Lost turn to Christ across the nation through RTN preaching
Every year during spring break, Southwestern Seminary sends students and professors across the nation to preach the Word of God and reap a harvest for Christ. The program is called Revive This Nation (RTN), and from March 13-16 this year, 106 Southwestern preachers proclaimed the Good News in 104 cities in 34 states around the country. The effort resulted in 58 professions of faith, 15 baptisms and 206 other commitments to Christ.
“We are deliberately going to very small churches all over the country that could not afford to have a revival,” says Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary. “To have that many people come to know the Lord is really quite remarkable, and we rejoice with every one of these. We want to give thanks to God today for each of them that has been saved.”
James Park, a Master of Divinity student who was sent to Walker Baptist Church in Reno, Calif., says that RTN was an unforgettable experience for two reasons. One was the blessing of seeing people who had wandered away from God recommit their lives to their Creator. The other was to learn what it means to be a faithful pastor serving a small church for the glory of Christ.
“Walker Baptist is a very small church on the border of California and Nevada, and it was actually the first time the church had a revival like this in 20 years,” Park says. “The congregation was very thankful that people at Southwestern were concerned about them and were praying over them. They were thankful that Southwestern was willing to send people out to reach their community.”
In addition to preaching five revival sermons, Park went on house visits with Jim Ricks, senior pastor of Walker Baptist. Park recalls a lady from one of those visits who shared her struggle with drugs, alcohol addiction and family problems. Park and Ricks invited her to the revival meeting, and she showed up on the last night.
“She hadn’t been coming to church for months, but she came out and was in the front row that night,” Park says. “I saw her just worshipping God. She said that having someone come and pay attention to her and pray over her let her know that God still loves her, that He still cares about her. Seeing her worship was a powerful experience.”
Phillip Koo, a Ph.D. student who was sent to First Baptist Church in Bertram, Texas, also witnessed the saving grace of God poured out upon an unlikely convert. On Sunday night, Koo and the congregation at First Baptist noticed a man who was covered in tattoos sitting in the last row.
“Everybody kind of restrained from talking to him because they didn’t know what to expect,” Koo recalls. Nobody expected him to show up again. Against everybody’s expectations, however, the man returned for the Monday night service. When called to the altar, he walked down the aisle crying.
“I know I’ve sinned and have done many wrongs in my life,” he said to Koo. “I just want Jesus to take control.”
While Southwestern sends most preachers to small churches throughout the nation, Fernando Dantas was sent to preach in a prison. A Master of Arts student, Dantas preached in the McDowell Federal Correctional Institute in Welch, W.Va.
Dantas says that when he began his work in the prison, he realized the devil was trying to prevent people from hearing the Gospel. On Sunday afternoon, Dantas preached three times at the mid-security prison. During the 5 p.m. service, however, a fight broke out in one of the dormitories in another building.
“When something like this happens in prison, they close it for all people from outside to visit or do anything religious,” Dantas explains. “So I could not preach for the next two days—on Monday and Tuesday—as we had planned.”
Since Dantas was not scheduled to preach on Wednesday, this seemed to mean that the devil had shut the door to prison ministry altogether. Nevertheless, the Lord quickly opened another door, one that had not been in Dantas’ original plans.
“In those two days that I could not preach in the mid-security prison,” Dantas says, “I was sent to preach in the low-security prison.” He soon realized that God had orchestrated everything to save souls when three people in the prison surrendered their lives to Christ.
Although Dantas had thought that the mid-security prison ministry was closed, on Wednesday, the prison chaplain suddenly asked him to come and preach again. Dantas acquiesced, and an amazing harvest followed—12 people committed their lives to Christ.
“I would like to encourage you, if you never participated in the RTN program, do it,” Dantas says in light of his own amazing testimony. “You are going to have the opportunity to encourage pastors and church members, but most importantly, you are going to have an opportunity to preach the Gospel and see people coming to the faith.”