Old time revivals
By A. Ray Lee
Years ago when the farm crops were laid by in mid-July it was revival time at Lebanon. Folks who did not darken the church door at any other time during the year, except for an occasional funeral, came to services which usually continued for a week and sometimes two if the Spirit was moving among the people. Revival was a social as well as a spiritual event. Families came early to visit with their neighbors and often tarried long after the final amen.
Morning services were primer sessions for church members often featuring testimonies of faith. One dear old granny shouted loudly to the glory of God. Night sessions lasted two hours or more preceded by group prayer meetings in which the names of certain lost people were lifted before God beseeching their salvation.
The services were spirited. Old hymns and choruses were enthusiastically sung. Preaching was long and loud. There was usually a mason jar filled with fresh well water on the podium for the evangelist to refresh his voice midway through his sermon. There were no air conditioners or electric fans to cool the stifling air. As the room temperature rose with the volume of the evangelist and the urgency of his message, handheld fans provided by a funeral home or local business swished from side to side in unison with the preaching.
Each service concluded with an extended emotional invitation calling sinners to repentance and back-sliders to a renewal of faith. On a Sunday afternoon, not long after revival services were over, converts were baptized in an abandoned rock quarry filled with spring water. Often there were ten or more going down into the baptismal waters as a testimony to their new faith in Jesus. At an early age, I entered those waters myself.
I had responded to an invitation to come unto Jesus in one of the services. I cannot remember who the evangelist may have been or the sermon which he preached. The wages of sin could have been graphically presented. More likely it was a compassionate exposition of John 3:16 showing the depth of the love of God that compelled Him to offer up his only son on my behalf.
One thing I have vividly remembered from that long ago revival. My eyes had focused upon a picture of Christ on the cross on the wall behind the pulpit making his love so real I could feel his presence. It was as if Jesus materialized from the life-sized painting and came to me saying “I love you” as he took me into his arms. In response to that love, I began a journey of faith that has spanned many decades. My journey in faith is nearing its final destination. The lights of the Holy City are shining brightly guiding me forward. I invite you to travel with me as I press onward to the “prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus”