Many Christians look across this country and notice that America seems to be asleep. We dream of a bigger house, better economy, nicer car and the next iPhone. All the while we ignore the most important elements in life such as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a personal relationship with God, a loving family and helping our fellow man. America needs to awaken once again.
The First Awakening (1734-1760)
In 1734, a pastor named Jonathan Edwards approached his pulpit as he had on many other Sundays in the small town of Northampton, Massachusetts. Though he did very little different than he had done previously, the response from his congregation was truly different. He spoke of sin and the necessity of feeling conviction and seeking God’s forgiveness. He stressed the importance of every individual experiencing a personal conversion. The people responded with emotional outbursts during the services and holy lives after they went home.
Evangelist George Whitefield came to New England and preached for Edwards and witnessed the obvious moving of God’s Spirit in that church and the many churches they were influencing. Soon this spirit of revival spread through the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Congregationalists of New England who returned to their pulpits with new vigor and in return saw many receive Christ for salvation, in doing so experiencing personal conversion to true Christianity.
Though this revival crossed denominational lines it was the Baptists and the Methodists who received the greatest influx of membership due to the fact that many of the denominations still held to unbiblical practices such as infant baptism. Since revival is returning to Biblical Principle, many of these converts could not return to their churches and subsequently found Bible teaching Baptist and Methodist churches.
There was also a renewed missionary fervor that led to the propagation of the gospel in the Western frontier. Those who had been saved felt compelled to reach the Native Americans and Western settlers with the truth of Jesus Christ. Lastly, there were political consequences. For the first time all thirteen colonies had something in common. They were all experiencing the same revival that led to thoughts about human rights and the nature of government.
The Second Awakening (1800-1830)
After our Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the war won by 1782, the United States had started to backslide spiritually. False doctrine such as Unitarianism (There is no Trinity) and Universalism (There is no Hell) were creeping into the church. Because of the massive immigration during the previous 70 years, Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism had grown to record numbers in America. It was in this climate of theological compromise and spiritual decline that the Lord chose to awaken our nation once more.
In 1801, a Presbyterian pastor held a “Camp Meeting” for the purpose of promoting deeper faith. Christians from miles around gathered, set up tents, built a stage and enjoyed the spiritual festivities in which both Baptist and Methodist pastors brought many in attendance. The meeting that came to be known as the Cane Ridge Revival was focused upon bringing people to an experience of conversion and deeper devotion to the Scriptures. Five years later in Williamstown, Massachusetts, 5 college students held a prayer meeting on a haystack that once again flamed the spark of revival in America and beyond.
Men like Charles Finney, a Presbyterian, took to the idea of “Camp Meetings” and held these revival services across the country. Their goal was to make the message of salvation as simple as possible and give every person every opportunity to respond to the truth of the gospel. This resulted in thousands of conversions and a breakdown of denominations based upon racial backgrounds. German immigrants left their Lutheran heritage and join a Bible teaching church. Irish immigrants felt no more loyalty to their Roman Catholic leadership and departed to find a church that reminded them of the Camp Meetings. Many credit Finney and the 2nd Great Awakening for sparking the “holiness” movement that encouraged believers to strive to live holy lives. One of the outcomes of the holiness movement was the abolitionist movement. A strong push from Baptist and Methodist preachers began to preach against the wickedness of slavery. These strong voices led the way for men like Abraham Lincoln and his 13th Amendment. Phoebe Palmer, a holiness leader, paved the way for the American Feminist movement through the humble beginnings of her ladies’ home bible studies.
The Next Awakening
Are we beginning to see the signs of the next Great Awakening within the United States? Have we arrived at a place that we are finally ready to turn back to God? Everywhere I look in the Christian community I see pastor’s praying as never before, preaching as never before, and seeing souls saved as never before! Though I lack the scientific data to back up my claims, I hear from every young pastor I know swelling church attendance, filled baptisteries and people returning to Biblical principles for living. Perhaps I am in a bubble here at Southern Hills. Perhaps I am only being exposed to those young, exciting and powerful churches that seem to have God’s blessing poured all over. I hope this is not the case. I feel a groundswell of optimism for the coming years and the prayer meetings I have seen, the revival services I have been a part of, the conferences that I attend lead me to believe we are about to see something incredible once again!
What do you think? Am I way off base, too optimistic? What you are your thoughts on the coming revival? Do you feel as I that we are experiencing the early signs? Comment Below:
(For the advanced historian: I have simplified some of my statements for the purpose of giving a brief survey of the events and ideas mentioned. Feel free to expound on any specific topic in the comment section below.)