Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando churches unite behind ministry's revival

Gary Thomlinson, worship leader from Crusades for Christ, takes the stage for a planning meeting about the September revival.

Special to the Times

Gary Thomlinson, worship leader from Crusades for Christ, takes the stage for a planning meeting about the September revival.

When a ministry in Dixie County called Crusades for Christ contacted local church leaders a few months ago and asked if they would host an old-fashioned tent revival — at the ministry's expense — the idea was certainly appealing.

It was also difficult to believe.

Joe Santerelli, pastor at Hillside Community Baptist Church, was asked to check it out.

"I met with them and shared my concerns," Santerelli said. "I told them when other pastors hear this, they will ask how much it costs and when you say 'nothing,' they will say, 'This sounds too good to be true.' "

But it was true.

What Santerelli learned at that meeting was that the ministry, based in Old Town, would supply a 100- by 200-foot tent, 2,500 folding chairs, a stage, lighting, multimedia equipment and sound equipment — everything needed to conduct a revival, including a smaller tent to be used for counseling.

Crusades for Christ's nondenominational evangelistic team, including evangelist Bill Bozeman and worship leader Gary Thomlinson, would conduct the services. They would pay for the advertising.

The churches' part would be to supply the personnel to make it happen.

"We wanted to make sure their doctrine and views were legitimate, so we had several meetings with them," Santerelli said. "After we felt comfortable, we opened it up to other churches, and they have really taken the lead."

In fact, Santerelli said, they contacted the county ministerial associations and every church in the phone directory.

Three planning meetings have been held, with about 50 representatives from more than a dozen churches in attendance at the most recent one two weeks ago.

"There is a diverse representation on heads of committees to make it all happen," Santerelli said.

Committee heads thus far include Santerelli as coordinator, Dave Steadman (Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church) for counseling, Jim Keller (Spring Hill Fellowship Community Church) for parking/security, Bob Gant (First Baptist of Masaryktown) for ushers, Joe Heidler (Turning Point Church of the Nazarene) for set-up/teardown, Matt Ellis (First Baptist of Brooksville) for prayer, Sherral Grossi (Springs of Life Family Church) for music and Carl Brown (Community Bible Church) for advertising.

The committee recently arranged for the use of a parcel of land that would be convenient to both sides of the county, across from Brooksville Regional Hospital, and have set dates for the event for Sept. 26-30. Times will be determined later.

Two weeks prior to the Hernando County event, Crusades for Christ will conduct a tent revival in Lecanto.

The founder of the ministry, Joe H. Anderson Jr., owner of one of the largest road construction companies in the Southeast, Anderson Columbia, attended revival services in a tent in Lecanto 10 years ago.

"He came every night, and his son later got saved at a tent revival," Santerelli said, explaining Anderson's reason for starting the ministry. "He wanted to do something that the Lord laid on his heart. He just wants to be no burden on the local church and have the churches work together and proclaim Christ."

Carlos Perez, chaplain for Anderson Columbia, said the revival in Lecanto will be the first one for the ministry.

"The one in Brooksville will be No. 2," he said.

Ellis, who introduced the idea of the revival to the Brooksville Ministerial Association, said when he first heard about the proposal, something resonated in his heart.

"In so many of our churches it's about religion and not about the relationship that God meant it to be," Ellis said. "Unfortunately, quite a few people in the pew have kind of forgotten what we're here for. So we're praying that with this crusade, God would be pleased to give us the ability to genuinely repent, if there's an attitude or sins that are blocking his blessing us, and then have an attitude of obedience and surrendering ourselves to him — and getting back to what Christianity is all about."

Ellis hopes the crusade and its planning meetings will speak to all denominations.

Brown, who set up a website about the event at, shares that hope.

"I'm excited that the event will be nondenominational and hopefully will involve dozens of churches," he said. "I believe this is a God thing. This ministry has a burden that the church needs revived. There are people out there who don't know Christ and are lost and just floundering in life. But it's also to revive the Christians in the church."

The details of special services for youths and other events are still in the planning stage. But the basic plan is to have a joint community choir, lots of music, preaching and an invitation, Santerelli said.

"It's going to be very evangelical, very Christ-centered," he said.

An offering will be taken each night to help further the ministry and so that it can recoup some of the expenses.

Santerelli hopes the revival will be similar to ones in the United States during the 1700s and 1800s.

"When the old revivals came up during the First and Second Great Awakenings, bars closed and churches opened. That should be the result we see — a changing community," he said. "Then you know the spirit of God has worked among you."

Fast facts

To learn more

For information and a list of planning meetings for the Crusades for Christ revival in September, visit or call Pastor Joe Santerelli at (352) 799-0687. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 10 at Fellowship Community Church, 12250 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill. A meal will be served; reply by calling (352) 799-0687.

Hernando churches unite behind ministry's revival 05/28/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 28, 2010 7:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    Attorney David Eaton poses in front of his rental home at 899 72nd Ave. North. in St. Petersburg. He's among a growing number of property owners who see more value in renting out unused homes than selling them. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. In a word, Hernando school leaders say, first day was 'smooth'


    Over and over on Monday, school district leaders used the same word to describe the unfolding of the first day of school in Hernando County.


    Third-graders Teagan Ferguson, left, and Brianna DeLaine deliver attendance figures to the office at J.D. Floyd Elementary School on Monday. Superintendent Lori Romano and other district administrators toured a handful of schools and classrooms throughout the day,
  3. Looking Back: Diana, America's Princess


    The Washington Post, in her obituary, called her "the most photographed woman in the world." She was loved in England for saying, after her divorce from Prince Charles, "I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts." Americans loved her for her work with charitable causes supporting victims of AIDS and landmines. Aug. 31 …

    Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day.

(AP Photo)
  4. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays


    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of …

    Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.
  5. Unborn baby dies, two critically injured in Largo crash


    LARGO — Two people were critically injured and an unborn baby was killed in a crash that shut down an intersection on Ulmerton Road late Wednesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.