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The 18th Century Awakening: What we can learn from it

By Editorial Staff
Published December 14, 1992

Evangelicals in the United States today feel frustrated because they have failed to transform American society in recent years. English and American evangelicals in 1730 felt much the same way. Many years of political and social effort had not succeeded in bringing reform. Yet within a decade they experienced what is now called “The Great Awakening,” during which time their nations’ political and social cultures were radically impacted by Christian values. The following ten characteristics of the revivals that took place in America, England and Europe are instructive:

1. Prayer. Evangelicals in the 1700s learned that corporate prayer was a prerequisite for outpourings of God’s Spirit. The revivals in many places were preceded by days of prayer and fasting. Jonathan Edwards believed that corporate prayer was more effective than just the combined prayers of individuals.

2. Leadership. God raised up strong leaders to guide the movement. Jonathan Edwards was the theologian of the awakenings and his writings were a powerful influence even until the end of the following century. George Whitefield was a dramatic and powerful orator, able to deeply move audiences with his sermons. John Wesley was an administrative genius who established an extremely effective small-group structure of “class meetings” which kept the revival fires burning.

3. Doctrine. Revival preachers of the time focused on the great Reformation doctrines of justification by faith and the atonement. They emphasized God’s judgment and then his grace.

4. Emotionalism. The revivalists unashamedly appealed to people’s emotions. They felt that their listeners’ problem was not a lack of knowledge but a need to take action. They abandoned the formality of manuscripts or notes and preached as the Spirit led.

5. Music. As one aspect of that emotionalism, evangelicals noted that music was an effective way to stir religious affectations and they made frequent use of it.

6. Open-air meetings. Whitefield preached in open spaces where large crowds could gather. Wesley took the message to jails , inns and ships, as well as outdoors.

7. Persecution. At times these preachers faced fierce opposition from hecklers, gangs of attackers and the press.

8. Testimonies. Reports of revival in other places often sparked new outbreaks as lay people who had been there first shared firsthand accounts of what the Holy Spirit was doing.

9. Holy Spirit. The 18th-century revivalists expected the Spirit to manifest His presence in powerful, visible ways.

10. Social action. A greater concern for the poor and downtrodden often resulted from these revivals. Jonathan Edwards taught that it was the Christian’s duty to be charitable. Whitefield devoted a great deal of his energy to an orphanage he founded in Georgia.

The conclusion can be drawn from the 18th-century experience that a deep and powerful spiritual renewal can be more effective in transforming a culture than political action.

- Gerald McDermott
National & International Report, Dec. 14, 1992.


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Your comments are welcome!

I pray America will see 2009 as a year of “deep and powerful spiritual renewal.” Thank you for this article and website!

Posted by Angela Wittman on 12/30/2008 12:44 PM #

Thanks for Documenting these important articles which i believe are very necessary for the body of Christ in these end times to read . I love to see how our forerunners were used of God in there generation to the glory of HIS name. Your work should inspire many to step forward by faith, and be used of the same mighty God in the Revival that is soon to “burst”, whose dimensions we’ve never seen before, coming to prepare the church for the rapture.
Iam preparing my website, with research in the same field. Please also include East African Revival. Something happened that has practically impacted generations.
Thanks.
Enoch Mwesigye.

Posted by mwesigye Enoch on 03/19/2009 04:06 AM #

Hey!
I’m so excited and I really can’t wait for revival to hit South Africa. We are trusting God to do HUGE things in our valley and then for it to spread to the rest of SA and then to the nations.I thank you for the info, because I’m doing an assighnment on revivals for history.
We are trusting God for great things!
Thanks and blessings
Anri Otto

Posted by Anri on 04/30/2009 08:15 AM #

Your information has been a great help and encouragement. I am using it to intiate interest among my congregation to pray for revival in England.

Posted by Lorna Wilson on 04/28/2010 10:58 AM #

We thank God for the men that stood the test of time and did that which God wanted to do through their lives. Wait to document another great revival that's about to break forth in Botswana in Southern Africa. I can hear the Sound as of a mighty rushing wind.
Alfred Bucco Baki
Gaborone
Botswana

Posted by Alfred Bucco Baki on 03/14/2011 08:22 AM #

Pray for Nigeria where God is expected daily to visit with His revival power. In it lies our only hope.

Posted by Bro Emmanuel N. Nwachukwu on 05/14/2011 02:07 PM #

May the Holy Spirit visit us again in such a power never known in our time. If He visits all other will be subjected to Him. Dear church, regardless of denominations and groups, let us come together that our thurstful CRY might appear before the almighty and compell Him to manifest in another fire-boosh that attracted Moses in the Desert land and thousands on the day of Pentecost were drawn to confess Jesus.
Please pray for me so that God will allow me to be an instrument for Revival Fire in our time; although unworthy!!!!!!

Posted by Evangelist Robert Singh on 09/21/2012 03:02 PM #

I’m blessed by these research. It will help me to stir my gift in these present world full of sin. We need real REVIVAL to overhaul the present Church. We need God’s Holy Spirit than before!

Posted by Hiram Ongoma on 11/07/2013 11:57 PM #

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Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.

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