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.
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