The Revival of St. Louis Started in 1897
When God first started talking to me about the revival of St. Louis, I had several different dreams that painted a picture in my mind of what God was going to do in terms of reviving St. Louis. In one of those dreams, I was standing on the corner of Woodson Rd. and St. Charles Rock Rd. (HWY 180 in MO). This particular intersection is near where I grew up and I have spent thousands of hours on these roads over the course of my life. However, the streets looked vastly different in my dream than the streets do today.
On the streets in my dream, the buildings were gone and there was a large open field of rolling pastures. In the field, there were large tress scattered among many tents, horses and wagons. Where I was standing, there was a large spitfire that was being surrounded by thousands of people. This fire provided both the nighttime light as well the cooked food for those that were in the field.
In my dream, I began to preach to these people. Sharing the transformation power of the gospel with them. As I preached, I was mostly unnoticed. There were maybe 3-4 people coming close enough to hear what I was saying. I closed my eyes and began to pray, “God, you have sent me here. I want to share this message with them, but no one will come.”
I opened my eyes to see the entire field filled with people, every open space near the light was filled with people. You could not see an empty space to sit. Thousands of people were now there listening to the gospel. I dropped to my knees and praised the Lord for speaking His Word to them.
Over my years in ministry, I have often shared that dream with others. That dream has been one of many that have had tremendous impact on me and my faith because it both encouraged me but also poised questions in my prayer life. “God, why did you show me a vision of the Rock Road that doesn’t resemble what it looks like now or why was no one interested in the message I was sharing at the beginning?” As I prayed, I believe God would unlock answers.
In this dream, I feel like I was given a glimpse behind a curtain into a past event, because just a few short months ago I came across an article written in a local paper by a man named Sandy Jackson titled, “Marvin Camp Grounds.”
In his article, Jackson tells the fascinating story of the first Missouri born Methodist minister who began having tent revival meetings in the late 1800s. Eventually, Marvin and the St. Louis Marvin Camp Association purchased 50 acres of land in St. Louis simply for the purpose of holding yearly revivals.
The best part of this story is that these revival were centrally located where St. Charles rock road and Woodson Rd. stand now!!! You can’t make this stuff up. The dream God gave me about revival on a pre-industrial land at that intersection where I lived had already happened.
The article tells us Marvin chose that particular section of land because, “the countryside surrounding the camp grounds were described as one of the most beautiful in the city and accessible by driving over good roads. The camp was beautiful situated on a fine slope and shaded by oak, walnut, and other well grown trees. Several nearby wells provided ample water. Even a permanent corral was laid out for the numerous horses the worshippers used to reach the camp ground.”
This description of the Marvin revival matched the dream I had years ago, from the description of the night time services to the details of the trees and the horses being corralled. It was like reading an entry from my journal that I didn’t remember entering, but recognized my handwriting. The revival of St. Louis is not starting with us now, or even with those who came in the past 100 years. God’s love for our city and the people of St. Louis started long ago.
In the years that followed the land purchase, The Marvin Camp Grounds held yearly revivals on that intersection until at least 1918. People came from across the country to be part of these yearly events. They took trains and covered wagons. Attendance peaked at more than 10,000 in 1876.
Can you imagine gathering a crowd of 10,000 people to a revival years before internet, TV, and even radio promotion existed. God had people come from all over the nation and I am in complete awe of trying to understand how He did it without using the marketing methods we use today.
These meetings would last well into the night and one worshipper Jackson wrote about is quoted as saying, “The camp presents a very picturesque spectacle at night. The shadows of the canvas of the tents, the light of the doorways, the sound of the exhortations and singing arising from the big tent, the impressive silence preserved by the worshipers, and the crackling of twigs beneath the feet of the heathen as the wander on the outskirts of the city of tents, all combine to produce a lasting impression on the beholder.”
It’s incredible to think that God desires revival in the same place of the same city nearly 130 years apart. Much like then, I believe we need it now. Like Marvin, I believe God is going to use the same beautiful land for a large revival of St. Louis, except instead of trains and horses people will come on plane and cars.
For those that doubt God wants revival in St. Louis or that our prayer for 20,000 lives saved and transformed in one day by the gospel to happen here, I would simply point at this moment. It has happened before here. Next week, I will write about how it happened again with Billy Graham 60 years later.
I believe the eyes of the world are on St. Louis, and God wants to use that attention to allow the world to see Him. When revival first showed up in St. Louis at the Marvin Camp Grounds an observer noted that it “produced a lasting impression for the beholder”.
Imagine the lasting impression a modern era revival in St. Louis of that same scope and magnitude would have today.