The Revival at Howard Payne

On January 22, 1995, at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, two students from Howard Payne University, stood up and confessed their sins. As a result of this incident, many others started to confess their sins before the church. On January 26, a similar event took place on the campus of Howard Payne, a Baptist institution. Word quickly spread to other colleges, and Howard Payne students were soon being invited to share their stories, and similar revivals broke out. From these schools, more students were invited to still other schools, where the movement of God continued to spread.

One of the first two students to confess his sins was a young man named Chris. As he testified about his own life and the spiritual condition of his classmates, “People just started streaming down the aisles” to pray, confess their sins, and restore seemingly doomed relationships,” according to John Avant, pastor of Coggin Avenue. From this time forward, the church  began holding three and a half hour services. Avant said, “This is not something we’re trying to manufacture. It’s the most wonderful thing we’ve ever experienced.”

The events at Coggin Avenue were preceded by about seven weeks of increased prayer. According to Avant, “God is shaking us – something no person could do. God began doing some things in very isolated ways. He transformed the life of a prominent man in the community who was considering suicide, and couples who were within days of divorce were walking the church aisle to seek God’s forgiveness at the altar.” The pastor said that after the events of January 22, the motto among several high school students had become, “God’s going to rock the world, and it’s starting in Brownwood.” They said, “Southern Baptists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Independent Baptists, and Presbyterians are getting together just to kneel and pray for revival.”

At Howard Payne, revival broke out during a January 26 “celebration” service, as students praised God in song and shared their testimonies. Students then started to schedule all-night prayer meetings in dormitories. Then, things really got interesting, February 13-15, during five meetings at Howard Payne. A Southern Baptist revival leader preached a series of five worship services, attended by guests who came from as far away as 200 miles. On Tuesday, February 14, more than 600 attended, and student leaders went up to the platform to confess their sins publicly. About 200 stayed after the service to continue praying. Andrea was one of the students there. She reported, “Once we saw the Holy Spirit move, we didn’t want to leave.”

After Howard Payne, some of the first schools to be affected were Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, Illinois, Criswell College in Dallas, and Moorehead State University in Kentucky. In each case, students went forward during long services to publicly repent of pride, lust, bondage to materialism, bitterness, and racism.

Like the Great Awakenings, the revival of Brownwood has long since faded. Evangelist Billy Sunday used to say, “Revivals are like baths. They don’t last.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean we stop taking baths. Today, all over the country, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of adults ministering in churches, schools, banks, and civic clubs, whose lives were changes in 1995. So, in retrospect, the revival really hasn’t faded. Perhaps you are the product of a revival. Have you been the one to walk the aisle in a church someplace, to confess your sins and receive the grace of Christ?

God did an amazing, unplanned thing 20 years ago. It started in a small church and on a college campus. I have been in that church and I have preached on that campus. I celebrate what God did then. And I celebrate that fact that what God did in Brownwood in 1995, he can do in your town today. You don’t need an evangelist, choir, or committee. You need two people who are willing to confess their sins. Then all heaven will break out. What God did at Howard Payne he can do in you.

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