Christianity was waning in the late 1700’s. The growing prosperity of the American frontier was making it easy for settlers to rely on themselves and to forget God. Thankfully, God hadn’t forgotten them!
It all started when God stirred the heart of Barton Warren Stone, pastor of Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church in northern Kentucky. He decided to invite local pastors and congregations to participate in their annual “Sacramental Communion” event, a weekend of preaching, fellowship and worship. Once Christians from neighboring states heard about this meeting, many people from southern Ohio and northern Tennessee also gathered there.
On the first day of the event, Friday, August 6, 1801, as thousands of Christians began to pour into this rural community amidst a downpour of rain, the Cane Ridge Revival was born.
In preparation for Sunday’s communion service, Friday and Saturday was meant to be observed with solemnity, prayer and fasting. Yet soon large numbers of people came under conviction and began to weep, faint, and shriek as God began to revive His people.
Using wagons, fallen trees, or tree stumps as platforms, many preachers, at multiple locations within the camp would passionately speak for God to those in attendance. It was said that people of all ages and denominations, male and female, rich and poor, whites and blacks, those for the meetings and those against them, would fall to the ground as God’s presence, and the conviction for their sin overwhelmed them.
Colonel Robert Patterson, a well-known statesman of Kentucky, described the revival this way. “In order to give you a more just conception of it, suppose so large a congregation assembled in the woods, ministers preaching day and night; the camp illuminated with candles, on trees, at wagons, and at the tent; persons falling down, and carried out of the crowd, by those next to them, and taken to some convenient place, where prayer is made for them, some Psalm or Hymn, suitable for the occasion, sung. If they speak, what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting – many are struck under such exhortations…Now suppose 20 of these groups around; some rejoicing, and great solemnity on every countenance, and you will form some imperfect idea of the extraordinary work!”
Up to twenty-five thousand people eventually attended the Cane Ridge Revival. It continued on for many days and came to be considered the largest and most influential meeting of our nation’s Second Great Awakening. It was estimated that as many as three thousand souls were converted in that meeting. Accordingly, some observers came to call it “America’s Pentecost.”
Camp meetings like the Cane Ridge Revival continued on for several years. By 1811 it was estimated that as many as one-third of all Americans attended at least one such revival meeting!
Two-hundred and some years later, Christianity is waning once again. Most people in America are relying on themselves and have turned their backs on God. Has God turned His back on us? Another Great Awakening is long overdue!