Last night was a wholly unique experience for me. Now, I've been a lot of places and attended many churches but none could have gotten me ready for what I was in last night. Perhaps, better said, all of those experiences were getting me ready for last night. The little, 3 hour service in a small village in Romania, the sticky, hot, crowded service in Jamaica, even the more recent visit to the Iglesia de Critso in Ensenada, Mexico where I played a really out of tune guitar along to "Este es del dia..."
My cousin, Darrin Pentecost is a preacher and a pastor of a little country Baptist church in central Kentucky. It is a small white building with a steeple set in the green countryside near Central City, Kentucky. Darrin was preaching at another church last night that is holding revival meetings this week.
We drove 40 minutes to my Aunt's house for some sweet Kentucky BBQ...that's a pork roast cooked all night, fat pulled off and pulled apart and thrown into a slow cooker for another day with awesome sauce that infuses into the already tender meat. That's right folks, a two day process. Then we drove 40 more minutes into the country to attend the revival. This is not on a highway...this is back into the country on small roads. We passed several makeshift signs in the shape of crosses. One said, "Lord, let your millennium come..." Another, I'm not kidding, said exactly this, "Jesus said John 3:16 and a whole lot more." We passed many little country churches along the way and many of them were holding revival meetings this week. My cousin told me that it's kind of the season for it. I had forgotten that but now I remember it, it's true.
We finally pulled up to a small building with many cars parked around it. The lawn was a bit unkempt and there was a covering in the back with several picnic tables under it and a kids playground next to it. My sister's family and ours walked up the steps to friendly faces and the congregation literally gasped when we all walked in...all twelve of us. The carpet was brown, wood paneling on the walls and the pews were wooden with a little padding and the back went straight up and down. We crowded into two pews and filled them up including my Aunt Mary-Lou and my cousin Gail, her husband and kids....right up front.
The choir sang some boisterous old gospel songs along with an upright piano and a guitar. The congregation sang very loudly with hands in the air and when they didn't know the words they shouted praises and encouragements and blessings. Our eyes were wide. During one song, an older, bare footed lady from the choir loft came down and kind of danced up and down the aisle...it wasn't really a dance...more like a hopping walk while happily making eye contact with folks in the crowd and encouraging them to sing along. It did not seem that she was show boating but she was just being happy and doing what seemed good to do.
At one point in the music another woman approached the small alter in front of the communion table, in front of the pulpit. She knelt down in the middle of it and immediately, the church gathered around her and prayed for her as she cried at the alter and the music continued and people sang and prayed and no one said the prayer was over, they just all stopped. The lady left the alter (the music, singing and shouting is still going) and took her place back in the choir. This happened several times during the night...someone going to the alter, many gathering around them to support their prayer and in all stopping spontaneously all the while the service is continuing from the stage area.
A special quartet sang about five songs, three women and a man called "Heavenly Highway" doing gospel songs to soundtracks and the roar of "Amen", "bless 'em, Lord", etc. There was the classic "Beulah Land" often heard on the Gaither Gospel Hour and they ended their set with "Oh my my! Glory, glory, glory!" That was the name of the song. During their performance, the pace continued of random pray-ers at the alter and spontaneous, all-at-once prayer for them.
Then my cousin got up to preach. He does not mess around. I knew it when he did not take the mic from the host pastor. He did not need a mic. His mic is his mouth. My baby, Stella, sat rapt by his speaking. He went off right from the start. No warming up the engine. Straight into high gear. I have sifted his message down into these key thoughts...
God loves us and has our best interests at heart.
God's enemy (ole Satan as Darrin calls him) hates us and wants to tear our lives apart
The only way we'll survive is to hold on to God in prayer and Bible reading and support one another
Be on guard, love each other and pray
This is a good message. The culture of this little Baptist church is unlike any I have ever witnessed. It felt like we were inside a movie. It was loud, free-form, chaotic but somehow structured. My cousin exploded with a heart full of passion for God and his people.
When we were kids, our visits to central Kentucky were a few times a year. We'd play, run and have fun. I didn't know this but Grandma (on my Father's side) would often look at Darrin and tell my Aunt, "He's going to preach someday". Well, it took a while but a few years ago Darrin yielded to God in his life and very soon afterward heard the call to preach. His little church is growing the right way...non-Christians are becoming Christians and staying in their fellowship to be discipled. They minister in prisons and in Mexico and to the country folks of Mulenburg County.
I was amused by the things that were different than my experience but the evident Spirit of God moving through my cousin is humbling and challenging. Darrin prays and is available. The only thing in this life that counts.