TOCCOA, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- More than 700 commitments to Christ, including 300 salvation decisions, were made among the nearly 11,000 individuals who attended the Northeast Georgia GO TELL Crusade at the Stephens County High School Football Stadium in Toccoa, Georgia, May 3-6.
Evangelist Rick Gage led the nightly services but was joined by speakers Scott Camp, Adrian Despres and Steve Payson, as well as worship leader Chuck Sullivan and guest artist Joy Fowler.
Gage said prayer and planning were essential to creating the opportunity for people to respond to the Holy Spirit's working in their hearts.
"The key to the spiritual impact we all witnessed was a result of the many months of God's people praying," said the 25-year veteran of evangelistic crusades in the U.S. and abroad. "Also, there were hundreds of volunteers working for nearly a year preparing for the four-day event and there was strong leadership who led this evangelistic effort."
One of three co-chairs, retired businessman Billy Shaw said 51 churches, representing about 10 denominations and more than 500 volunteers, were involved, beginning with the prayer team which formed in November.
Isaac White, pastor of Hurricane Grove Baptist Church, and Chaplain Danny Yearwood also provided leadership.
"Our little town of 10,000 people will never be the same. It's certainly the talk of the town. It just couldn't have gone any better," Shaw said.
"It was a team effort. No one individual gets the credit," said Shaw who knows about teamwork from when he was a Georgia Tech football player and an offensive guard for the Buffalo Bills from 1960 to 1969.
The only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played his entire career in the American Football League, helping to lead his team to AFL titles in 1964 and 1965, Shaw said he has lived with his wife in Toccoa since 1973 and had not been part of an evangelistic effort of this magnitude, before now.
Shaw said he was asked to be one of the co-chairs by his pastor, Andy Childs, of Ebenezer Baptist Church. "A group had been talking for several years about a crusade, but it wasn't until October when the Lord let them know the timing was right.
"It was probably more fun than I have had in a long time but a lot of work. Every chairperson did just a marvelous job," Shaw said. "Now our goal is not to let it stop."
GOD AT WORK
The wife of the worship leader of The Ark in Toccoa – she also works at Shepherds Hill Academy -- was able to bring six young men to the crusade. "All six received Christ as Lord and Savior," said GO TELL outreach team leader Jim Howard, senior pastor of The Ark.
Brett Sanders, the youth pastor and associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Toccoa, brought a bus of young people to the crusade and had five among the group to give their lives to Jesus on the bus going back to the church, Shaw shared.
Both agreed the response was strong.
"Many came forward for salvation for the first time, and many Christians came to the center of the field and fell on their faces rededicating their lives to Christ. Men, women and teens lying prostrate in the grass before God, humbling themselves as the Holy Spirit washed over them with love, forgiveness and restoration," Howard said.
But he said there were signs of an awakening in the community weeks before, sharing examples about a visit to a trailer park where two people prayed to receive Christ and another outreach effort the same day when four more received Christ.
At an April 29 pre-crusade youth rally there were 24 salvation decisions, he added.
Howard shared that he even had the opportunity to lead a young lady to the Lord one morning as she visited his laundry business.
He said revival was happening then, too, with church members going out even in the rainy weather "sharing Christ and inviting everyone to the crusade" resulting in five salvations on that inclement day.
Howard said "'The Church' come alive by the power of the Holy Spirit with joy, excitement and believing God for boldness to declare their faith, to hear members of different churches of different denominations all sharing how God is drawing the lost and building faith and relationships."
MORE WORK AHEAD
Upon the crusade's conclusion on May 6, Howard said the fire of revival among believers is beginning to spread as pastors and churches already are planning continued joint events in prayer, outreach and fellowship.
"God has truly opened the door for an awakening in northeast Georgia. Pray with us that we will continue to have the desire for the Holy Spirit to stretch our vision, break down barriers and shape us into His Church as each pastor and Christian alike deals with the reality of His Truth. It's all about Him! And the Gospel works if we "GO TELL!"
Gage told Christian Examiner he was elated at the numbers who repented for salvation or restoration, and echoed that the crusade was "just the starting point."
"We've coached churches to identify teachers and curriculum for new Believers classes, and we've talked to them about plugging new people immediately into ministries. We've given materials to everyone who came forward to explain the basics of how to experience spiritual health and growth," he detailed.
"A lot has been done the last six or eight months, and during the four days of the crusade" Gage offered.
"But so much of the work is just about to begin."