STERLING—“We are in a time when we are being told that to succeed for the Gospel and to engage this modern society that we must adapt to new methodology and that the ‘old ways’ do not work anymore,” said Mark Hall, pastor of Sterling, First, who discovered even the old ways can be successful with the Power of God.
Located in Southwestern Oklahoma, on the outskirts of Lawton, Sterling, First, led by Hall, prepared to have a revival during the first week of November.
“What was unique in this case was that we did it all the ‘old school’ way,” he said. “We planned more than a month ahead, including involving most of the church members in the preparation.”
Hall said the church conducted home prayer meetings, “with almost 100 in attendance, and an ‘all-night’ prayer meeting with 25 coming for at least an hour throughout the night.” During the prayer meetings, church members were asked to mention names of people to pray for. A “prospect team” gathered names from members and created a list of more than 90 families to be considered prospects for the church.
“Letters were sent to them all, as well as letters to all the members encouraging them to be at revival and pray for God to work,” said Hall.
Pre-revival outreach included members inviting their block to the services and contacting all of the prospects from our list.
A group of ladies called members and prospects to remind them of the revival dates, Hall said.
“We did contact the newspaper (for publicity). During the week before the meeting we encouraged our members to include revival publicity in their ‘trick or treat’ distribution.”
R. Wayne Briant, pastor of Sarasota, Fla., Southside, was invited to be the evangelist for the revival meetings.
“We started on Wednesday and went through Sunday,” said Hall. “We had children’s hot-dog night, youth pizza night, a men’s chili cook-off and a cupcake decorating contest.”
On the Sunday morning of the revival, Sterling, First had a high attendance campaign for Sunday School. Hall said the campaign theme was “Take Me Out of the Red,” and used each class’ membership total as its goal for that Sunday.
“We put up a board with red push pins equal to the number enrolled in each class or department,” Hall explained. “As they signed someone up, we replaced the red pin with a blue one. If they signed up more than their goal, we used gold pins. On Sunday afternoon, we had a pot-luck lunch and then for the evening service, we invited the youth drama team from Adair, First to lead us for the final service.”
While preparing for the revival, Hall said the church’s prayer was “that God would do something so dynamic that only He could get credit for it.” The pastor said the preparation time was the most amazing week the church had ever experienced.
“Prior to the revival we had averaged right at 100 in Sunday School and 125 in worship,” Hall said. “Last year, as a church we baptized 17 people. During the revival we averaged 150 in all the services with 110 being the lowest. We had 167 in Sunday School and 191 in church on Sunday Morning. We had 57 people make a profession of faith, 18 rededicate their lives to Christ, two join the church by letter and 45 commit to do their best to witness to at least one person during the next month.”
On Sunday of the revival, Hall said eight people were baptized, and in the weeks that followed, the church baptized 12 more.
“One of the greatest results of the week is the air of excitement and anticipation the people feel,” he said. “We experienced God showing Himself powerful in this small town, and all of us desire it even more.”
Bob Slusher was one of people baptized during the revival. “It was the best experience of my life,” he said, sharing the meetings also impacted his family, who were baptized in the following weeks.
Hall pointed out the most important lesson many could learn from this revival experience is the methods, old or new, are not the real key.
“The power of God brought through prayer and the involvement of the people personally sharing their faith and inviting people to church make the biggest difference and bring revival,” he said. “I think as we move forward as a church, we need to focus our plans not so heavily on finding new methods, but on prayer and getting our people to catch the hunger for their lost friends and family. I pray that revival sweeps our state, and that others can experience what we here in Sterling just did.”