February 1924 America’s most renowned evangelist, Billy Sunday, came to Shreveport, Louisiana for a seven week-long revival campaign. City leaders along with several local churches constructed a 6,000 seat wooden tabernacle to host the expected crowds.
The revival began on a Sunday and there was a great expectation that God would do something significant. Many of the cities churches cancelled their regular services so that their respective congregations could attend that inaugural service.
They found Billy Sunday to be unlike any other preacher at the time. He preached like the competitive athlete he was. He was constantly in motion, leaping around the stage, crouching and jumping, walking and running. He was boldly contemptuous of what he labeled “flabby-cheeked, brittle-boned, weak-kneed, effeminate, Christianity.”
That morning he preached a fire and brimstone message against the evils of alcohol and the dangers of sin. He said;
I have no quarrel with you, I have quarrel with the devil and the sin that holds you an unwilling slave. My quarrel is the devil not with you.
I want to get something into your head. No man will argue in favor of sin. We will agree that we are better when we are sober, better when we are pure, better when we pray.
Man has law. God has law. If you transgress man’s law, the penitentiary is for you. I you transgress God’s law, Hell is for you and you ought to go to hell.
Liberty is a square deal for the man that will keep the law. Heaven is a square deal for Christian. Hell is square deal for a sinner.
At the end of the message, Sunday invited all would commit their lives to Jesus to walk the “Sawdust Trail.” This poetic altar call was named from the sawdust that lined the open floor and isles between the seats. Ultimately over 10,000 people would walk the trail and commit their lives to Christ.
It was noted that Sunday had an effect on the entire city and nearly every household. Ultimately more than 350,000 people attended the meetings over the course of those seven weeks. This marked a great turning in the city of Shreveport. The effect lasted for several decades afterwards as the spiritual environment of the town was changed.
In 1929 the city opened the doors to a Municipal Auditorium on the very site that the wooden tabernacle stood. They choose the site primarily because of the Sunday revival meetings. It seemed everyone in the town had such favorable memories of the crowds and the event.
Interestingly, this same site would mark two great turnings within the city of Shreveport. The first took place in 1924 with Billy Sunday. The second would take place thirty years later.
The Shreveport Municipal Auditorium was the very stage from which the following historic announcement was made, “ladies and gentlemen you’ve never had of this young man before but one day you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren that you heard musical history tonight.”
With those prophetic words, Elvis Presley, was introduced to the country on the Louisiana Hayride radio program in October of 1954. The times were certainly changing and Shreveport, just like America was on the dawn of a cultural revolution.
Shreveport would turn sharply away from the Lord in the years that followed. The Sunday revival and the auditorium’s religious roots were soon forgotten. Today very few even know that the Municipal Auditorium was the site upon which so many people were dramatic affected. However there are many in this city who believe that God has yet one more turning in store for this city.
On Saturday, February 25, the Trail Of Fire visited Shreveport. We met with Pastor Scott Ethridge and several members of The Healing Place Church right outside the Auditorium. It was there that Ethridge shared the story of the 1924 revival with me. The church came that day to redig the well of revival and pray that God would turn the heart of the city to Himself once again. Ninety-three years ago, Sunday saw 10,000 saved at that very spot. That day we prayed that God save even more in a greater awakening.
There may be some who believe such a turning is impossible, that the city and even nation are too far gone. However light always shines brightest in great darkness. My friend, America is ready for another turning. God raised up Sunday and used him as a voice in his generation. He saw a city reached and a multitude snatched from the fires of hell. I am certain the Lord has raised you and I up for such a time as this. We need only believe and take our fight to the devil.
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