Monday, February 20, 2017

Tent Revivals and Awakening

I remember the smell of sawdust. The humid southern evenings. The funeral home hand-fans everywhere. Watching cars pull into the vacant fields. I remember my father, having put up the tent during the weekend, greet folks from all over the county he was in at the time, as they piled in for an old-fashioned tent revival. Mostly, I remember the sawdust! It was second heaven for a little boy with a handful of plastic army men playing under my mom’s chair on the front row. I also remember the altar calls! That was when the excitement was, really, intense! If you’ve never been to an old-fashioned tent revival or a camp-meeting, you missed a cultural phenomenon. I’ve often wondered what a real tent revival would look like in my culture in the 21st century. The last one I was a part of was in 2014 following my father’s sudden death and it really became a powerful time of healing for so many of people in our community who were reeling in the loss of a legendary revival-time preacher.

I guess the real reason for this writing is something that I’ve been praying
about and really asking God for over the last year, in particular. My dear friend, Glenda Orme Clark, wrote a book that covered the second great awakening, historically, in our region of the country. (here is a link to her great book) This book gives context to much that I’m writing now.
I receive a lot of requests from people wanting tent revivals and it got me to thinking… For those of us who are, truly, hungry for a move of God there are a few obstacles we must deal with. 
First, if we won’t attend our houses of worship faithfully, where we have comfortable seats, air-conditioning and state of the art facilities for our kids, not to mention the coffee bar in the lobby, why would you expect a meeting under a tent to meet your needs? Port-a-johns, Tennessee humidity, mosquitoes, your kids, actually, sitting with you during the, sometimes, several hour-long services… I could make a longer list, but I think you get the idea. Many would say,” there’s just something about being under that tent!”. I understand the sentiment but it is just that… sentiment. The reality is that where hungry people gather to cry out to a holy God, He will show up and He will awaken their hearts. I love the idea of tent meetings but not for sentiments sake.  Perhaps, we should take our eyes off the conveniences of modern church and begin to get back to the basics of committing our lives to “the way”.  Bottom line… We are spoiled.
Second, stop blaming the millennials for the woes of the local church.  Although there are issues within this age group let us not forget who raised these young men and women! I want to point out one more thing before I finish this writing. I see a hunger and desire for a real move of God in this generation that has been, largely, absent in mine.  I’m seeing young adults gathering outside and around campfires worshiping God. Gathering in living rooms, barns and coffee shops looking for the supernatural power of God for their lives. Perhaps the biggest step we can take is to come alongside these spiritually hungry millennials and learn from them as we allow them to learn from us.  As we get older we, simply, think that we know the ins and outs of life but, in reality, my generation could learn a lot from the passion of this younger, more open generation.

I will never forget the smell of the sawdust…

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