A spiritual awakening that has led to an estimated 3,000 conversions and appears poised to last through the summer is creating continuing enthusiasm among Assemblies of God churches in southern West Virginia.
“The past six weeks our Sunday morning services have been more spiritual,” says Terry Blankenship, pastor of Victory Christian Center Church in Lenore. “The move of the Spirit has gone up two or three notches.”
It’s not church as normal, according to Blankenship, who in recent weeks baptized 13 converts, or about 10 percent of Victory Christian’s average Sunday morning attendance.
“Our kids want to be involved in Bible study,” Blankenship says. “It’s been a real change for our whole valley. It’s put me on my toes and brought more unity among churches.”
“Some of our pastors and youth groups have traveled a few hours to get there,” says Adam Pelfrey, director of the AG Appalachian Youth and Christian Education for the AG Appalachian Ministry Network. “This has had some pretty far-reaching results, especially for youth ministries.”
Pentecostal evangelist Matt Hartley of Cleveland, Tennessee, held mid-April services in Mingo County. Since then, the ongoing series of revival meetings has attracted visitors from other states such as Texas, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida.
After meetings in Williamson and additional areas of Mingo County, on May 14 the Appalachian Awakening shifted to Logan High School’s football stadium. Casey Doss, lead pastor of The Ramp Church in Hamilton, Alabama, spoke in place of Hartley, who had been preaching at a revival in central Kentucky.
Katie Endicott, the Prayer Club sponsor at Mingo Central Comprehensive High School, says nearly 2,000 people turned out for the event, despite being buffeted by wind, rain, and 40-degree temperatures.
Hundreds of people responded to the Alabama preacher’s invitation to surrender everything to God. Ten people were baptized at the end of the evening in a portable tank.
“It was an ‘all-for-one’ altar call,” says Endicott, who has been a youth pastor in the area for the past decade. He says six people made salvation commitments that night.
Endicott indicates several stadium events are planned for the summer, the first tentatively set for June 18.
“We’re working on discipling kids and getting them plugged in to churches,” Endicott says. “We don’t think this is going to fade at all.”
The awakening resumed the evening of May 15 with Hartley preaching at West Logan Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). Then it moved to the Coalfield Jamboree Theater in Logan for three more nights of meetings.
Endicott says most scheduling of meetings has been on a short-term basis.
“We’re trying to be patient and go with the flow of the Spirit,” Endicott says.
No matter how long the rallies last, Billy Carrico says the gatherings already have made an impact at Bethel Temple Assembly in Nolan, where he is youth pastor.
“I’ve never seen the youth group get so excited,” says Carrico, who recently baptized the latest of six converts at Bethel AG. “They had a relationship with God, but this is making it more real for them. It’s excited the whole church.”
While numerous congregations in the region hold annual revival services, Blankenship says this one is different — and it has moved beyond West Virginia. The night of the rally in Logan, Victory Christian’s youth group had a FaceTime session with a church in Pennsylvania.
“It lit a fire for this church,” Blankenship says. “They wanted us to pray for them. It’s ignited Victory Christian Center. It’s been powerful. It’s like putting gasoline on a fire that’s already burning.”