After five years of prayer and some dry stretches,
God came mightily
Cecil Turner was a shy man with a stutter – a pipe-fitter with no Bible college education – when God called him to lead Calvary Assembly of God in Mobile, Alabama, in 1963. Even family members questioned whether or not Turner could pastor the young congregation.
Now, 34 years later, the church literally overflows with people coming to see what’s been happening since Sunday, 29 September, 1996, when God’s presence came in power during the church’s annual “campmeeting.”
“I’ve thought we’d close out a number of times,” Turner says. “But the Holy Spirit says we’re going on.”
The church has been in continuous revival from week to week, meeting Tuesdays for intercessory prayer, and Wednesdays through Fridays for services that draw 250 to 300 people. Sunday mornings draw 400, the maximum number they can pack into the sanctuary.
Some services are exuberant and intense; others so heavy all they can do is “lay on the ground.” Sometimes the Spirit is so strong during praise and worship that they throw open the altars.
“We come in each night and never know what’s going to happen,” Cecil says, pausing for a moment. “I like it.”
The church started praying for revival in 1992, says Cecil’s son Kevin, who has been on staff for 11 years.
“At times we wondered if revival would happen,” Kevin says. “But we saw the intensity and the hunger growing.”
After five years of prayer and some dry stretches, God came mightily when a travelling evangelist, Wayne Headrick, came to preach. God spoke to Headrick that if they got out of the way, God would make something happen.
That “something” keeps on happening.
“It seems like it’s accelerating,” Headrick told the Mobile Register in May 1997. “Each service there’s more . . . anointing and more of the power of God.”
Unchurched people are coming in droves to this church that sits at a 3-way stop on the western city limit of Mobile. “They may not understand it,” says music pastor Kevin Turner, Cecil’s son, “but they want more of it.”
Many come from other denominations: Nazarene, Catholic, Methodist, to name a few.
“We agreed from the beginning that this wasn’t an Assembly of God revival – it was for the whole church,” Cecil says.
People are saved in every service – and some 150 were saved in the last two months alone, Kevin says. Some say afterwards that they felt a need to come, and several testify that they were drawn in as if to a beacon. One man pulled into the parking lot, not fully understanding why he was there. The congregation prays regularly that people will be drawn by the Lord’s presence.
Stacy Tanton, 26, says that the revival has “totally transformed” her life. Her husband no longer drinks alcohol, and now serves as an usher during weeknight services. Others have been delivered from alcohol, healed, and delivered from demons.
The Mobile revival is redefining Calvary’s concept of pastoral leadership, steering them away from man-generated structure and teaching them to encounter God together.
“It’s like God said, ‘I’ve been trying to move. Now get out of the way,'” says Kevin. “It’s liberating for both pastors and the people.”
Kevin, who grew up a pastor’s kid, testifies that the move of God now enveloping their church has brought him to a new level of faith.
“I’ve always loved the Lord, but this has changed my life,” Kevin says. “I want to be intimate with him.”
Revival has also redefined his ministry. Kevin and his 10-piece music team keep a greulling schedule, sometimes singing for 3 hours straight. Before revival began, Kevin would lose his voice after a week of services, he says. But he asked God to sustain him, and has gone 10 months with few problems.
Revival has also forced him to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit before leading worship.
“I make a song list, but often it gets tossed out,” he says. “Some nights it’s like being held over a cliff. I know God wants to do something, and I’m asking, ‘What is it?’ I’ve had to become comfortable with silence. Sometimes he just says to wait.”
The revival is not personality-driven. Headrick is often gone for weeks at a time, and the river continues to flow. The pastors say the move of God keeps changing colours as God takes the church to different places in him.
“There have been two or three times when the revival has shifted gears,” Kevin says. “It’s hard to describe, but the intensity goes up a level.”
Glenn McCall, pastor of Crawford United Methodist church, frequently takes members of his congregation to Calvary for revival services. “[People] are looking for something, and only God can meet that need in their spirit,” he says. “I feel like it’s a nationwide thing. I’ve heard a lot of testimonies from around the country and the world. There’s some phenomenal things happening in the church world.”
McCall believes the fact that Calvary is drawing from other denominations signifies that America is ready for awakening. “I think people are wanting a revival regardless of what the name is on the [church] doorpost. They’re willing to crawl through barriers to get a touch from God,” he says.
Reported in the Mobile Register, May 10, 1997
Beth Cumbie, 26, prayed for her daddy all her life. “He was hard-hearted,” she says. “A good man, be he never wanted to surrender.”
Beth’s mother, a Christian, had endured decades of disbelief, but never put her husband down.
“We thought some tragedy would have to push him to God,” Beth says. “Finally we said, ‘God, do it your way.’”
In April 1997, while closing his produce store for the night, Beth’s 62-year-old father turned to his wife with tears in his eyes and asked for prayer. When they got home he fell on his face and cried out to God to save his soul. After he had received Christ, Beth’s mother came to the revival service where Beth was on the music team, ran down the aisle with the news, and together they wept.
“I didn’t care what anybody thought,” Beth says. “That was a long-time prayer answered.”
Now the family is at church nightly, and Beth’s father is able to cry, hug his children, and express his love.
“In some ways it’s strange, but in others, so natural,” Beth says. “Dad wants to go to the altar every night.”
Reproduced from the Pentecostal Evangelist.
(c) Renewal Journal 12: Harvest, 1998, 2011.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.
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