RTN preacher witnesses ‘awe-inspiring’ work of God
Master of Divinity student Jim DiLavore says that from the moment he arrived in Hawkins, Texas, to preach a weeklong revival, “God was just in control.” DiLavore preached at First Baptist Church Hawkins as part of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Revive This Nation, March 10-13, and he says the week was “awe-inspiring.”
DiLavore preached from 1 John throughout the week, inviting the congregation to consider how their community can tell that they are different—that is, how the world can tell there is something different about the body of believers.
“First day, first message, the invitation was to go into a time of confession and just get on our hands, get on our knees before God and cry out to Him,” DiLavore says. “It was a conviction on my heart that if something was going to happen here in this community, there was going to be nothing from our own power, and it was going to start with us getting right before the Lord.”
After extending this invitation, DiLavore stepped out of the pulpit, then stood back and observed as the altar filled with people—church staff and other long-time members—crying out to God, saying, “I want to get right with you.”
“You could just see the hearts of these people,” DiLavore says. “And in this moment, I didn’t know what to do or what to think, but just said the only thing I could say: ‘Wow. Thank you, God.’”
That week was also the church’s missions-emphasis week, and so DiLavore participated alongside them in multiple service projects, including the construction of a ramp and other renovations at the home of a woman whose son is handicapped. “I had the joy and opportunity not just to go and preach messages, but to serve alongside brothers and sisters in Christ,” DiLavore says. “Even though this isn’t my local church, I still got to serve as a brother in Christ with them. … Wherever we go and serve, as long as we’re serving with the local body, we’re not alone.”
Later in the week, after DiLavore preached on being children of God, the pastor’s son came forward and said to his father, “I want to be a child of God.” This was the church’s “big profession of faith for the week,” DiLavore says, and reflected the tone of the entire revival.
DiLavore says he felt the most spiritual warfare on the final day of the revival. Exhaustion from the week and a feeling of homesickness left DiLavore feeling discouraged, but God continued providing him opportunities for ministry.
First, he and the church’s pastor went out into nearby communities, and “God just kept bringing church members randomly to us,” DiLavore says. “We just got to see different people and listen. So often, we were ready to speak, but in these moments, we just got to listen.”
That night, bad weather caused the power to go out throughout the whole town. Not wanting to cancel the service, the pastor considered alternative options, including having DiLavore preach from the bed of a truck outside.
Fifteen minutes before the service was scheduled to begin, DiLavore sensed that God was moving and that the enemy did not want something to happen that night. “So we just went into a time of prayer,” he says. “… And in the midst of that prayer, the light came back on. And that lasted just long enough for us to conclude our church service. And the power was out again. And that was how we ended the service.”
Beyond the work that God did in the church, DiLavore says God did a great work in his own heart as well. The experience taught him to “deeply depend on God,” pray often, and rely on His presence and the presence of fellow believers.
“As we studied how the world can tell us apart, we were reminded that we are reflecting God’s nature; they should be able to see God wherever we go,” DiLavore says. “That was something in my own life. ‘How am I supposed to be able to go into this community?’ Because I’m going as an ambassador of God.”