Give me that old-time religion

Photo by Dave Boyd
Dewey Ward, pastor of Day of Deliverance Revival Center, feels the power and the glory at the revival held in Carter County this weekend.

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
Welcome to the Old-Time Holy Ghost Deliverance Tent Revival.
Roll up your shirt sleeves and show those tattoos. Drop that long hair from under your hat. Finish your beer; snort, smoke or shoot the rest of your drug of choice.
And when you're all done, come on in. Alcoholics and drug addicts have no excuse. The door's wide open.
Paula will probably be sitting near the front row. She'll turn and smile. "Praise the Lord!" she'll say as you hesitantly enter.
Brother Dewey Ward of Day of Deliverance Revival Center in Johnson City, and Brother Scott Marshall of Wings of Hope Full-Gospel Church in Jonesborough will rotate bringing the message, as the revival continues this week. You can't miss it. Look for a 55-by-70 foot oval gospel tent set up adjacent to Street's Flea Market on U.S. Highway 19E.
Brother Ward and Brother Marshall will be standing by the tent door around 7 p.m. waiting to offer you a hand.
The idea of worshiping in a tent is not a new one, Ward said. "In the Old Testament, the first tabernacle was made out of a tent. It was a time when the children of Israel moved a lot, so they made it out of a tent. ... When the Lord told them to move, they would just take down the tabernacle and move it" with them.
"The reason why we do tent meetings is because it kind of takes the walls of the church down. You have people from all different kinds of denominal backgrounds. Folks that wouldn't ever go into a church will go into a tent because it seems more open. ...
"A tent meeting, you can have all across the board -- Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostal -- Church of God, Apostolic, and Assemblies of God. They'll all seem to come to a tent meeting. It's a real good evangelistic tool. A lot of people get saved in tent meetings," Ward said.
Thursday night, one man rededicated his life to the Lord. "The night before that, we had a man come that had been living on the street. He came and gave his life to the Lord. Somebody brought him," Ward said.
The main reason for the tent revival is to bring back old-time religion. "We feel like the church has come a long way -- but they've gone the wrong way, and they've left Bible principles. We feel like they've left the main part out," said Marshall, who felt called to tent evangelism for years following a divine visitation from God.
"Yeah, sure," skeptics might say. But God's ways are not man's ways, said Marshall, who expects most folks to be skeptical. "I know people wouldn't believe this, but it still happened. It was early on, probably about six months after I was saved. There was just a visible manifestation of the power of God."
A cloud of smoke filled the room he was in, he said, and "the Lord spoke to me and told me that He had called me to preach and that He was giving me a deliverance ministry for drug addicts and alcoholics and people who are bound by demonic forces.
"He also told me that I have certain gifts, and that I will be able to detect diseases with certain vibrations in my hands. I've not experienced that yet, but I anticipate that it will as we grow," he said.
Marshall and Ward both worked out of local churches for years before being led to begin their own ministry, which they have done for the past year.
Marshall said one of the things God promised He would do is "use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."
"And you know, He's not calling many people that are wise in the wisdom of natural intellect, but He's calling drug addicts -- like I was -- to bring forth the gospel and tell the people that they can be delivered and set free."
In his testimony Thursday night, Marshall told the crowd: "I started using drugs when I was 11 years old, and then by the time I was 13 years old, I was selling dope -- I was selling a lot of dope. I was locked up three different times in a juvenile institution.
"By the time I was 17 years old, I was an IV drug addict. Didn't have no respect for myself or nobody else. Did whatever it took to get that kick."
Marshall's mother brought him up in a Pentecostal Church. "And being around a body of believers, praise God, my mamma was moved with compassion," he said.
One day, he was lying on he couch. "I had had too much morphine, too many Valiums. My mother looked at me, and she said, 'There's no hope for you.'
"Still yet, she went into her prayer closet the next day and shut the door and prayed to an awesome God," who had promised his mother that her son had been called to preach.
"I heard her pray. I was in the bathroom. I had the door shut and I was trying to find a vein. I was shooting morphine. I was a morphine addict," Marshall said.
But he fell under such conviction he couldn't complete the act. It was then he realized that he was bound and there was no way to escape.
"I realized that drugs had took me over. ... I felt that drugs was my life and that it was all that I would ever know. But I began to have a desire to be delivered. I began to have a desire to change.
"I tried to stop shooting morphine. I could not do it. There were some days that I was successful, but most days I was bound. Most days I was back in the same old gutter that I was in the previous days," he said.
He went to his probation officer and told her that he was a drug addict and needed help. She directed him to a mental health center and places such as Narcotics Anonymous.
"I was going to these support groups and I would say, 'My name is Scott Marshall. I'm a drug addict.' I would see people there in my condition, and I would leave there saying, 'This is not for me.'
"I said all that to say this: You can be a reformed drug addict and you'll always go back to it. But if you've ever been transformed by the power of God, you'll never go back to it. Hallelujah!"
During the tent revival, it will not be uncommon to hear someone "speaking unto God in an unknown tongue." Or people shouting, "responding to the spirit of God that they feel," said Marshall.
There also might be instances where some in the prayer line fall to the ground after being "slain by the spirit of God" as they come up for deliverance and the men and women of God lay hands on them and pray for them.
Marshall said he and Ward have attended tent meetings where people were "brought in from the insane asylums and chained to the tent posts. And when the power of God came, they cast the devils out of them."
Ward felt called to preach in 1985, under pastor Curtis Woods. "We did home prayer meetings. We'd go to different people's houses and just preach," he said. In 1987, he bought the tent and today's outdoor ministry began. The Day of Deliverance Revival Center opened its doors in 1991 in Johnson City.
Pastor Carl Moody of the Spirit of Elijah Church in Johnson City attended Thursday's tent meeting. He was there not only to lend his support, but to ask for prayer.
"Understand that I've been going through something," he said, and asked the crowd: "Has everybody been going through something? Has the devil been telling you what you can do? What you don't do?"
Moody said he, too, had been doubting himself, but then he remembered: "I can do any and all things through Christ Jesus who strengthenth me.
"Hallelujah!" he shouted.
"What I'm asking for tonight is prayer. Because I found that we don't have a tendency to pray for one another. We say, 'I'm going to pray for you,' but by the time I turn my back," that thought is gone, and "I'm trying to figure out how to get to the nearest McDonald's because they've got a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich special right now. Hallelujah!
"We've really got to get to a point where we truly say, 'I'll pray for you' ... and then pray for you.
"Pray for me," he said.
Another thing church-goers might find different at the tent meeting is that the traditional "passing of the hat" doesn't occur until the end of the meeting.
"That way people see that we're really trying to help them and really trying to minister to their special needs to try to win the lost. Then they feel more comfortable about giving to ministries that are trying to help the community and trying to give back," Ward said.
"I've been to tent revivals where they would receive more than one offering, but we try to be careful not to give people the wrong impression.
"You hear a lot of talk about people 'in things just for the money,' but we're not. We're in it for the souls. Of course, we have financial needs, too. But we believe that if we put God first, then He will lay it on the people to help us financially. The Lord always makes a way," he said.