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How do Great Awakenings get started?

The following article is what was cut from my introduction to The Boston Awakening magazine.

The traditional view is that Great Awakenings are sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit in specific regions at set times. First Great Awakening leaders such as Jonathan Edwards called these phenomena “surprising” and “supernatural.” They often quoted the words of Jesus regarding personal regeneration, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).

Although leaders of the First Great Awakening, such as Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennant, did not claim to have originated the move of God known as the First Great Awakening, their names are so associated with the event that historians often imply that they were the cause of it.

In the 19th century, Christian leaders leaned away from a Calvinistic perspective and took a stronger “free will” approach claiming that under the right circumstances mass conversions could be produced by revival preaching and “new measures.” Revivalist Charles G. Finney once preached that “Revival is no more a miracle than a crop of wheat.” In his opinion, revival was simply the “natural” and expected outcome when the right “measures” were used. Non-religious historians and sociologists explain that Great Awakenings are the product of various convergent conditions that produce a mass religious phenomenon. Religious movements appear to occur in waves, not because of “surprising” or “supernatural” causes, but because of the cyclical flux of historical trends. If this were the case, then we ought to be able to predict when revival and spiritual awakening will occur by simply observing the trends.

Another problem is that the definition of “revival” has changed over the years. We tend to apply “revival” to individuals rather than to the Church. Individuals are not revived; they are regenerated. Being born-again is a sovereign act of God given by grace to people who were spiritually dead in their sins. A Christian who has lapsed into serious sin needs repentance.

Sometimes this is called “personal revival.” However, from a sovereign grace perspective, “regeneration” is for unconverted sinners, “repentance” is for Christians, but “revival” is for the Church. Revival is needed in the Church whenever there is a large number of unconverted church members and Christians who have fallen into habitual sin. In the 1700s, “revival” was associated with mass conversions that led to a complete transformation of society.

Toward the end of the 1800s, “revival” began to become associated with the evangelistic meetings held by men such as D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday. Some critics have pointed out that although these “revivals” have met the criteria of mass conversions and remarkable church growth, these could be considered normal activities of any generation of Christianity. Further, none of the so-called “revivals” of the late 19th and 20th centuries have affected the cultural landscape to the same degree as did the 18th century Great Awakening.

One thing is certain: if a Spiritual Awakening can be produced by human beings, no one has been able to produce one for at least 100 years. In light of this, why would a movement call itself: “The Boston Awakening”?

There are several possibilities from a biblical perspective:

1. There is nothing unusual going on in Boston.

2. The growing number of committed Christians is explainable by comparing it to the religious demographic of the rest of the country. As more students and immigrants move to Boston, they bring with them their normal spiritual experience. Boston is simply “catching up” with what is happening elsewhere.

3. The growing interest in spirituality is actually the beginning stages of an Awakening. Only time will tell if this movement will grow to the impact of the 18th century Great Awakening

4. A type of an Awakening is already here. It is the responsibility of existing Church ministers and leaders to transform the current pietistic “revival” into a Great Awakening – a cultural reformation that will impact the entire region and the world.

I believe that the fourth possibility is the current situation. There is never any shortage of opportunity. How do Great Awakenings get started? As the Apostle Paul preached, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26,27). If God chose the places and times we should live, then each one of us is responsible for recovering His testimony in our own life, church, city and generation.

Your comments are welcome!

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

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Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

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After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

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God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

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6. What about the separation of Church and State?
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8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

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Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

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Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

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The Abortion Matrix DVD: Update

The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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