Cane Ridge, Kentucky. This is surely one of the top ten most important sites in American Religious history for the 19th century. It was here in 1801 that a young Presbyterian preacher, Barton W. Stone, held a revival meeting that grew to epic size. A military estimate at the time thought there were as many as 30,000 people in attendance, and this is when the entire state of Kentucky had maybe 200,000 people.
Yesterday, Susan and I were privileged to take an excursion from the North American Christian Convention in Louisville to visit the famous Cane Ridge Meeting House, the actual church building from Stone’s day that has been preserved as a shrine. The tour was led by my friend, Mark Taylor, the editor of Christian Standard (with me in the picture with the meeting house shrine in the background). The actual hewn log building of the meeting house is inside a beautiful stone shell building erected in the 1950s to protect it. We sat inside this for a worship time and also an appearance by my friend, Rick Cherok of Cincinnati Christian University who assumed the garb and persona of Barton Stone himself to give us an informative talk (Rick was a co-leader on the trip).
Knowing your roots is important. I have many circles of friends in the academic world and in the evangelical world and in the larger church world. But I am a Restoration Movement guy. I don’t agree with Barton Stone’s theology in several areas, particularly his Christology. But I think that he and I would be colleagues and could have been friends if we lived in the same era. He advocated a type of simple church, basic biblical Christianity. He didn’t want to be bogged down in theological controversy, but to follow Scriptures and seek unity intentionally. Now, 212 years later, we still need that irenic and powerful spirit. The Cane Ridge Revival propelled him into regional prominence, but all the converts of that great spiritual awakening have long passed from the scene. Unity in Christ is still in vogue. Deploring divisions in the church is still of value. Acceptance of other Christians without resolving every theological jot and tittle is still a way worth following. May we remember our roots.
Nebraska Christian College