangelist Percy Ray had a cancellation in his preaching schedule. He unsuccessfully called six pastors to fill the vacancy. Consequently, J. D. Brogden, pastor of Turkey Creek, gladly booked a meeting with him on the spur of the moment. A great spirit of excitement was already running through the congregation. Youth meetings were being conducted weekly and the church was full of contagious enthusiasm. Brother Ray arrived in town and began the meeting on Tuesday night. Several were saved the first night. This event fueled the flame that was already burning.

Before long 1,500 people were thronging to a building that would seat less than 400 people. People crammed in and filled every space. People were even standing in the baptistery. The entire church campus was electrified with the power of God, and all across the property individuals were gathering to hear preaching. Conversions occurred in the services, out of the services, in public school classrooms, and even in the parking lot. People would step out of their cars and come under deep conviction of sin. They would fall on their faces and beg God to have mercy on them and forgive their sin.

Two weeks into this they erected a giant tent to accommodate the crowds. Word spread and folks came from all over to see what was happening. The excitement among the students in the public high school disrupted the schedule to the point that the school board blamed Pastor Brogden for the chaos. But the pastor did not cause it, and he could not stop it. Miracle after miracle was taking place. Though out of human control, this revival was under the direct control of God. Week after week it continued with phenomenal results. Fifty people a night were getting converted. The conviction of sin was so strong that people would stand for hours with a white-knuckled grip on the pew in front of them. There they would stand until they surrendered to Christ. If they refused to be saved, then the conviction would dissipate and they would eventually leave. Christians went to all lengths to put things right with others. Nothing matters in revival except getting thoroughly right with God and man.

A Cry of Desperation

In 1946 Dr. Harold Sightler was pastoring two churches in South Carolina. One of these was Pelham Baptist Church. The church baptized only three people that year and was seeing very little fruit, so in early 1947, Pastor Sightler called a week of nightly prayer meetings. These prayer meetings continued every night unabated for months, perhaps as long as six months, according to his son James Sightler. Revival and the salvation of souls was the focus of the meetings with no preaching or singing, only prayer. Dr. Sightler testified that it was during this time that he was “filled with the Holy Ghost.”

By 1949 Pelham Baptist Church had two Sunday evening services to accommodate the large crowds. The Sunday night prayer meeting continued to be held after the second service. The location for prayer moved to a pasture near the church where up to one hundred people would gather to call down the fire of God. Often these services lasted until one o’clock in the morning. One Sunday night in 1950 sixty four Baptist preachers gathered together to pray in that field.

God was moving in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee as well. Serious prayer meetings no doubt were taking place in various regions. Out of this movement the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Greenville, S.C. was born in July of 1952. These Sunday evening prayer meetings bore great fruit.

The Day of Power

What would prompt a man, who had burned down his house in order to collect insurance money, to confess to his insurance agent and make restitution? Why would two churches (one of which existed because of an ugly split), buy a full-page ad in their local newspaper to ask the community to forgive them for their un-Christlike behavior?

A woman breaks down in tears near the end of a church service and asks the church to pray for her. She is under deep conviction because of her disrespect toward her father during her teenage years. She leaves the service and immediately calls her father to ask his forgiveness. Her father breaks down in tears and tells her that he is afraid he is on his way to hell. She gives him the gospel and leads him to Christ.

An atheist attends a protracted meeting and is so overwhelmed that he says, “I will never be able to deny the reality of God again!”

Countless stories could be told of the amazing things which have occurred in revival. Without overemphasizing the sensational, let’s “allow God to be God” by moving outside the box of our limited scope of reference.

Questions to Ponder

  1. True or False? Amazing things happen during revivals that defy human explanation.
  2. According to the chapter, why was Paul reluctant to share details of his trip to the third heaven?
  3. Who was undoubtedly moved when he saw a bush burning but not being consumed?
  4. According to the chapter, where did revival meetings continue unabated for eight weeks?
  5. According to the chapter, where did God bring revival in 1963?
  6. Who held revival meetings at the Turkey Creek Baptist Church in Brevard, North Carolina?
  7. During the Turkey Creek Revival, how many people crowded into a building that seated fewer than four hundred?
  8. Who scheduled a week of nightly prayer meetings at the Pelham Baptist Church in 1947?
  9. According to the chapter, what church was founded in Greenville, South Carolina as the result of revival?

This chapter was written by Evangelist Harold Vaughan

The chapter is taken from Revival In Our Time – Outside the Box-Inside the Book. CLICK HERE for more information.


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Harold Vaughan

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Evangelist Harold Vaughan is the founder of Christ Life Ministries, Inc. To date, his ministry has led him to preach in forty-eight states and many foreign countries. Click on "ABOUT" in the menu bar to learn more about Harold.
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