Even though the First Great Awakening peaked by the 1770’s, the Methodist circuit riders carried the flames of revival forward and into the most remote settlements for many years afterwards. Evangelists from other denominations, led by the Spirit, also preached revival in the new communities. These leaders’ faithfulness would provide a vital connection to God’s next powerful move as the Second Great Awakening was stirred up in the early 1800’s. 

North Carolina would be the hometown and training ground for the revivalist James McGready. McGready was born in Pennsylvania in 1763, but his family moved early on to Guilford County, in the north-central portion of North Carolina. Growing up in a Presbyterian church, young McGready demonstrated great earnestness to grow closer to his Savior. He later was formally educated in Pennsylvania during the 1780’s, and he was deeply impacted by revival preachers who taught on unwavering personal holiness and deep commitment to God. 

In 1793, he was assigned to minister at the Stony Creek and Haw River churches in North Carolina. He preached fierce messages against sin and promoted purity in the lives of believers. This sometimes led to violent reactions, and one day a troublemaker burned his pulpit and threatened bodily harm to him if he continued. By 1796, McGready was inundated by feelings of failure in the midst of spurts of revival. But God next opened up for him an opportunity to go to the wild and lawless frontier town in Logan County, Kentucky. 

McGready firmly believed that prevailing prayer was the key to unlocking revival. So, before he left the Carolinas, he shored up commitments from many North Carolina churches to pray persistently and relentlessly that God would bring revival to Kentucky. Once he established a small congregation in Logan County, he impressed upon the local members also the urgency to personally commit to prayer for a mighty move of God to come. 

In June of 1800, under McGready’s leadership, the first flames of a new awakening ignited among those gathered for worship at Red River, bringing repentance, re-commitments, and many new salvations. Notably, people often were overcome by the Spirit so greatly that they demonstrated intense emotions and sometimes unusual physical reactions. Soon, other camp meetings sprung up and attracted thousands upon thousands of hungry or curious listeners, who inevitably encountered God and experienced His presence. The well-known Cane Ridge camp revival broke out in late 1801 and saw the Spirit of God poured out on tens of thousands of people. It was the threshold event that burgeoned into the 2nd Great Awakening in America. 

This new awakening would spread out to many other states in the coming years. In retrospect, although the major catalyst event that launched this mighty revival took place in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, there is no doubt that North Carolina played an essential role. She was the place of spiritual nurture and the training ground for the key revivalist McGready, and the Carolina churches laid the foundations for the future awakening through their unflinching commitment to passionate prayer for a fresh Spirit outpouring.

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. How did God prepare McGready to be a future revivalist? What are some of the ways God has prepared you for your current ministry (whatever that may be)? Did God do anything particular during your childhood to sharpen you and refine you for the responsibilities you have now?
  2. What do you admire about McGready and his life story? What is one key lesson you can take away from his ministry journey?
  3. Is there an area of difficulty in your life that requires supernatural breakthrough? Are there others you know who you can enlist to pray for this breakthrough? What is keeping you from doing so?

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