By Melissa McLaughlin
If we jump back in time just 300 hundred years or so, we find some miraculous events sweeping through the Christian church in the United States and Britain. A spiritual revival was breaking out, the likes of which had never been seen before. So powerful and widespread was this revival, that the time period became known as the Great Awakening.
What events led to the Great Awakening?
In the early 1700’s several pastors noticed a lukewarm deadness creeping across their congregations. Consequently, they began preaching the need for conversion that included a life-changing commitment to Christ, not simply an outward fulfilling of expected social duties.
Several leaders stood at the forefront of this tidal wave of renewed spiritual fervor. These leaders included such men as: Theodore Frelinghuysen of the Dutch Reformed Church in NJ, Gilbert Tennent of the Presbyterian Church in NJ, Jonathan Edwards of the Anglican Church in MA and George Whitefield, an Anglican evangelist from Britain who traveled through both Britain and the American colonies preaching to the large crowds that gathered to hear his message.
Remarkably, these and other pastors who were involved in the Great Awakening, represented different denominational backgrounds and different geographic regions. Yet, their passion for Christ overlapped and increased the revival momentum at large.
The main problems?
- People had become preoccupied with amassing wealth and seeking comfortable lifestyles over devotion to Jesus Christ.
- As they became wealthier, many people felt they no longer needed God. Their faith was not a priority.
- Church attendance was on the decline, so some preachers developed a halfway covenant, allowing membership in the church without having made a confession of faith.
- Many pastors were not true Christians themselves.
- Church members and many pastors alike, attended church without having true faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
- Secular rationalism was becoming a popular worldview, emphasizing a scientific framework of thinking that left little room for faith in God.
Faith and Prayer
Though the pastors of the Great Awakening hailed from different backgrounds, different denominations and different geographic areas, their messages echoed with a similar theme:
- God looks upon the heart and our faith must be sincere and come from within.
- Believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
- Strive to avoid sin.
- Revere the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word of truth and final authority.
- Demonstrate evidence of love for God and others in daily living.
Additionally, pastors were said to have spent hours in prayer prior to a service or event, sometimes praying all through the night. Committed church members also kept the fires of prayer burning strong, petitioning God for continued intervention in their lives. May we never underestimate the power of genuine faith and persistent prayer.
Some common Biblical principles that were taught:
- All people are born sinners.
- Without accepting salvation through faith in Christ, a person is bound for hell.
- Anyone can be saved if they confess their sins to God, seek forgiveness and accept God’s grace through faith in Christ.
- Everyone can have a personal connection with God.
- Christian faith should be personal, not an outward formal show.
- Congregations were filled with true believers in Christ.
- Church membership increased, as well as devotion to Christ in daily living.
- Denominations worked side by side to spread the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Missions work and outreach to Native Americans was renewed.
- Desire for education increased as young Christians were inspired to become pastors.
- Many universities were created to provide education for prospective pastors.
- A common sense of purpose was established among the Colonies, helping to unify them.
- People’s spiritual lives were reinvigorated.
What can we learn from the Great Awakening today?
We have much to learn from the Great Awakening of the 1700s. It is not difficult to observe, from the worldwide violence, tensions, pornography, sex trafficking and decline in church involvement, that we stand in dire need of a new Great Awakening or perhaps a “Great-er Awakening” today. The problems listed during the early 1700s in Christendom sound eerily similar to the problems we face in modern day Christianity.
Could the solutions possibly emerge from our Christian leaders? Our pastors? The sermons and Biblical doctrines that people are taught? People united in sincere and ardent prayer?
Of one thing we can be certain, there will be no revival from the best efforts of man. Revival must come from a move of God through the Holy Spirit opening the spiritual eyes of the heart and stirring up the embers of faith into a blazing fire. Believers are then able to perceive and be captivated by the glory of God in the face of Christ, to be renewed through Bible reading, to engage in heartfelt prayer and passionate songs of praise and enter into a lifelong life-transforming relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We must employ mind, spirit, emotions and body in order to worship God in spirit and truth and to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength.
This is a mighty call for revival. The call for a Greater Awakening. The call for spiritual renewal with a force that exceeds the forces of evil all around. We need the Holy Spirit of our resurrected King Jesus to reignite the fire of our faith, to reinvigorate our determination to grow spiritually and to revitalize our common call to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20a.
How does revival begin?
The Great Awakening of the 1700s began with:
- Recognition of the spiritual lostness.
- Fervent desire to spread the truth of the gospel and understanding of God’s Word, the Bible.
- Christian leaders and pastors united for this common purpose, crossing denominational lines.
- Preaching the unadulterated truth of the gospel message from the Bible.
- Teaching what true faith entails.
- Prayer. Much prayer. Pastors committed and congregations committed to prayer. Praying for a move of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts and minds of the people.
The Greater Awakening
May the Greater Awakening begin today! May we pray fervently and passionately for the Holy Spirit to sweep through like a mighty wind. May the truth of God’s Word, the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the breath of the Holy Spirit and the Christlike zeal of the church rise up like never before, extending the hands and feet of Christ to reach a dead and dying world with the life-saving news that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Sinners just like me.
Sources and Additional Articles:
What was the Great Awakening By Christianity.com
Great Awakening By History.com
A God Who is Both: Loving and Holy, Savior and Judge By Melissa McLaughlin
Do you ever wonder if the world is coming to an end? By Melissa McLaughlin
Amen. May we seek Him in each moment and a great awakening come to us now. 🙂
Dear Melissa, thank you for reading and offering a word of encouragement! I appreciate you! It is such a gift to be awakened to God’s gift of Jesus Christ! May we never grow weary in drawing near to God and helping others see the eternal prize of Christ along with the beauty of knowing Him right here, right now. Holy Spirit, may many hearts and eyes be opened. May there be a Greater Awakening to the truth that Jesus saves! God bless you, sister!
Amen sister!! Church history is so important. I’m asking for a great awaking in myself first and then for the body of Christ. Exciting times!! Let’s keep spurring one another on. Thank you Melissa.
Amen, Meghan! You are so right, revival always begins with ourselves first. Yes, Holy Spirit, stir our hearts to greater fire for Christ above all! God bless you, sister!
Good afternoon, Melissa. Thank you for this post. Whenever I prepare to speak, God stirs me as if it is urgent. Yes, Lord, revive our hearts, all our hearts.
Hi Julie, so good to hear your insights. I love how you described the awakening and personal revival you experience when you prepare to speak “God stirs me as if it is urgent.” Yes, our desire for seeking Christ and sharing Christ is urgent. I join you in prayer, revive our hearts, Holy Spirit, all our hearts!
Getting in my time machine and bringing Awakening back with me!
Amen and amen! Holy Spirit, move in power! The God who parted the Red Seas long ago is the same God who parts the Red Seas of our hearts today!
Hoping and praying for revival in me, in my church, in America, and in the world.
Amen and amen! Joining you in this prayer! Revival for all! Holy Spirit, sweep through our midst to bring forth the glory of Christ in our lives, our churches, our countries and the world! Let it be so!
Amen! Praying for God to stir hearts, and bring dreams of His calling, even as He is doing overseas in Iran and other nations. Lord Jesus, we are so longing for YOUR glory to be seen and for lives to be transformed by You!
I love the way you say this, Bettie! “Pray for God to stir hearts and bring dreams of His calling!” Yes, Holy Spirit! We say, yes!” May people of every nation, including our own, be awakened to see Christ! Thank you for your inspiring heart and faith, sister!
So much truth in your words, Melissa! God is the One who sparks revivals. I needed your exhortation to be more intentional about praying for revival, both in me and in our society. Thank you, Melissa!
All praise to our mighty God! Who by His breath, spoke all things into existence! How we need His breath to fill our lungs with His power, life, vitality and fire! Thank you, for reading and sharing your faith and heart, Jeanne!
I have recently begun reading a book about the Great Awakening, having also read two books about the revival in the Hebrides from 1949 – ’52. The Hebrides are islands off the north coast of Scotland. I was struck in these books by the power of prayer. The Holy Spirit came in power convicting men, women and young people of sin and causing them to seek God in desperation. We definitely need that same spirit of prayer and convicting Holy Spirit in this day and age.
Carolyn, thank you for sharing about your reading! I love how the Holy Spirit affirms His message by putting the same theme in different people’s minds and hearts at the same time. I have never heard of the Hebrides revival. It must have been powerful and moving. Oh God, revive our hearts! Stir up the fire of our prayers, that revival will sweep through our land! Move in us, mighty LORD!
God is always the spark for revival…Yes! Every heart matters to God. Revival begins on a personal basis…one on one with our Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit works miracles within our hearts, and so we reach out to the world around us. Great post! Every new day is an opportunity to increase our faith with the help of God and to bring His message of salvation to everyone we meet.
Amen!!! God is always the spark and source of flame in every revival. Holy Spirit, rekindle in us a fresh desire to know and love Christ and open the hearts of those we meet to respond to the message of His love and grace, too! May Jesus Christ shine brighter and brighter!
Oh, Lord, do we need this! Truth. Sacrifice. Commitment. Let’s do it!
Adding my amen! Let’s do it! Move through us, Holy Spirit! Greater Awakening, for all, we pray!
Amen. I am praying for a new great awakening to spread through our land. We need pastors and churches to stand up for Christ as they lead us into a powerful time of prayer for our nation and the world.
I stand with you in this prayer, dear Yvonne! May we join our hearts, minds and voices in a chorus of prayers for our pastors and churches to be moved by the Holy Spirit into powerful, fervent prayer for our nation and our world. Wake us up, oh God!
Oh, Melissa. This title grabbed my attention right away. I love this so very much. I like to write on the basics of Christianity and not losing sight of those in our present culture. Revisiting the details of the Great Awakening has me pumped to pray for a revival. If fact, my twin sister and I were saved, came to salvation in Christ, at a church revival when we were 16. Yet, you don’t even hear of many churches holding revivals any more. This post makes me want to pray for a greater awakening and another great church revival that spans around the world.
“What would happen this Sunday morning if the Holy Spirit manifested Jesus Christ in such a way that people truly experienced His presence?” A. W. Tozer
Maybe if we as the church pray for this manifestation. And not just on the Sabbath, but that after we experience Jesus on any day, we take Him outside the walls of our churches and homes. Perhaps revival will only happen if we are faithful in the trenches.
Oh Karen, I feel your heart for Christ, His church and the people who still need Jesus. You are right, we can never really get enough of the basics of our faith, but need to return again and again to stir the embers where we first met Christ. May we, the faithful, hunker down in the trenches in prayer, for a Greater Awakening, a mighty revival. As if lives depend on it. Because they do! Eternal lives hang in the balance. Holy Spirit, move in a mighty wind, a torrential river, a consuming fire and awaken your church to move in force. For your kingdom and your glory!
Amen! You’ve spelled it all out, how it happened, what is necessary for coldness toward God to occur, and what is necessary for revival. Our nation became increasingly debauched by sin as we allowed slavery to take root in the south (sadly, including George Whitefield, one of the preachers). There was a coldness of churchgoers toward the unsaved as well. These are similar problems that we also have today: an increasingly debauched populace and a coldness toward human trafficking and exploitation of minorities among us.
YES! IT’S TIME FOR A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING! We must pray! We must ask this of the Lord! The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic may provide us with an even greater opportunity to share our faith as so many people fear for their lives, dread the sickness, or struggle with anxiety. We are just like them. Our arms needs to be opened wide for whatever God would have us to do.
Yes, Melinda, yes! IT IS TIME FOR A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING! May our hearts be burning with an urgency to pray and to stir up the faith and prayers of others, that more eyes may be opened to the life-saving gospel message of Jesus Christ. Our only hope. The time grows shorter with each passing day and with each new life-threatening situation, like the coronavirus. Holy Spirit, awaken your church! Let us fall to our knees in prayer, fervently calling, standing in the gap. Open many eyes to the truth of Christ, we pray! Let us not grow weary, for we see the hour.
Amen! I have been writing similarly. I pray God is stirring hearts to prayer and revival.
Thank you for reading and connecting with me here, Penny! I join you in this prayer. Oh God, stir up our hearts to passionate, persistent prayer! Holy Spirit, sweep through to bring a great revival, in Jesus’ name we pray!
I love that you bring up crossing denominational lines. I am so tired of people saying you should not attend other church events, not promote any gatherings of Christians that take people away from their own church, etc. While it’s important to have a church family you can live life with, we need to break down these walls of competition that have arisen between churches!
I understand and agree, Emily. Certainly, we cannot compromise on the truth of the Bible itself, but we must “major in the majors” and seek to work together to help the lost be found in Christ through the message of the gospel. May we see each other as brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God and show we are Christians by our love for one another both outside and within the family of God!
Melissa, as I read your article I thought about how looking back at history helps us as we look forward. So many things that you wrote about the complacency and distraction of the church 300 years ago still stand true today. Identifying these areas and refocusing, using what we can draw and learn from the past, will help us to awaken and revitalize the church.
I was struck by that truth, as well, Anne. It was as if I was reading a current article about churches today. May we refocus, learn from the past and move forward with renewed hope, faith, prayer and passion to reach those who don’t know Christ!
Melissa, dear friend, Thank you for the many encouragements you have shared with me through the years! <3 Me and God love you!
Dear Gail, thank you for the kind words! May God renew and refresh your heart this day! Blessings and love to you!
Excellent post! Fervent prayer is so important, but you raise an interesting point of pastors reaching out across denominational lines. I guess we’ll have to pray for that to happen!
I agree, fervent prayer is so important for every single of one of us and for our churches. It was a fascinating study for me to learn a little more about the Great Awakening and inter-denomination work was one of the noted elements. We can pray for both: more fervent prayer for ourselves and fresh strength for our pastors to carry out God’s will for their lives and the churches they are assigned to shepherd. Holy Spirit, stir up our hearts to pray for ourselves, our pastors and our churches. May Jesus be glorified!
Agreeing with you in prayer in Jesus’ name.
I love that you called it a Greater Awakening. Yes! This is absolutely what we need now. In this season of pandemic and the economic fallout, I believe God’s getting the attention of more people worldwide. We see many revivals through history where the Holy Spirit has moved mightily, but it has been too long since that happened. Often, it started among the young people. I join you in prayer for this, Melissa.. O Lord, let this Greater Awakening begin now!
I stand in agreement with you! O Lord, let this Greater Awakening begin now! How we need to return to God, like never before. Praying that many eyes will see Him and many hearts will love Him. Thank you, Dottie, for your heartfelt comments. God bless you and your family!
Love this! I can never read enough on the Great Awakenings. And your words, “we stand in dire need of a new Great Awakening or perhaps a “Great-er Awakening” today,” are so true. Lord, help us!
Thank you for reading and commenting, Dr. Pam! It is heart-stirring to read of how God moved in the past. May we pray fervently for a fresh move of God’s Spirit today!
Praying for a great awakening.
I join you in this prayer, Tom! Thank you for reading and adding your heart, voice and prayers!