BROOKSVILLE — The evening was warm, the air heavy with humidity.
About 1,400 people were gathered under a massive tent, sitting on folding chairs and fanning themselves with song sheets as they eagerly waited to hear an evangelist from Georgia.
It was the first night of a four-day revival crusade in Lecanto.
During the singing, arms stretched toward the ceiling in a gesture of praise to God.
Hands clapped; toes tapped.
When the preaching started, shouts of "Amen!" and "Preach it, brother!" emanated from the crowd.
Outside, a rainbow arched over the site.
It seemed like a scene from days gone by, when exuberant young evangelists like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham preached in the open air.
That was the scene in Citrus County two weeks ago, when the first part of a two-county revival by Crusades for Christ took place.
At 7 p.m. Sunday, the interdenominational evangelistic event will continue with services each night through Wednesday in Hernando County.
The revival will be under a tent in a large field across from Brooksville Regional Hospital on State Road 50, west of Brooksville.
"The revival is the cooperative effort of many area Christian churches working with the Crusades for Christ evangelism team," said the Rev. Carl Brown of Community Bible Church, who is handling publicity for the event. "This is a unique opportunity to hear the wonderful news of salvation through Jesus Christ and to lead Christians into a deeper walk with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior."
Brown said the idea for the revival originated with a Florida businessman.
"Mr. Joe Anderson is a successful businessman who committed his life to Jesus Christ at the age of 50, and his life was changed dramatically," Brown explained. "Joe's heart is to use his resources to share the good news of the Gospel and to see God's church revived. That is how the revival came into existence."
Anderson's ministry, which is based in Old Town, supplies a 100- by 200-foot tent, 2,500 folding chairs, a stage, lighting, multimedia equipment and sound equipment, plus a smaller tent for counseling. It also pays for advertising.
Members of the nondenominational crusade team who are on site for the crusades include evangelist Bill Bozeman, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; the Rev. Carlos Perez, corporate chaplain for Anderson Columbia Co. Inc. and ministry coordinator for the crusades, and Gary Tomlinson, a former rock musician who now serves as worship leader at several Christian venues, including Crusades for Christ. DeWitt Gibbs plays the keyboard and piano.
"Our motivation as a team is to experience a glorious moving of the Holy Spirit in our local churches and to watch as these churches impact the community," Perez said.
Local churches where crusades are held supply the personnel, including a combined choir.
The two-county event that began in Lecanto is the second crusade venture conducted by the ministry.
Before the first service began, Bozeman said he was looking forward to seeing what God would do.
"This country is sinking faster than an anvil in the middle of the ocean," he told a reporter. "Only God can heal a land. These crusades were started in the mind of God."
Bozeman said he will probably preach about the need for revival among Christians, as he did in Lecanto.
It's a favorite topic for Bozeman, who says he realized at the age of 29 that his lukewarm attitude toward Christianity and his sinful lifestyle indicated that he really wasn't a Christian at all. He received Jesus Christ as his savior at that time and began studying for the ministry. Today, he is the president of the Bill Bozeman Evangelistic Association, based in Savannah, Ga.
"We're in desperate need of revival," Bozeman told the audience in Lecanto. "The problem in America is not America; the real problem is the church in America. As a powerful preacher said in recent times, 'Every problem in the nation was first a problem in the church. If the church was the salt and light that it should be, the nation would not be in the shape it's in today.' "
While an opportunity was given each evening to nonbelievers to become Christians, Bozeman's invitational plea at the end of each service centered on repentance among church members and their need to recommit.
"We need to see some churches on fire for God," Bozeman told the crowd.