The fierce revival fires that began in the camp meetings in Kentucky in 1800 could not be contained there. It quickly spread to the Carolinas as the 2nd Great Awakening surged into full flame on the western frontier of the United States. All the years of committed prayer – all the heartfelt longing of God’s people – were now being answered in the early 1800’s. An outpouring of revival would inevitably sweep across North Carolina and stir up old wells of revival in the Mecklenburg county region. 

When people saw God’s power and presence in the Kentucky camp meetings in 1800, those present knew that this was it: God was releasing a new wave of a mighty spiritual awakening. Camp meetings were planned in various counties in North Carolina. Back in those days, Christians did not have the opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Supper often. People might have to wait months before they could take Communion together. The revivalists and pastors coordinated the meetings to give people a chance to take the Lord’s Supper and also see how God was moving powerfully in their midst. 

The first of these meetings took place in Alamance County, just east of modern-day Greensboro. It began in August of 1801 at the local Cross Roads church, with many leaders filled with earnest anticipation of the Spirit’s outpouring. And so, the crowds gathered. The messages were preached. Songs were sung. But the first few days seemed to fall flat as folks responded very little. On the last day, Monday, August 31st, the main speaker rose to speak, but he felt so overwhelmed by disappointment that he quickly sat back down, silent. Then, another minister, an eye-witness of the recent revivals in Kentucky, stood up and calmly spoke out: “Stand still and see the salvation of God!” All at once, the crowd was swept over by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sobs and groaning flooded the area. Some people fainted and fell to the ground. Deep conviction of sin and an urgent need for repentance permeated the gathering. The meeting went on in this way, with singing and prayer and joyful salvations, for the rest of the day and then the next few days. Revival had broken out forcefully in North Carolina…

This wave of revival continued to spread westward in early 1802 to Raldolph County, then to Rowan County, then to Iredell County by March of that year. Some of the largest turnouts happened there in Iredell, just 30 miles north of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, with some astounding estimates of up to 12,000 people in attendance. As news of God’s new work of revival spread, people travelled for days through harsh cold weather to join the meeting. Some folks, deeply touched by God at previous meetings, would follow along to the next revival site, eager to experience more of God’s outpouring. All through these meetings, there was a previously unseen amount of unity on display, as congregants and pastors from all denominations worked and worshiped together. And God would also bridge the differences between the races and between the poor and rich. It was something that took the world by surprise, but it pointed all the more to the stunning reality of God during this awakening. 


  1. What surprises you the most about this movement of God as it moved through North Carolina?
  2. Why do you think revivals often spread so quickly and powerfully? What are some of the key elements? What might hinder the spread of revival?
  3. Have you ever felt disappointed by God? What keeps you pressing ahead towards His promises for you?

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