Let me take you back to a time of evangelical explosion. People gathered under a tent on a summer night, the smell of grass in the air, and sat in tightly-packed rows of chairs for the chance to listen to a man of God present the gospel. The humidity was high and the mosquitos were swarming, but these people made the sacrifice just the same.
In the scenario I described, you might have pictured an old-fashioned meeting like in the days of Billy Graham. Maybe you saw people flooding to the front of the tent to accept Christ as their Savior while a pianist softly played “I Surrender All.” This probably seems very distant and long ago.
But something very similar happened just weeks ago, right here in Conway.
The week of August 28, Grace Baptist Church held an evangelistic tent meeting with the goal of bringing unbelievers to hear the gospel. Each night, a different pastor from surrounding cities came to preach.
As a member of Grace Baptist, I was honored to be able to attend several of those meetings. On Monday night, three teenagers put their faith in Christ, and on Wednesday night, two more souls were saved.
The whole week had the feel of one of those old-fashioned meetings. People gathered outside despite the humidity and swarming insects and they sang hymns and listened as the preacher gave the message.
Tent meetings are far less common than they used to be. Most people my age have probably never attended one.
Why would they be needed? Most churches in America now meet in air-conditioned buildings with comfortable seats, and there is certainly nothing overtly spiritual about meeting in a tent versus meeting in a building, so why would such an event take place?
All that is true, but from what I witnessed, this week of services provided something that was severely needed in the church: motivation. There was an incentive for church members to invite their unsaved family members and friends to come to these meetings because they were unique. Although the whole goal of the church is to reach the lost, having a week specifically dedicated to evangelistic services seemed to spur the people to action.
Should tent meetings become a staple of the evangelistic church once more? Maybe not, but the principle behind it should never be forgotten. We are to shine the light of Christ into the darkness of the world, and this is just one way that we can do that.
Five more people have been saved now because of a week of tent meetings, but many more lost souls still remain. The days of Billy Graham may be past, the methods may have changed, but the goal of the church remains the same. Whether in a tent, on a street corner or in a church building, the gospel must be preached, and it’s our job to do it.
Sophomore Zac Tyson participates at Grace Baptist Church’s tent revival.
Photo by Jake Tyson