Heaven came down in Burlington, NC as a mighty movement of God fell on the week long New Hope Baptist Church summer revival that extended to an incredible 12 weeks. After four weeks, the revival became a tent meeting and was the first one live streamed on social media. People across America and around the world were touched by this historic outpouring of God’s anointing power.
“The revival started on Mother’s Day night on May 8,” says pastor Randy Hobbs. “We had evangelist C.T. Townsend in previous meetings but God broke through on Friday night and we agreed that the revival should continue. Brother C.T. cancelled other meetings to extend this one and those pastors were so gracious in doing so. We had 300-400 the first week, then 700 the second week and it got up to a 1000 people into the fourth week. Our church capacity is 600. We had 100 people saved at our church meetings. So we were at the church for four weeks and we knew we needed a tent.
“My good evangelist friend Ralph Sexton of Asheville, NC loaned us his tent. I had never done a tent revival and neither had C.T. It was amazing how God brought this together. We had a meeting of pastors and 49 came. We had never seen that many pastors in our area gather for a common effort of any kind. This gathering of 49 pastors was a miracle in itself but God was in this and they sensed it.
“The tent is so large that it normally takes a week to get it up, but we got it up in three days and set up the 2,500 chairs,” said Pastor Hobbs, 62, who has been the pastor at New Hope for 38 years. “I will say this, our church had been praying for revival every Monday night for years, and, of course, it was far more than we ever expected. I had only heard and read about a revival like this, but never dreamed one would come from a church that I pastored.”
“A fine Christian businessman, Don Cox, who owns a Toyota dealership on Interstate 40, off of exit 140, provided the land for the tent. It adjoined his dealership and was ideal for a tent location and space to park most of the cars, vans and buses. God provided the location and Mr. Cox gave it to us free of charge. What a blessing to see God at work.”
The Tent was located next to the Toyota dealership owned by Don Cox on I-40.
On the final night of the 12-week revival on July 29, evangelist C.T., 34 years of age from Asheville, NC and a native of West Virginia, recalled some of the high moments. “When we started unloading the tent, the power and presence of God was here in a strong way. We had many men here to raise the tent and get set up. However, on that first day, I had a man delivering signs. I told him how pleased I was and he went on. A little bit later, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. It was him saying ‘I’m not a Christian and I need to get saved.’ So right there unloading, not only this man but another man servicing us asked us to pray with him to be saved. So we had two men saved while unloading the tent.
“The first night we hoped we would have 1,500 people, but when people started gathering, we had the tent full,” C.T. said, “and it never let up.” Pastor Hobbs related that, “Every morning at 10:30 of the Monday through Friday night services, 50-60 pastors and prayer warriors would gather at the tent to pray. Pastor Danny Buchanan of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Lenoir, NC has a true heart for prayer and revival and he would come an hour before each service. He and other pastors would go behind the platform and get into the crawl space and pray for the meeting that night and throughout the service. Pastors would pray in shifts. It was amazing.”
For the next five weeks, 2,500 to 3,000 would gather each night. One youth night service drew 5,100 people which meant that 2,500 people sat outside the tent in the summer air. Huge fans were placed around the tent to help relieve the warm weather. The draw was not the music, although it was greatly anointed, but the preaching of repentance and the coming judgment of God. Leonard Ravenhill, one of England’s foremost evangelists, once said, “You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there is a fire.”
Pastor Hobbs said, “When we held the meetings at the church, people would come at 5 o’clock for the 7 o’clock service to get a seat. At the tent, people would gather at 4:30 to get a seat for the 7:30 starting time. We went at that time due to the heat. One lady came as early as 3 o’clock for a service one night.”
People drove from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Montana, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana and one flew in from Hawaii to witness such a thrilling revival service. Many people were saved watching the service live streamed on Facebook. People tuned in from Africa, Hong Cong, Canada, Mexico, Chile, the Philippines, Venezuela, the UK and other countries begging God that he would send revival to their countries.
After nine weeks, evangelist C.T. had a previously scheduled Youth Camp in Gatlinburg, TN, so the services shifted to the Youth Camp for 1000 youth. “The movement of God just transferred from the tent to the Youth Camp,” said Pastor Hobbs. “The power of God was there, youth came under conviction and souls were saved as C.T. preached.”
The last two weeks at the Burlington site saw several overflow crowds, one with 6000 people. “Each night, I would ask for a show of hands of how many were in the meeting for the first time,” said Pastor Hobbs. “Just about every night, about half would raise their hands. What a blessing to know that people were still coming weeks into the meeting for the first time.”
Every night Pastor Hobbs would also have the preachers to stand. “At the youth night service, we had over 300 preachers. Most nights there would be at least a 100 pastors and evangelists. Pastors were encouraged so much. Some were ready to throw in the towel, but God restored their spirit, hunger and desire to go back and preach with authority and boldness. God sparked a fire in many of those churches and that brought great joy to us.”
The Burlington Revival ended only because Evangelist Ralph Sexton had a scheduled tent revival. At the last service on Friday, July 29, the tent was full. Pastor Hobbs said about half raised their hands as first-time attendees and 180 pastors and evangelists were counted. “God is not through here, but Mr. Sexton needed his tent,” Pastor Hobbs says. “We are still praying on Monday nights for God to keep the revival going and give us direction. Also, we are getting a large number of pastors in Burlington to come together and pray on a regular basis, and we have never done that before.”
A group of 18 staff members from the Billy Graham Library, including four Native Americans who serve with Lou Engle of The Call, attended the final service. We didn’t realize it would be the final service until we arrived. We were greeted by Pastor Hobbs, evangelist C.T. Townsend and youth evangelist Heath Williams. We found that the men had toured the Billy Graham Library more than once without our knowledge.
A pre-service meeting with Billy Graham staff and the revival team…l-r; John White, Tom Phillips, Jared Dixon, C.T. Townsend, Wayne Atcheson, Heath Williams and D.R. Harrison.
“My best friend and I went to the Billy Graham Library three weeks ago and did a prayer walk around the building,” said C.T. “Mr. Graham has been a great inspiration in my life as an evangelist. Every time I’m there, I am so inspired and blessed. I am so uplifted and encouraged.” As he spoke with Tom Phillips, the vice-president of the Library and former worldwide Billy Graham crusade director, C.T. asked if he could bring his staff for training. When Tom graciously said we would be delighted as we have trained many other evangelists in evangelism, C.T. teared up. We related how we admired the great movement of God in Burlington and had been praying for them all along. We circled together and prayed for C.T. and the service.
Pastor Randy Hobbs (second from left) with Wayne Atcheson, Charles Chandler of Decision magazine and Tom Phillips.
After a few moments of greeting and picture taking, we were ushered to seats that were reserved for us and certainly didn’t expect front row seats. The choir started to sing at 7 pm and the pianist played gospel songs and hymns as the tent begins to fill and the power of the Lord is felt the moment you walk in. You sense there is something unusual about this gathering. Some had been sitting for three hours, and you knew that people couldn’t wait to sing about Jesus and rejoice. People are sitting in folding chairs, the huge fans are blowing and the floor is heavily padded with wood shavings throughout. A great number were rejoicing because they had been wondrously saved in the meeting.
Song leader Jared Dixon, a young man like C.T., stepped to the old fashion wooden church pulpit to lead the first song. He said three words and was so overcome by the Holy Spirit that he couldn’t speak. He put his two hands on the pulpit with his head bowed for what seemed like a minute before he regained his composure to lead the song. C.T. was standing a few feet away smiling and basking in the joy and brokenness of his song leader. Shouts of joyful affirmations came from the crowd.
Jared would lead in hymns and gospel songs which he did throughout the revival. The crowd joined in as he led in old favorites such as “Glory To His Name,” “Nothing But The Blood of Jesus,” “O How I Love Jesus,” “Revive Us Again,” “Amazing Grace” and “I Stand Amazed.” People would stand and raise their hands in praise, and The Whisnants sang special music that raised the spirit even higher as it came time for C.T. to deliver his final sermon after three months of preaching. We were pleased when Pastor Hobbs asked Tom Phillips to have the opening prayer. Our coming from the Billy Graham Association was of great encouragement to the revival team, but it was our honor and blessing to experience such a movement of God in their revival.
C.T. used for his text the scripture from Jeremiah 8:20 which says, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” C.T. gave a stirring message, preaching his heart out in the last service to reach the unsaved in his last sermon of the revival. Before he ended his message, a man briskly walked to the front and fell at the altar praying for salvation. Then another came as C.T. appealed to the lost, “Will, this be the last altar call for you tonight. You must be saved tonight because this may be your last altar call.”
Then as the pianist was playing, Jared led in the revival invitation hymn, an old song written in 1842 called “O Why Not Tonight.” The first verse is “Oh, do not let the Word depart, And close thine eyes against the light; Poor sinner, harden not your heart, Be saved, oh, tonight.” Then the chorus: “Oh, why not tonight? Oh, why not tonight? Wilt thou be saved? Then why not tonight?”
People began to stream down the aisles. Children, teenagers and adults came forward, most every one of them in tears, and knelt at one of the five 25 ft. altars made from logs. Some came down with a friend. Others came and a counselor quickly knelt to pray with them. C.T. had the Christians to bow and pray. The altars became crowded with seekers. After several moments, a young woman wailed to the top of her voice not one time but three times. It wasn’t for her salvation but for her seven-year-old daughter who had just invited Jesus into her heart. The mother had seen her child get saved and was so overjoyed that her wailing could be heard throughout the tent.
Psalm 126:5-6 explains this mother’s joy. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”
As the invitation continued, you could hear wails at other altars. Someone told C.T. that a pastor’s wife had just gotten saved, and he announced that to the crowd. The pastor expressed his joy dancing around up front as a couple of friends came and embraced him. As C.T. was continuing the invitation, he noticed his father, Rev. Kenny Townsend, and mother Debbie were at the altar with his own adopted brother who was about 11 years old. C.T. went over and knelt with them and talked and prayed with him as he received the Lord into his heart. The invitation song continued while the evangelist was kneeling at the altar for several minutes. The invitation lasted about 45 minutes, and it was reported that 65 people had been saved on the final night.
You could sense how difficult it was for the leadership to draw this 12-week revival to a conclusion. Pastor Hobbs thanked C.T. and so many people and then C.T. had his family of three children to come on the platform and his parents, plus so many who had worked faithfully and diligently to make the revival possible. Pastor Buchanan who had led the pastors’ nightly prayer movement, gave the closing prayer to this historic revival event.
After 12 weeks of revival, 1,249 souls had been saved. “Never in my wildest imagination would I have ever thought that God would let me see what we saw at this revival meeting,” said C.T. “God has been good to us. This was all the work of God and I can’t praise him enough. I saw people crying and smiling every night that God had saved and it thrills my heart for all the things He has done. He has healed people with cancer. There were marriages that were falling apart until he they gave the pieces to Jesus and put marriages back together. Pastors have received a fresh new vision and renewed fire to preach the power of the Gospel. For all God has done, we thank and praise His holy name.”
The average attendance under the white canvas tent was 2,500. The tent location was only ten minutes away from the New Hope Baptist Church.
The Toyota dealer, Don Cox, who provided the land gave his testimony in one of the meetings, and he attended almost every one. He told of how it took years of prayer to secure the land. “We have not seen a movement of God like this in our area since Billy Graham came to Greensboro in 1951. A tabernacle was built just for that meeting for him. How blessed I am that you are here on this property and it being used for this great revival. There is nothing more important than seeing Jesus Christ lifted up and seeing people being born again on this property. I am blessed.” Pastor Hobbs asked the Lord to bless his business four-fold and C.T. reminded the audience that “maybe God gave him this property several years ago just so this revival could take place.”
Early on in the revival, C.T. asked businessman D.R. Harrison to edit and produce a video for him. As Harrison watched the video over and over, he became under conviction and gave his life to Christ. He had not attended church in 11 years. Several weeks later in the meeting, he went forward and told the crowd that God had called him to preach. He is starting his first meeting this month and has received other invitations. He also became a key leader for the revival team.
It was a special blessing when a Muslim man came to the revival and invited Jesus Christ into his life. He was later baptized in a local church. Also, a man from Jamaica came to the revival and was saved. Pastor’s wives and even church members were saved. A young evangelist came from Texas and then two more times just to experience this mighty movement of God.
On the last night, a man was sitting in the audience who said that he was an alcoholic before the revival, but he came and was saved and had given up alcohol. He said that alcohol money was now providing more family support. A 35-year old man drove his truck by the Billy Graham shuttle bus as he was departing. He lowered his window and proudly said, “I was saved here tonight.” He had driven with a friend from Morganton, NC and it was his first service to attend.
For C.T. Townsend, the Burlington Revival gave him a new vision for his ministry. Money was raised during the revival for C.T. to have his own tent and 6,000 chairs, and he believes God wants him to conduct tent revivals across America. He stated that he already had 15 invitations. As Pastor Hobbs said, “This was a training session for C.T. and his future. We are planning to have him back in Burlington in September of next year.”
New Hope church did indeed have what Billy Graham describes as an “old fashion, Heaven sent, Holy Ghost revival.” New Hope has truly given America revival hope and it came after years of prayer and started with a week long summer church revival. Heaven came down and glory filled the soul of every one who was blessed to attend. Most importantly, hundreds gained eternity in Heaven.
To God be the Glory alone. Great things He has done!
“Look at the nations and watch – and be amazed. Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it”…Habakkuk 1:5
“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you”…Psalm 85:6
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