From Mecklenburg county, the revival moved further south into Waxhaw and South Carolina. The next planned meeting took place in May of 1802. By then, reports of the revival had captured the attention of those as far away as New York and London and certainly in the various corners of South Carolina. Many Christians visited from towns and cities outside of the host city, and they would write extensive reports and letters about what they saw. They would often make mention of how critics tried to explain away the experiences of the revival, but none of the explanations could account for all the surprisingly extensive impact of God’s presence.

Pastor Brown, a Presbyterian minister, was placed in charge of the Waxhaw camp meeting. Even though he had a fairly large worship hall in his church, he knew it would be far too small for the expected crowds. He directed his team to clear out and to set up space in a nearby forest area that could accommodate thousands of people and their families. They chose a place that was bordered by a hill in the north and a stream in the south. Within this area, there was a huge vacant field that ran 300 yards by 150 yards, almost the size of 5 football fields. Rows of tents were set up on each side, and room was reserved for the many wagons and carriages that were coming. 

The meeting began on Friday afternoon, May 21st, 1802. More than a dozen ministers gathered to work together for God’s Kingdom, most of them Presbyterians but also many Baptists and Methodists. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least 4000 visitors in attendance, with some estimates as high as 8000. Rev. McCorkel delivered the first sermon to the vast crowd. After they were dismissed, all the ministers spent the rest of the evening and late into the night visiting the folks in their tents to encourage them, worship with them, and pray for them. This was the pattern of ministry that was repeated each night of the revival.

Several worship services were planned each day for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. There was a hunger and eagerness among the people, as well as a sense of serious anticipation of a holy moment in time. Salvation was a topic on everyone’s mind, and even when folks were not in a worship service, they would be singing praises and lifting up their voices in prayer to their God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

During the gatherings, as in the past revivals, the Holy Spirit swept across the crowds and imbued them with a deep conviction of sin, touching even those with the most hardened and immoral reputations. A good number of people demonstrated strong physical responses, with some falling to the ground for minutes or even hours and others shaking uncontrollably. This afflicted not just the poor and the uneducated, but also the defiant atheists, the cynical deists, and highly-trained professionals. After a time, smiles of joy and abundant praise for the goodness of God would follow. The revival in Waxhaw saw many give their lives to Jesus, and many more re-commit themselves to the faith. 

However, there were some negative results. The unusual display of raw emotion and physical reactions drew its share of criticism from journalists and observers. Also, the willingness of the local churches and pastors to work with the various denominations made some leaders angry and suspicious. And Pastor Brown, who helped organize the event, would later be targeted and face censure from within his own church because some believers could not stomach the messiness and unfamiliarity of revival. 

Nonetheless, this revival meeting profoundly touched the attenders that weekend, affecting their day-to-day relationships and eternal destiny. Several guests, who had traveled more than 70 miles to attend, sensed God’s power and presence in that place, and upon their return to their home churches, they saw an extraordinary revival ignite from there. The flames of fresh revival spread out in all directions across the state and into new ones. As one eye-witness writer penned: “(despite the opposition)… the work (of revival) in North Carolina increases greatly!”

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. How would you prepare if you knew God was bringing revival to your community? What would you be willing to sacrifice to pave the way? Does carving out 5 football fields of attendance space seem like too much? How much faith would you bring to the table? 
  2. What catches your attention about this revival in particular? What do you hope will take place in the coming revival?
  3. What kinds of negative fallout do you expect as you partner with God for revival in your hometown area?
  4. How will you participate in the move of God to see revivals increase greatly in your area?

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