I am going to talk in past tense about this because I am writing from my memories. Whatever I might say in no way insinuates revivals are anything less today. But my memories are from a different time.
Summer revivals had two main purposes. The most important purpose was to see people give their hearts to the Lord and be saved. The second was for the church members to clean our lives up and try and live a little closer to the cross.
It was kind of like making a New Year’s resolution, but totally different. It occurred in the summer and it was about your spiritual life, not the carnal.
A church’s revival always took place on the same week each summer. This allowed people to plan their vacations around it. That’s right. Some people actually took a vacation week to attend.
The services would begin on a Sunday night and end the following Saturday night. And there were two services a day. That’s a lot of preaching and praying.
I don’t remember this but have been told that there was a time that the cotton mill would actually shut down so employees could attend revival at North Canton Baptist Church.
During the period this occurred, Canton Textile Mills had to be the largest employer in Cherokee County. Can you imagine that happening today? I can’t.
For that matter, some churches have had to change their week of revival that they had in place for many years to accommodate the new school calendar. Say what you will, but that would not have happened in days past and gone.
There was no time limit or program for the services. It lasted until the last prayer had been prayed. Some people would pray and get saved quickly. For others, it took a little longer. Sometimes the services would last well into the night. But no one was in a hurry. For there was nowhere more important to be than there.
On one particular revival night about 30 years ago, Monroe Gunter was our pastor. The service had already ended and most folks were standing outside talking.
A woman came up to Monroe and told him she wanted to accept Christ but she just didn’t know how to go about it. Monroe started talking with her and within a few minutes, he commenced to preaching right there in the parking lot.
It was a sight to see. I have always looked up to Monroe as a mentor; but never more than I did in that moment. He was tired and exhausted. But he surrendered himself to one greater than us all.
When this happened, the congregation made their way back into the church. Monroe kept preaching and the woman knelt and kept praying. Other also prayed while some sang hymns from the red book.
Now, the red book was a common book in country Baptist churches full of church hymnals. Many of you reading this already know that without my explanation.
I don’t remember if the woman got saved that night or not. But I will always remember the love Monroe showed her on this night. Better yet, I will always remember being a part of this spiritual occurrence that didn’t happen often, if ever before, at our church.
I hear people talk about the good old days when there would be dozens of folks saved and baptized at revivals. I have even seen pictures of this with people lined up to get in the baptizing pool.
But you don’t hear much of that happening today if at all. Sometimes after a week of these services there will be no new converts. Sometimes there will be a handful. But you don’t hear about dozens anymore. Yet I hope we give thanks for every single one.
Has God changed? I’m pretty sure he hasn’t.
But we have changed as a society. The priorities of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were different than that of ours. For most, church wasn’t an option but a way of life.
I have failed miserably at leading a Christian life. I only hope my failures haven’t deterred others from believing in God.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.