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Revival Services

REVIVALS

Worldwide Great Commission Fellowship regularly holds revival services.  What is revival?

Revival Meeting 

A revival meeting is a series of Christian religious services held in order to inspire active members of a religious body and to gain new converts. These meetings are usually conducted by members of American Protestant churches and those educated or influenced by them; missionary works of such churches often conduct revivals in Africa and India.

 
Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875), called "America's foremost revivalist", was a major leader of the Second Great Awakening in America that had a profound impact on the history of the United States.
 
Generally speaking, a revival meeting consists of several consecutive nights of services conducted at the same time and location each night, most often the building belonging to the sponsoring congregation but sometimes a rented secular assembly hall, for more adequate space or an attempt to appeal to the unchurched in a setting that will presumably be less intimidating to them. Tents were very frequently employed in this effort in the recent past, and occasionally still are, but less so due to the difficulties in heating and cooling them and otherwise making them comfortable, an increasing consideration with modern audiences.
 
The focus at revival meetings can often be on the sermon, which is usually delivered by a well-known minister from outside the immediate area in which the meeting is being held in order to enhance the event as "special". Most sermons are designed to evoke a visible response from the audience, either to make an initial commitment to follow Jesus or to repent from sins committed since that commitment was initially made.
 
The length of such meetings varies. Until the last quarter-century they were frequently a week or more in duration, especially in the Southern United States. Currently three or four days is more typical, although occasionally some are still held, especially in Pentecostal groups, "according to Holy Spirit time", that is until the visible results seem to slow or stop and attendance dwindles.
 
Most groups holding revival meetings tend to be of a conservative or fundamentalist nature, although the phenomenon is far from unheard of in Mainline groups, which used to conduct them with a far greater frequency and fervor in some instances than is now fashionable. Similar events may be referred to as "crusades", especially when a particularly noted speaker like Billy Graham or Oral Roberts is involved.
 
In the Church of Christ such events are almost invariably referred to as gospel meetings rather than revival meetings. This group is one of the most likely to conduct such events in the 21st century. For the most part, aside from the large, spectacular "crusades", most American Protestant groups other than Baptists and Pentecostals have become less active in holding revival meetings in recent years, but some of the vacuum has been filled by similar activities hosted by non-denonominational community churches, most of which are conservative in theology. Many revivals are attempts to catch much of the flavor and fervor of the camp meeting without exposing their participants to the physical rigors of such an experience.
 
Camp meeting
 
The Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove, New Jersey
 
The Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove, New Jersey
A watercolor painting of a camp meeting circa 1839 (New Bedford Whaling Museum).
 
A watercolor painting of a camp meeting circa 1839 (New Bedford Whaling Museum).

 

The camp meeting is a phenomenon of American frontier Christianity. The movement of thousands of persons to what had previously been trackless wilderness in the 18th century in America had led to something of a religious vacuum. Not only were there few authorized houses of worship, there were even fewer ordained ministers to fill their pulpits. The "camp meeting" was an innovative response to this situation. Word of mouth told that there was to be a religious meeting at a certain location. Due to the primitive means of transportation, if this meeting was to be more than a few miles' distance from those attending, it would necessitate their leaving home for its entire duration, or as long as they desired to remain, and camping out at or near its site, as usually there were neither adequate accommodations or the funds necessary to obtain them. At a large camp meeting, many came from over a large area, some out of sincere religious devotion or interest, others out of curiosity and a desire for a break from the arduous frontier routine, although many in this latter group often became sincere converts as well.

An engraving of a Methodist camp meeting in 1819 (Library of Congress).
 
An engraving of a Methodist camp meeting in 1819 (Library of Congress).

 

Freed from their daily routines for the duration of the meeting, unlike traditional religious events these meetings could provide their participants with almost continuous services; once one speaker was finished (often after several hours) another would often rise to take his place. These sorts of meetings were huge contributing factors to what became known as the Second Great Awakening. A particularly large and successful one was held at Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801, where the Restoration Movement began to be formalized. They gained wide recognition and a substantial increase in popularity in the aftermath of the American Civil War as a result of the first Holiness movement Camp Meeting in Vineland, New Jersey in 1867. Ocean Grove, New Jersey, founded in 1869, has been called the "Queen of the Victorian Methodist Camp Meetings."

In 1815 in what is now Toronto, Ohio, the Rev. J. M. Bray, pastor of the Sugar Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, began an annual camp meeting that, in 1875, became interdenominational upon its purchase by what is now the Hollow Rock Holiness Camp Meeting Association. The association, which still runs the camp, claims that it is the oldest Christian camp meeting in continual existence in the United States.[1]
Camp meetings in America continued to be conducted for many years on a wide scale and some are still held today, primarily by Pentecostal groups but by some other Protestants as well. The revival meeting is often felt to be a modern-day attempt to recreate the spirit of the frontier camp meeting.
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