Previously published on Examiner.
Travelers come to East Tennessee to enjoy our natural beauty and to take home experiences that they cannot find locally. My husband is the pastor of two small country churches in East Tennessee. We are finding out that revivals can be a draw for tourists.
Tennessee is itself in the part of the country which is commonly referred to as “The Bible Belt”. It should come as no surprise that there are religious activities here that have been forgotten by parts of the rest of the nation.
One of these religious activities is a revival. This is a Christian tradition that follows in the steps of Rev. John Wesley and other early American preachers. In the country’s early history revivals were held across the United States. Although these are less common today they do still exist.
A revival is styled after an old fashioned Christian preaching service. The event lasts for several nights and may be a combined effort of several churches. Special musicians and a special preacher is brought in for the event. The focus is on giving a spiritual boost to people who are already Christians and to converting the lost who have not already become Christians.
Different denominations will host the event according to their faith and doctrine. Denominations who believe in the type of worship known as “speaking in tongues” will do so. Many (if not most) revivals don’t engage in this practice. Revivals may take place in large tents, campgrounds or in church buildings.
Most people do not dress up to attend a revival. Shorts may be worn if it is held under an outdoor tent or campground.
Revivals are family friendly and newcomers are always welcome. Tourists who want to attend may want to speak with the pastor at the beginning of a service. This is a great time to ask if photography or video is allowed. It is perfectly acceptable to go to a revival and ask to speak with the pastor before the service starts.
Travelers who are interested in finding a revival should look in the local paper. The Community Section will almost always have the event listed. You can also look for small roadside signs reading “revival” or “crusade”. Some churches will even take out advertisements on billboards.
Revivals usually last only a few days to a week. Mainstream revivals in the Methodist or Baptist traditions usually last around 1 ½ hours. There is no charge but attendees may be asked to give a “love offering”. Simply put a few dollars in the bucket or plate when it is passed around to each seat. You decide what is right for you.
Attending a revival can give tourists an interesting look at the culture and tradition that helped shape East Tennessee.