Thousands of lives have been changed
How Revival Came
Like thousands of pastors across America, Steve Gray was discouraged and disappointed. He was even considering leaving the ministry. For twelve years he had pastored the Smithton Community Church in the sleepy little town of Smithton, Missouri, nestled among the wheat. Steve Gray was discouraged and disappointed. He was even considering leaving the ministry.
For more than a decade, Gray felt his ministry was like riding a stationary bicycle. He was pedaling real hard, but he wasn’t going anywhere. He says that all he was thinking about was “out, out, out.” Pastor Gray had even lost hope. He knew he could not continue doing what he was doing and unfortunately he gave God no other options. Steve Gray was ready to quit.
Knowing he had to get away from the church for some “R and R,” he chose revival over relaxation. In March 1996, he drove from Missouri to Florida to visit the Brownsville Outpouring that was then in its 37th week. Gray attended the services each night and spent the days in his motel room, praying and seeking God’s face.
During the Tuesday night prayer meeting, while hundreds gathered around the “Pastor’s Banner” to pray for the nation’s shepherds, Gray was praying especially for one pastor, himself. He knew if he continued in the ministry, he had to be restored. After about three days, he felt some recovery and his focus began to change. God was restoring his hope and he found this to be the first signal of his personal revival.
Before this change in focus, Gray didn’t even know what to ask from God. Gray says he came to Brownsville not to “get something” but to “see something,” as Moses went to “see” the burning bush. After several more days, Gray was “seeing” again. One night, in what Gray described as a “perfect atmosphere,” God spoke to him and said, “I want you to have a revival.” The very thought was too much to accept. Smithton, Missouri, is not Pensacola, Florida, and Gray could not imagine himself in the role of revivalist. Then God spoke again, “I didn’t say I want you to be a revival, I said I want you to have a revival.”
On Sunday morning, 17 March 1996, Pastor Kilpatrick shared part of his personal testimony of how revival came to Brownsville. Gray reached the place of faith and could believe “there is a place for me in revival.” He observed Kilpatick as he was “watching, guiding, and pastoring a truly sovereign move of God that was changing the world.” Kilpatrick’s words and example showed Gray that “revival needs to be pastored and can be pastored.”
After Sunday worship, Gray called his wife, Kathy, and said, “I have just been in the best Sunday morning service I have ever been in. Tell our church.” Near the end of his second week in Brownsville, Gray headed for home, repentant and on the road to revival and restoration.
While God was working on Gray, he was also working on the members of Smithton Community Church. For two and one-half years the church had held a Tuesday night prayer meeting, but as God prepared the church for revival, the prayers became more intense. Associate Elder Randy Lohman says there was “lots of brokenness” in the months immediately preceding the outpouring.
As the pastor sought God in Florida, the congregation sought him at home. On Sunday night, March 17, Kathy Gray relayed the pastor’s message about the great Sunday morning service in Brownsville. David Cordes, one of the elders, was deeply convicted. Weeping, he asked the congregation, “Why should our pastor have to travel a thousand miles to be in the best service he has ever been in?” He fell on the floor in repentance. Soon he was followed by several other men in the church, repenting for their lack of support and crying out to God to do the same thing at Smithton that he was doing for the pastor in Florida. God continued his work on Wednesday night as a five year old girl prophesied and said, “It’s coming! It’s coming!” The Lord had seen their brokenness.
When the pastor arrived on Sunday night, the glory fell. To be exact, at 6:12 p.m. on 24 March 1996 God the Holy Ghost arrived in his awesome power at Smithton Community Church. They will never be the same. Immediately they added services to their church schedule. Now, the outpouring has continued for two years with five services every week. Visitors have come from all fifty states and many foreign countries, often in numbers that vastly exceed the population of the town.
Thousands of lives have been changed. Sick bodies have been healed. Visiting pastors have taken the fire back to their congregation. Steve, Kathy, and teams from the church are taking the revival all around the world. As for the future of the revival, Lohman said, “God started it and we are going to let him do what he is doing.”
Steve and Kathy Gray
When a two-year revival breaks out in any church, the lives of the pastors are forever changed. This is especially true for Steve and Kathy Gray, pastors of Smithton Community Church in Smithton, Missouri. The Grays pioneered this small country church twelve years ago, after seven years travelling the country in a singing, preaching, and teaching ministry.
Not only does Gray have the responsibilities of pastoring the church and preaching in revival services that are held five nights each week, but the revival has opened many doors for his ministry. Although he seldom is gone from the Smithton pulpit on Sunday morning, he and Kathy often minister across the country and around the world on his “days off.” They have also appeared on many national and local religious television programs. In the past six months, Steve has travelled to Israel three times. Gray says his travels have had a good effect on the church, “keeping them nationally and world minded.” To be sure the church shares in the expanded ministry; he often takes teams of four to twenty with him as he travels.
According to Gray, “The longer we are in this (revival), the more I realize how badly it is needed. I didn’t realize how sick the church in America is.” The biggest challenge he has had, according to Gray, “Is to keep out the wolves that come to ruin the purity and unity.” The revival has had persecution and critics, but Gray feels that is to be expected.
He was surprised, however, that he has had to “mobilize staff” to beware of “others who come to infiltrate and cause division.” Gray realizes that God is doing a great work in many places today and is glad God has raised the level of humility in the church “so we can bless those who are being blessed even if we don’t do it the same way they do.” Despite all the changes and challenges, Gray says the last two years have been “the best years of our lives.”
Reproduced from http://members.aol.com/azusa/index.html from The Remnant International, via Asuza.
Revival in the Land
Samuel Autman wrote this article in the Everyday Magazine, a Sunday paper in Missouri, on 7 June 1998.
Tiny Smithton in Missouri has no sidewalk, no coke machines, no gas > stations, > no traffic lights, no motel rooms, no restaurants. But 100,000 people > believe > it’s where you go to find the Holy Spirit.>
And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on > all > mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will > dream > dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female > servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. > Joel 2:28
Under sweltering skies on a late spring Friday evening, more than 500 > worshipers are packed into the Smithton Community Church for powerful > encounters with the Holy Spirit. For two years now, seekers have driven or > flown in from all 50 states and every corner of the globe to this > white-frame > country church. Easily 100,000 have traveled from as far away as Africa, > Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Australia, Korea, Israel, England and > Malaysia.
This night, not unlike many others, the church will cram in more souls > than > live in this mid-Missouri town, population 532, seven miles east of > Sedalia > on > Highway 50. > The audience is in high gear for another Pentecostal revival meeting.
Outside, men in vests, walkie-talkies in hand, circulate through the > gravel > parking lot, directing traffic. Inside the gymnasium-turned-sanctuary, > fathers > and mothers clutch their small children. People embrace newfound friends. > It’s > a yackfest before the holy explosive celebration begins.
By 7:30 p.m., a joyful musical roar goes up. Hundreds of bodies bounce > up > and down in unison, vibrating as if at a rock concert. They clap their > hands. > They speak in tongues. They dance and they shriek. The volume is > deafening. > Elderly women and small children alike lift their hands.
“Praise the Lord!”
“Thank you, Jesus!”
The four-hour Pentecostal service has only begun.
Eyes look toward heaven to see the slides projected overhead. That’s > where > the song lyrics are displayed. > In one voice they yell: “Revival is in the land! Come and see what the Lord has done! Revival! Revival! Revival!”
Eric Nuzum, 28, a former forklift driver turned associate pastor, leads > a > full band with drums, guitars and synthesizers on the stage. The music > blares. > The room reverberates.
An hour and a dozen songs later, quiet blankets the room after the > high-octane worship. The shouts have ceased. Nuzum leads a one-word chorus > slowly of “Hallelujah” on his acoustic guitar. All over the building, they > are > singing and swaying in unison.
After a few announcements, the offering is taken. The music picks back > up. > The bespectacled pastor, Steve Gray, 46, jumps to the lectern and sings > “One More Time” and “Return to the Lord,” two songs he wrote himself.
He opens his Bible to Mark, chapter 1, verse 1.
“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Gray, is an unassuming man in a 5-foot-8 frame, with ocean-blue eyes > and > fiery blond hair. He is intent on not becoming a celebrity or drawing > attention to himself. He berates what he called the American humanistic > gospel, which has taken the focus off Jesus Christ. His oration goes for > an > hour.
“It’s not about us! It’s the gospel about Jesus Christ,” he thunders.
“Amen!” the crowd responds.
“We are missing the point,” Gray says, raising his voice. “Jesus didn’t > say > ‘I have come to follow you.’ He said ‘Get behind me. Follow me. Do what I > do. > Go where I go. Feel what I feel. Pray what I prayed. Live how I lived and, > if > necessary, die how I died.’”
It’s an old-fashioned message that was spelled out in the book of Acts. > Gray sprinkles in comments about hellfire.
The ‘Smithton outpouring’
Like many Christian groups, Pentecostal and charismatic Christians > believe > that the Bible is the inspired word of God; that salvation comes through > Jesus > Christ, the Son of God; that baptism is accomplished through total > immersion. > They believe that all people will be raised from the dead to face a final > judgment, and then eternal salvation or damnation.
What distinguishes the charismatics/Pentecostals is not simply > believing > in > the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, but allowing the Holy > Spirit > to manifest himself through physical behavior such as speaking in tongues, > casting out demons and singing in words inspired by the power of the > Spirit.
Jesus is the center of their religious attention; worship of Him is greatly enhanced by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. > Throughout the preaching, and in subsequent conversations, Gray stresses that when anyone puts aside self-interest and assumes the interests of > God, > things happen.
He’s not interested in numbers, he says, only spiritual > intensity. He believes that God has selected the little church in Smithton > to > prove that revival can occur anywhere.
“These are men and women, that when they pray, fire from heaven falls. When they pray, blind eyes are open. When they pray, lives are changed. When > they > pray, miracles happen. When they pray, the whole world is stirred up and > whole > cities are changed,” Gray said.
The “Cornfield Revival” or “Smithton Outpouring” has stirred up this Pettis County community, so tiny it barely shows up on a map. There are no soda > machines, traffic lights, gas stations or sidewalks in sight. At least > seven > times a day, trains zip across the track, blocking entrance to the town.
The international attention, the high-octane music and the snarled > traffic > anger Smithton residents. However, travellers needing food and shelter are > welcomed by the motel and restaurant owners in nearby Sedalia.
‘Slain in the Spirit’
Once Gray’s preaching concludes, he turns the service over to trained > prayer leaders. The prayer sessions seem violent. > Many worshipers pray, weep, tremble and are knocked to the floor by > what > they consider to be the hand of God. By evening’s end, this room will > resemble > a battlefield littered with human bodies, many supine on the gray carpet, > “slain in the Spirit.”
They say they are so overcome by the Holy Spirit, they shake, quake, > roll, > jerk or even faint. > Within minutes, a jubilant energy fills the room, almost like > electricity. > The faithful believe the Spirit has come with power to heal broken hearts, > to > transform lives and get them on the road to glory.
Tears roll down many cheeks. > Cheeks are mostly white, although there are a few black and yellow > faces > in > the mix. Upper and lower income. Young and old. Urban and rural dwellers, all under one roof.
The Rev. Robert Clement drove 1,700 miles from San Diego. His own > church > has been struggling. He has wrestled with fear, rejection and failure. > “Each time I go up and get prayer, it’s like layers peeling off,” he > said. > “Layers of fear, failure and rejection.”
Missouri ties to movement
Smithton is the third place in North America in the last four years to > be > engulfed in one of the longest Pentecostal revivals of this century. All > three > sites have Missouri ties.
In January 1994, Randy Clark, pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of St. Louis, Missouri, was ministering at the Airport Vineyard Church in Toronto, Ontario, when the so-called “Toronto Blessing” hit. People in the > congregation > burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter. Others fell into people’s arms > and > shook. That revival is ongoing.
On Father’s Day 1995, an appearance by visiting evangelist Steve Hill > at > the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, marked the similar > emotional manifestations. More than 1.5 million seekers have made > pilgrimages > to Brownsville, where the revival is ongoing. Springfield, Missouri, is the > worldwide headquarters of the Assemblies of God.
As the century and the second millennium of the Christian era draw to a close, Pentecostal revivalists say more is to come. Newsweek magazine said there were 20 million Pentecostals/charismatics in the United States and 400 million worldwide (600 million by 2010).
Revivalism seems to be characterized by an expectation of Jesus Christ’s returning to Earth. At the end of the 19th century, there were similar expectations of some cataclysmic event, and there was revival fever.
“There will be a great revival before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ,” said Clark. “This could be the beginning of it, but I am not saying it is.”
With revival comes stinging backlash. The California-based Vineyard Fellowship ousted the Toronto organization for going “over the edge.”
The lightning of the Spirit
Steve Gray grew up in Sedalia, a town of 20,000 well known as the site of the Missouri State Fair. He and his wife, Kathy, to whom he’s been married 23 years, spent seven years in a travelling music ministry. Then in 1984, the Grays stopped their itinerant ministry and opened a church in a building that had been closed for four years.
The building, now called Smithton Community Church, had been built as the Christian Church in Farmer’s City in 1859. As people deserted Farmer’s City and moved to the nearby “Smith City” because of the railroad, the church moved. In 1873, the building was disassembled into into four parts and pulled by ox cart to what is Smithton today.
The Christian Church changed hands a number of times by the time it closed its doors in 1980. By 1996, the Grays’ ministry and marriage had reached crisis point. They had considered splitting. Gray had wondered whether pastoring in a rural community had been the right choice.
“I was ready to quit,” Gray said.
Gray drove 1,000 miles to the revival in Pensacola, hoping to figure out a way to dissolve his ministry and maybe to sell insurance or become a teacher.
For 10 days, he waited in his hotel room for an experience with God. At night, he went to meetings at the Brownsville church. Ultimately, Gray felt that God wanted him to return to his community and have a revival. He was slightly hopeful.
When he arrived back in Smithton, he walked into his church after an > evening service had concluded. He took eight steps toward Kathy and the lightning of the Spirit hit him, he said. His hands shot up in the air. The people in the congregation rushed forward and began weeping and rejoicing.
As the story goes, the entire congregation of the church at Clay and Chestnut streets in Smithton was transformed by the Spirit. They started to gather day after day to pray. By the third week, the curious showed up. The multitudes followed from outside of Smithton in Missouri and way beyond.
Jennifer Dieckmann remembers. Before the revival, Dieckmann, 23, described her life as miserable. Her family had been kicked out of a church in Sedalia in a theological dispute, and she was resentful.
“I was happy holding on to anger and bitterness and hate,” Dieckmann said. “When the revival hit, it hit me personally.”
Now she talks about forgiveness and loving her enemies. “In an instant, it was like the weight was gone,” she said. “I have forgiven those people who kicked us out of our church.”
Linda Byrd, 28, is co-pastor of Jubilee Worship Center in Junction City, Kansas. She and her husband drive down many weekends for spiritual refreshment.
“Most Americans know religion is their effort to find God,” she said. “What is happening here is not just talk about Christ but demonstrations of Christ. He demonstrated that He was the Son of God. He did not say ‘Take my word.’ He proved it through miracles. That’s what this is, demonstrations.”
‘I realized God loves me’
Rhonda Wagner, 44, of Springdale, Arkansas, was back. She had come once before in March. Wagner had attended the Toronto meetings some time ago.
“We kept going to the Lord with our problems, but we never actually gave them to him. I can’t tell you all of the dynamics of what happened to me in Toronto, except it was up there I realized God really loves me.”
In the process of receiving prayer there, she shook for 12 hours. What made her shake?
“The spirit of the Lord is way more powerful than an electric shock. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, our physical bodies will react by shaking, shouting or falling.”
Her friend Kathy Johnson, 48, of Amarillo, Texas, has now been to all three revival hot spots. She said a hunger and thirst for spiritual things cause her to travel to revival meetings.
“I have realized that I have only just begun to know him who draws me to Pensacola, to Smithton and Toronto. He’s so much bigger than I thought.”
Reproduced from the Awakening e-mail, 9 June 1998.
(c) Renewal Journal 12: Harvest, 1998, 2011.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.
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