March 9, 1831: Evangelist Charles Finney concludes a six-month series of meetings in Rochester, New York.
The meetings, often called “the world’s greatest single revival campaign,” led to the closing of the town’s theater and taverns, a two-thirds drop in crime, and a reported 100,000 conversions.
All I can say is: Wow! Now, mind you, I know a lot of what’s listed was likely short-lived and certainly we’re dependent on the hear-say of 19th century sources. Still, when was the last time you preached or heard preached any sermon that had that kind of effect?
And why haven’t we? Shouldn’t the gospel have that kind of society-changing, behavior-altering impact? When we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t places of ill-repute close down? Or at least have a hiccup in business? Why shouldn’t crime go down? Or as in one story from the Great Awakening, why shouldn’t people suddenly start returning things they stole from work as a first step in Christian living?
Is such change even our goal? Or am I just happy if people keep coming to church and paying their dues?
No, I don’t want to preach just like Finney. But, I wouldn’t mind learning how to preach in such a way that God can touch lives through me like that. Or through you. I’m not greedy. You can get the credit. I’d just like to see the gates of hell tremble a bit in our day and to hear heaven’s angels rejoice as lives are changed in undeniably powerful ways.