Stone’s Pentecost

It was 1801, and the church at Cane Ridge announced a “sacramental communion” or revival, and all were invited. Ministers from various denominations preached over the course of days to thousands. Elder Barton Stone was the minister of the Cane Ridge congregation, and he was amazed at what he saw. People swooned under great conviction, prayed, sang hymns and Psalms and cried out to God. Some danced and there are reports that some even barked like dogs! Azusa Street was not the first mass pentecostal experience in the United States.

Barton Stone would eventually lead his churches into union with the churches of Alexander Campbell. They both believed in a return to New Testament Christianity and both yearned for Christian unity. Their methods and beliefs, however, were decidedly different. For the most part Mr. Campbell’s convictions and principles won out, and the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement became a movement of head more than heart. There are those who would disagree with me on this, and others who will wholeheartedly affirm it as right. From the Disciples of Christ to independent Christian churches to the Church of Christ, logic and reason took predominance over emotions and feelings.

Almost two centuries after Cane Ridge, a ministry student in Arkansas attended a “Fifth Sunday Rally” of local independent Christian Churches. It was a revival, of sorts. The kind of revival that traditional small churches have, complete with old timey hymns and a sermon with an invitation to follow Christ. They had sung several hymns and the student preacher was hoping the message would be better than the worship, just so the night wouldn’t be a complete waste. The song leader, and older gentleman, announced another hymn with a big grin.

“Can’t you just feel the Spirit moving?”

His enthusiasm was not shared. Actually, the comment was about as appropriate as granny farting softly at the big family Christmas dinner during a lull in the conversation. There were a few chuckles, but most probably just wanted to get on with things and pretend nothing had happened.

Alexander Campbell’s rationalism won the hearts and minds of the majority within the movement. No mystical experience or other event involving an altered state of mind will pass the test. Leaders teach a religion of the mind, and members listlessly follow, expecting nothing and getting it. Barton Stone’s Pentecost is just a footnote in the history books.

By the way, there is now a stone shrine built around the original log Cane Ridge meeting house. That’s what happens when movements stop moving.

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