“Baptist In America: A History “
Thomas S. Kidd
Shawn Bateman, Misionary to Argentina
May 23, 2018
This is written about the revival and explosive church growth that the Baptist churches experienced in Tennessee and Kentucky in the early 1800’s.
WORD SPREAD BACK east of the remarkable work going on in the West, and the news helped precipitate more revivals. Lemuel Burkitt of North Carolina’s Bertie Baptist Church traveled to Tennessee and Kentucky, witnessing the scenes there and reporting them to the Kehukee Baptist Association.
The association meeting itself became awakened, and then the participants “carried the sacred fire home to their churches.” Burkitt and his fellow pastor Jesse Read observed several key characteristics of these revivals. One was congregational singing. Burkitt had published pamphlets with hymns he had brought back from his western tour, distributing about six thousand copies. Meetings opened and closed with singing, and at the end of services ministers would often make their way through the still-singing audience, shaking hands. As simple as it might seem, Burkitt and Read noted that some converts registered this tender moment as the beginning of their journey to salvation.
During the great revival, Baptists also prayed at the front of the church for those under conviction of sin. (Some churches would later formalize this practice with the placement of an “anxious seat” near the pulpit.) Burkitt and Read said that at large meetings, as many as two or three hundred might come forward at once, pressing in to get close to the pastor. Similarly, great spectacles of baptism drew many toward conversion: sometimes, “while the [baptismal] candidates were relating their experience, the audience would be in floods of tears, and some almost convulsed.” Often groups of fifteen or twenty would be baptized in one service at a river or pond. Those receiving baptism would march into the water, singing a song like the oft-anthologized “Come, all ye mourning souls, who seek rest in Jesus’ love.”