By SARA ARTHURS
In 25 years as a pastor, nothing has affected the Rev. Ron Hoeksema like Revive Ohio. So when the former Darke County pastor moved to Hancock County, he wanted to bring it along with him.
The movement aims to break down barriers between denominations, with Christians coming together to share their faith with others. They’re holding an “outreach week” Nov. 2-8, and are inviting community members to join them in prayer in the weeks leading up to it.
Hoeksema said the ministry will go out into the community to talk with people “with an intentionality, pray with people … and also share the Gospel.”
His church in Darke County found it “an incredible blessing.” He said the experience opened his eyes as a pastor, allowing him to get to know those from other churches and learn how diverse the “different flavors” of Christianity are.
And it opened his eyes to how deep the need was, “and how simple it is to share the Gospel. It really isn’t difficult.”
Hoeksema came to Findlay in July 2017, and is pastor at Salem Cass United Methodist Church.
Alisa Beisner, a member of the statewide Revive Ohio team, said when people think of revival, they may think of “the white tent.” In reality, the goal is to reach out into the community, to tear down denominational walls and “unite under Jesus Christ.”
Hancock will be the 11th county in Ohio to participate, though Beisner said organizers would love to see the movement in all 88 counties. Revive Ohio is invited into each county by local pastors, and the Hancock County team has been meeting since October 2017.
Hoeksema said individual Christians, along with clergy, are involved in the effort. The Revive team holds a prayer night at 6:33 p.m. every Tuesday. There are also “Come and See” nights that give the nuts and bolts of what the effort looks like. These previews will be held Sept. 30 at Howard United Methodist Church, 220 Cherry St., and Oct. 28 at Church of the Living God, 701 N. Main St. Both events are at 6:33 p.m.
The Rev. Richard Hiltibran, pastor at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Benton Ridge, said when he got involved he saw “the presence of God was tangible, powerful,” and he knew it was something the community “desperately” needed.
Many Christians wrestle with feeling confident in sharing their faith, but Revive Ohio helps give practical, powerful tools, he said.
Beisner said people outside the church may assume they are “just being judged” by those within, but “Our heart is to really reflect the love of Christ.” When the team approaches the public with love, she’s noticed “how many people are just hungry for that,” and are welcoming.
“There’s people literally waiting for someone to bring them the Gospel,” Hoeksema said.
He said the Revive team will ask community members “if there’s any way we can pray for you today.” But if the recipient doesn’t want to hear about the Gospel, “you just respect that.”
Some Darke County residents got baptized out of the effort.
Statewide Revive Ohio team member Seth Adkins said 34 players on a Darke County football team gave their lives to Jesus after the effort. One night, after a game, they walked across the field to share the message with the other team. “And there was a response from the other team and it was positive,” he said.
In another county, Revive Ohio was praying with nursing home residents, which led to a 94-year-old woman committing to the church.
Beisner, who also participated in Darke County, said they all joined the effort after seeing what Revive Ohio did within their own communities. She said she’d begun to feel that there was a lot of talk about who Jesus was and who he wanted people to be, but it was with Revive that finally “We weren’t just talking about it, we were doing it.”
Adkins recently moved to Ohio from Florida, and he saw the Revive movement’s effects on his church.
“It was so simple, yet revolutionary, for us,” he said.
And, he said, “The best way to help the church is to help fill it up.”
Hoeksema said people are trained as disciples so they can walk alongside those who begin a “new journey with Jesus” out of the revival effort. He’s excited about the fact that “We’ll be worshipping together. We’ll be sharing meals together. We’ll be praying together,” and then going out into the community.
The Rev. David To is pastor at Howard and Zion United Methodist churches. He said he’s strengthened relationships with churches of other denominations through Revive Ohio, and it changed his own relationship with his faith. Sometimes in church you can feel “rushed to do things,” with tasks on a checklist, and this helped him refocus and slow down.
“Going out and meeting new folks. … That’s what this is all about,” he said.
The November events start with a kickoff service on Friday night. Saturday through Thursday will be “outreach days.”
Attendees will come together, train and give people encouragement as to how to share their faith. Then they’ll split into teams and go out into the community to “love on” people and, “where an opportunity arises, share Jesus with them,” Beisner said. This effort will not be limited to Findlay, but will include the surrounding villages.
A worship service will take place every evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Church of the Living God.
The entire week is open to the community and it’s OK to come occasionally, or drop in for part of the events and then leave, statewide intercessory prayer team member Stephanie Benedict said. There are also events for children.
People can stop in and “we’ll pray for them right there,” Benedict said. She noted they won’t be there in the noon hour.
As a local pastor, Hiltibran said he’d be “thrilled and excited” if people in the community were “sharing Jesus in the gas station, in the grocery store.” His hope is that, 10 years from now, the community will look back at fall 2018 as “a major turning point in the Christian faith” locally.
Monthly outreach meetings will continue to be held after November, with the aim to create “a new normal” of these groups working together, Hoeksema said.
“I’m excited to see our pastors and our churches revived,” he said.
The effort, whose parent ministry is Texas-based Time To Revive, exists in other states, too, such as Revive Indiana.
For more information, contact Hoeksema at 269-589-9634 or visit https://www.facebook.com/reviveOHHancockCounty/