I am taking a course in the Life Long Learning program at Lipscomb about American Revivals. We have studied the Puritan revival and the First Great Awakening. Key figures in the First were Cotton Mather and George Whitefield.
George Whitefield was amazing--His feat of bringing John and Charles Wesley to active faith counted for so much. He studied one of the great Shakespearean actors to see why people would pay to go to the theater, but would not attend church.
And then he incorporated what he saw into his oratory. When he came to America, church attendance was about 10%. He built his audiences to around 8,000 a night. Very itenerant, he rarely stayed more than one night in a place. When he died, the percentage of attendance in America had risen to 60% because of his expertise. What a man.
I remember revivals growing up in Hamlin. Actually we called them "gospel meetings". A rather well-known preacher would come and stay about a week, and we would go to church every night--always watching to see who would "come down the aisle" to salvation. Two of the preachers I recall are E. W. McMillan and Horace Busby. I remember enjoying it because the visiting preachers were always better than the resident one, and we kids got to play after church. Often there were pot-luck suppers too. You can see I was deeply religious at the time.