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Five and a half years after revival marked by twirling and jumping broke out in rural Missouri at the Smithton Community Church (SCC), its pastor and two-thirds of the congregation have relaunched their revival at the new World Revival Church (WRC) in the more populous Kansas City. But some members who stayed behind in Smithton feel disillusioned and are disturbed because they have lost their church.

"We wanted more of God," says Jerry Spencer, 56, a former lay leader of the defunct SCC. "Unfortunately, we surrendered our lives to a movement and a man's revival."

WRC pastor Steve Gray says that from 1996 to 2000, the years of the revival in the Missouri town of 532, Smithton Community Church recorded a total attendance of 250,000. In January, World Revival Church opened its new 25,000-square-foot building, with seating for 1,800, situated on 62 acres.

Edith Blumhofer, director of Wheaton College's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, says the revival's relocation is surprising in its scale. "People who jump at a religious movement with enthusiasm do what it takes to be fully immersed in it," she says. "But for a whole church body to move is unusual, especially from a rural to urban setting."

In reality, 32 of SCC's 100 families decided not to move the 90 miles to Kansas City. Several members stopped attending SCC before the relocation, saying they saw no point in attending a church that was going to shut down.

"They were disgruntled before the move, and that played a heavy role in the decision to move," Gray says.

Gray's nonprofit corporation, Jubilation Ministries, is leasing the former SCC building to the town of Smithton, for $1, as a youth activity center.

Spencer and his wife, Debbie, left the church in 1999, ...

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Smithton Revival: Revival's Relocation Pits Pastor Against Alienated ...
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October 1, 2001

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