Liberty University today lays claim to having one of the nation’s largest university-level undergraduate populations with more than 45,000 students. But in 1973, it was known as Lynchburg Baptist College, with few facilities to draw upon, and only 600 students. The College often borrowed the buildings at Thomas Road Baptist Church, and the undergrads would frequently gather and mill around at the church auditorium. Little did they know what God had in store for them…

On Sunday, October 7th, 1973, a Life Action Crusade ministry team visited the College for a week of preaching and sharing the Gospel. That first evening, at the Baptist Church, God used Del Fehsenfeld Jr. to deliver a powerful sermon that resulted in over 50 people putting their trust in Christ. The next few days, God used the team to bring more people to the Lord and to lead many believers to make new commitments to God. Fehsenfeld preached again on Wednesday night, but despite there being over 3000 in attendance, the response this time seemed dismal. The team went home that night discouraged but determined to keep on praying for a breakthrough. 

Meanwhile, many of students had stayed in the auditorium to join in the weekly prayer meeting and then to hang out. Various groups dotted the area: some studying, some in animated conversations, some just minding their own business. One young man slowly made his way up to the pulpit onstage. The mic was off. The lights were dim. And then, in the midst of his sobs and tears, he started confessing how he cheated often as a student, how he had faked being a Christian for so long, and how he was not saved. He collapsed to the floor weeping inconsolably. Some students ran over to him to pray with him and talk with him. Several groups began to pray for him. And then there was a moment of unbridled joy as the man embraced the Gospel. 

Soon others followed, making their way to the pulpit, sharing their stories and their desperate need for Christ. And then there was the same exultant joy when they took their step of faith. A hush swept over the room as people sensed the very presence of God in the house. Soon, more students approached the pulpit to share a testimony of God’s power or to ask for prayer for salvation. Worship broke out in the room and continued unabated for hours. At midnight, someone phoned the pastor and the deacons with the message: “Get down to the church fast. Revival has broken out!” They swiftly threw on some clothes and rushed down to the church to see this move of God.

By early Thursday morning, over 2000 people had streamed into the building seeking a fresh encounter with the presence of God. Yet God was not contained in just that church building. That day at the Lynchburg Christian Academy high school, one student in the middle of class spontaneously started weeping and asking others for the way to be saved. A mighty wave of conviction immersed the whole campus, with dozens of students overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit’s working. Over 50 students at that high school were born again that day. 

That evening, at the Liberty college service, the Life Action Crusade team led a testimony night to declare what God was doing, and by evening’s end, almost another 100 surrendered to follow Jesus. One of the speakers Ed Hindson met with 500 students at a dormitory afterwards. As they talked, they pressed in to pray for revival. God’s presence once again intensified and rippled throughout the dorm with waves of conviction and songs of praise.

During the revival, no one who tasted that near-presence of God ever wanted to leave. They didn’t want to miss out on what God was doing. Even after the ministry team eventually left on October 19th, the revival continued to blaze and to transform and impact the town of Lynchburg. Hundreds had been saved and baptized. Thousands had gathered in prayer and worship. And countless students shared the Gospel far and wide, not because of any obligation or guilt but simply because they wanted others to share in the goodness they had seen and witnessed for themselves. 

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. Have you ever wondered what revival might look like in a small town? Why do you think a great and mighty God would bother with such a population?
  2. How would you describe the factors that led to the start of this revival? What were the challenges? What were some of the keys that ignited the flame?
  3. What difference did God’s presence make upon the people during this time of revival in 1973? What was the evidence that this was truly a supernatural work of God to awaken His church as opposed to just something created by humans?

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