The early 1800’s were electrified with God’s presence. Following the Red River revival in Logan County and the Cane Ridge camp meeting, the revival fires of the 2nd Great Awakening surged outward to more frontier states. Many people started to call this the Great Revival. John Rankin was one of several leaders that the revivalist McGready had impacted in North Carolina. Rankin followed McGready to minister in Kentucky and then helped carry the revival fire into eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas. It usually took place in the form of outdoor camp meetings, where thousands of residents would travel afar and be drawn to hear the traveling revivalists.

During these meetings, it would be common to see folks from all walks of life, black and white, young and old, groaning over their sins, collapsed upon the floor, overcome by strong conviction by the Holy Spirit. And some of the crowd who had earlier been the most unruly and disrespectful would find themselves completely laid flat on the ground, praying intensely, and crying out for the Lord’s mercy. As the Gospel was made clear to the listeners, hundreds of people would put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And, sometimes, the Spirit would energize and transform a formerly lost person to get up and share passionately about his faith, or a young child would boldly stand up and exhort the crowd from the Scriptures. It was a kind of religion that these rough frontiers folks had never seen before. 

Camp meetings held in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, in 1802, packed about 5000 people into one location to hear God’s Word. Hundreds of people here too were recorded as spontaneously falling to the ground, crying out to God as they realized their own rebellious hearts, and graciously receiving forgiveness for their sins. One revival, held in Waxhaw, saw thousands of settlers, merchants, and their families come to hear the Gospel, and unprecedented unity was on display as 3 Methodists, 4 Baptists, and 11 Presbyterian ministers joined forces to host this meeting.

The famous Methodist circuit rider Francis Asbury, upon hearing what God was doing at the camp meetings of Kentucky, also rode through North and South Carolina, re-telling the stories of people’s encounters with God. As folks heard these narratives in North Carolina, revival often broke out in response. This mighty move of the Holy Spirit left a lasting impression upon their hearts and in their lives. By January of 1803, Asbury had witnessed at least 3300 people who had been touched profoundly by the awakenings and had joined the church. 

During the Great Revival of the 1800’s, the frontiers of America saw God’s presence sweep through these regions and take them by storm. It was the right time. It was not a time when everything was perfect and peaceful and easy. But it was the right time as God made their hearts ready and hungry for Him. God would build up His church and His Kingdom as people heard the truth of the Gospel presented clearly and encountered the presence of the powerful living God.

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. What do you find most interesting hearing about the camp meetings of the Great Revival?
  2. How does this kind of religion contrast with the kind you grew up with?
  3. How would you describe your current hunger for a God encounter in your life?

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