What Were The Early SBC Leaders’ View Of Salvation?: A View From The Mountains -- By: Emir Caner

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 11:2 (Fall 2014)
Article: What Were The Early SBC Leaders’ View Of Salvation?: A View From The Mountains
Author: Emir Caner

What Were The Early SBC Leaders’ View Of Salvation?: A View From The Mountains

Emir Caner

Emir Caner is President and Professor of History and Christian Studies at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia.

Revival Fires

Unforgettable. Such is the description of the first time I walked into a Southern Baptist church. On a cool fall evening in the early 1980s, I was invited to the Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, for their biannual revival. The evangelist for the protracted, week-long meeting was a country preacher from the mountains of Kentucky whose preaching and demeanor were typical of the time. A blend of thunderous passion with simple exposition, Brother Joe, as he was called, heralded an intensely personal message pointed directly at me. He seemed a bit eccentric to me at the time, especially by his attire. Driving an old green car that resembled a boat more than an automobile, Brother Joe filled the back seat of his vehicle with suits he would wear as the circuit-riding evangelist crisscrossed the country hundreds of days a year. But one thing remained the same—he always wore red socks representing the blood of Jesus.

The revival meetings were also characteristic of revival services which had taken place for more than two centuries in Baptist life. The congregation loved to sing and frequently spoke back to the preacher. Often, the preacher walked up and down the aisle during his sermon as he spoke to the flock. The climax of the service was the altar call, a time in which anyone inquiring about the Lord was welcome to do business with Him. God waited eagerly, the evangelist would say, to have a conversation with you regarding your everlasting soul. Quickly the steps to the pulpit turned into a place where sinners were introduced to Christ, and believers pleaded for the souls of men. It was there at that simple church through a simple country preacher where heaven met earth, and my soul was saved.

What I did not realize at the time was that I had walked into an era forgotten by most churches, which had institutionalized their meetings. For most Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians by the mid-twentieth century, revival meetings were eradicated and churches went back to normal. As I learned in seminary years later, church historians pointed to the Second Great Awakening, led by Charles Finney (1792-1875), as the progenitor of such revivals. But the more I studied Baptist history, the more I recognized that what I had experienced that night some thirty years ago was not the invention of Finney but was part of the heritage of the Sandy Creek movement.

The Sandy Creek movement began nearly forty years before ...

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