WEBER CITY, Va. — A Tennessee Baptist church on the Virginia side of the Tennessee state line discovered recently that good things happen when you “pray first and let God lead.”
“Pray first” was the theme of a series of messages by pastor Justin Smith of First Baptist Church, Weber City, Va., near the end of February into early March. First Baptist, Weber City, is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Youth pastor Aaron Noe preached a similar message to the youth on Wednesday nights.
After Noe’s first message on Wednesday night, Walker Hillman, a member of the youth group, announced that God was calling him into the ministry.
The next week, 45 students attended and the service went much longer than usual, Smith said, noting that approximately 40 kids shared testimonies.
After that service, Noe texted Smith and suggested they have a youth revival. Instead of securing a youth speaker and praise band, the two ministers decided that it needed to be led by the youth of First Baptist. They set the revival for March 19-20. The students did everything, Smith recalled.
On the first night of the revival, Smith said he was “shocked” when 400 people showed up for the service. “Every seat was full,” he said.
One young man accepted Christ that night and another on Monday night, Smith said. “We saw that the Lord was up to something and decided we needed to continue.”
The services continued through Thursday of that week with good attendance each night. On Wednesday night, the ministers baptized 21 youth and then 43 the following night. Smith estimated the Thursday night service drew about 650 youth from all over the area, including churches from at least three states. Some students drove more than an hour to attend, the pastor noted.
After pausing services for the weekend, the revival began again on Sunday night.
Due to the crowds, the revival was moved to the gym where chairs had been set up. More than 1,000 people attended that service, Smith said.
Noting that it followed on the heels of a student-led revival at Asbury College in Kentucky, Smith said the large attendance each night was about friends inviting friends.
When all was said and done, First Baptist held 12 meetings over three weeks, with the final service held on Good Friday.
There were more than 150 recorded salvations and 126 baptisms as a result of the youth-led event, Smith said. The youth were “hungry and thirsty” for the gospel, he observed.
Among those who accepted Christ were a star high school athlete, who had said that “all of the Jesus stuff was garbage,” and a girl who was a professing atheist.
All of the services were filled with testimonies of what God was doing among the students, the pastor stressed. He ended each service with a five-minute presentation of the gospel. The only exception was he did present a message at the final service that focused on what Jesus went through on the cross, he said.
“The revival has revolutionized everything about our community, our schools and our church,” Smith said.
The pastor stressed that the revival “was not planned or manufactured. The keys were prayer and obedience. We tried to keep our hands out of it and let the Lord lead it. …The only way to explain it is that it was from God,” he added.
Though other churches pitched in to help, the revival was not about First Baptist or any other congregation. No offerings were collected. “We were just providing a place for these kids to meet.”
Smith described the three-week event as “a little bit of heaven on earth. It was not about a church. It was not about a denomination. It was not about a preacher or a singing group. It was all about Jesus.”
Though the meetings have ended, “revival does not have to,” Smith said. After seeing souls saved and baptized, “our job now is to fulfill the Great Commission and to disciple and train them,” he said. B&R