Editor's Note: As the end of 2018 approaches, Charisma is looking back at the major events of the year, from Billy Graham's death to sexual assault stories to wildfires to the historic North Korea summit and everything in between. The following is one of our top stories of the year. The information presented in the story was accurate at the time of reporting. Continue to follow Charisma News for all the latest updates for these stories and more.
This article was published August 16th.
During Christ Fellowship's 21-day fast in January, Pastor Todd Smith said God gave him a vision of the church's baptistry. The baptism pool was full, and there was a strip of fire on top of the water.
Shortly after, Smith says, God "Sat down in our building and rocked our world." And, revival and the manifest presence of God has been evident ever since in the small charismatic church in Dawsonville, Georgia.
Physical healings, deliverance and more than 500 baptisms have taken place during Sunday-night services at Christ Fellowship for the past six months. Smith says people have come from hundreds of miles to "walk into that water and feel the presence of the Lord."
"And that's what it is all about, the hunger just to feel God's presence," says Smith, who has pastored Christ Fellowship for eight years. "People want to be healed, and they want to be whole. God spoke to me and said 'Todd, I am going to baptize people here with both water and fire.' The encounter has been so strong and so forceful that I can't articulate it."
Christ Fellowship, with about 300 to 400 regular attendees, sees its Sunday-night services swell to 600 at times, with individuals and churches traveling in from all parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee to connect with the presence of God. A handful of local pastors and some nationally known evangelists have taken turns preaching the Sunday night services.
But then, visiting evangelist Pat Schatzline says, the worship and sermons are only a prelude to the manifestation of God's power when an altar call and an invitation to be baptized are made.
"What's happening is, when people get into that baptismal tank, they are getting either radically saved or restored," says Schatzline, co-author with his wife, Karen, of the book Rebuilding the Altar. "They are coming out shaking under the power of God. Some even have to be helped out of the tank because they are shaking so much. It's not like anything I've ever seen before.
"We've seen people delivered from addictions like drugs and seen many, many radical healings take place. The Holy Spirit's presence is so thick, and it's all for His glory. It has absolutely nothing to do with us, and that's what's so beautiful. Nobody takes any ownership in this."
Schatzline has preached multiple times during the Sunday-night revival at Christ Fellowship and is scheduled to do so again this Sunday evening.
Prior to the beginning of the revival, Smith says Christ Fellowship conducted only a handful of baptisms each month. Since February, he says, it is not uncommon for more than 40 to be baptized in a single service, pushing the service well past midnight in many cases.
The volume of baptisms didn't take hold right away. But they quickly multiplied as the power of God manifested and people became hungry for healing. One Sunday night, Smith said, 69 people were baptized.
"The fame of His name and what He was doing in those waters began to spread," Smith said. "When we would give the invitation, you would see 30 or 40 people walk to the front to get baptized. The power of God was violent in the water. People would thrash around. Fire confronts what is going on in their lives. It's unlike anything I've ever seen in my life. And, it has nothing to do with us as a church or any personalities involved. It's simply God's presence and His power."
Many individuals have been physically healed of ailments plaguing them for years. Smith says the church is careful to record them and follow up on them with health care professionals so as not to minimize God's glory.
- A woman in her 60s had a condition from childhood that required medication, the side effects of which depleted the bone in her mouth causing tooth and bone loss. The woman responded to a word of knowledge during a Sunday-morning service, and soon after, her dentist told her she had experienced a 30-percent increase in bone where there had been no bone before. The dentist called it a miracle.
- A young girl who had been born with an extra bone in an area of her foot that caused the foot to twist to the side and limited her ability to run noticed during a Sunday-night worship service that she could put her foot flat on the floor for the first time. The girl, who was scheduled to have surgery to correct the condition, walked without pain. Her mother took her to the doctor, and he confirmed the condition no longer existed and canceled all plans for surgery.
- A young adult with a lifelong condition of psoriasis stepped into the baptismal pool to assist another recipient of baptism. A short while later, he looked down and saw that all the psoriasis on his foot and elbows had disappeared, leaving only a faint pink outline. Before this, the condition was so severe that it bled at times. The man's family and congregation members confirmed the condition of his skin prior to the event.
- A lady who had suffered with debilitating cluster migraines for 20-plus years—a condition that kept her confined to bed for days at a time—stepped into the baptistry during a service. She became healed, and she confirms she has been migraine-free for six months.
And those are only a few of the physical healings that have taken place at Christ Fellowship's Sunday-night services since February. Smith says there have even been people watching the live streaming of a service on Facebook who have fallen under the conviction to drive to the church and get baptized.
"We had one woman come to pick up her sister from the service," Smith says. "She walked into the door, and she fell under the conviction and got baptized. It was amazing."
For skeptics who might doubt what is taking place at Christ Fellowship Church, Smith has only one exhortation.
"I implore people to come and see, come and experience this for themselves," Smith says. "Come and talk to the people whose lives have been changed. There is nothing logical about it. It's kinda irrational, as a matter of fact. It doesn't make sense in the natural.
"Jesus walked on water, and that doesn't make sense. People defy death, and that doesn't make sense. That's what makes it so intriguing and so wonderful."
Shawn A. Akers is a content development editor at Charisma Media.
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