By Tom Shanklin
In July, I preached a barn revival at Shawn and Maria Johnson’s farm near Pipestone, MN. You may ask—what is a barn revival? It is a Gospel meeting held in a barn or farm building. This one was held in a machine shed which is normally used to repair and maintain Shawn’s tractors which he uses for his agricultural business. We had a wonderful time preaching on the Prodigal Son, who was a young man from a farm family, who got tired of his family and farming and left home to seek the pleasures of this world. Like the Prodigal Son, several people of all ages came forward to make decisions for the Lord at the revival.
These barn revivals have a rich history going back to 1984 when a dairy farmer named Rich DeRuyter of Ruthton, MN, made a decision to give His life to Jesus while kneeling on a hay bail in his barn. He had been listening to radio evangelist Henry Vanderbush each Sunday morning while milking his cows and had become convicted of his sins and doubtful about his eternal destiny. After kneeling on that bail of hay, things began to radically change for Rich DeRuyter, and he began to look for a place for Evangelist Vanderbush to come and speak in his community. Unable to find a suitable location, Rich’s thoughts turned homeward. He decided to hold the meetings in a pole shed he had constructed on his farm. Henry came, over 100 people showed up for that first meeting, and many were saved (including Rich’s wife Fran) and many were healed.
After that Henry insisted that Rich begin holding Bible studies in his home to nurture those who had received Christ. Henry came and taught the Bible studies for some time. Out of that Bible study, the Country Church of Ruthton was birthed and Pastor Rich and Fran DeRuyter lead that work today.
From that time, barn revivals became a part of Henry Vanderbush’s regular summer itinerary. He held them not only in western Minnesota but all over the upper Midwest. Last year Henry went home to be with the Lord, but his legacy of home-baked humor and no-nonsense Gospel preaching continues today. Pastor Rich and Fran have written a book about their experiences of coming to Christ, holding barn revivals, and seeing lives changed. It’s called “God, a Farmer, and a Bale of Hay” and you can order it on Amazon.com.