About 20 years ago, the state of Massachusetts launched a campaign to compete with “I Love New York” and “Virginia is for Lovers.” Since then, I haven’t seen too many “The Spirit of Massachusetts is the Spirit of America” bumper stickers and t-shirts. Nevertheless, that statement is a profound truth. For good or evil, the spiritual trends that have taken place in Massachusetts since 1620 have influenced the rest of the nation and even the world. While Massachusetts is thought of as one of the most liberal and therefore Godless states in the union, there are several signs that a Christian Awakening is under way.
A few years ago, Christianity Today published an article on Boston’s “Quiet Revival” — a growing church movement has doubled the number of evangelicals in Massachusetts even while the population of the state has remained the same. The article notes that it is a “quiet revival” mainly because it is occurring among Hatian, Brazilian, Korean and other Asian churches in inner city Boston and Cambridge — ethnic churches that few in the white mainstream are aware of.
Soon after that the liberal Boston Globe published an article called “The God Squad” about the growing number of evangelical students at Harvard and MIT. One observer noted that there is a higher percentage of evangelical students at Harvard than at any time since the 17th century. While I think that is an exaggeration (the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century had a great influence too)even my native Bostonian skepticism is forced to take leave and I admit that God is up to something in Boston.
The Harvard Crimson has been running a lot of articles on the topic in the past few years. Understand that with a student population of only a few thousand, just a few hundred evangelicals at Harvard is a phenomenon. Contrast this with ten years ago, when the total number of professing conservative Christians was less than one hundred and you see what some have called an “Awakening” of evangelical Christianity. Some say it is a precursor to something major akin to the Awakenings of past centuries.
In order to really shake the nation, any type of student led revival will have to deviate from the pietistic movements that have characterized “revivals” in the past 100 years. In fact, every revival that has led to a Great Awakening (The Puritan movement, the First and Second Great Awakenings) have been Puritan or “Neo-Puritan” in character. It was when the majority of American churches rejected Calvinism in the mid-1800s that “revival” began to focus more on individual blessings rather than how the revived saints can be salt and light in the society. But even that is changing. Christianity Today this month ran an article about how more and more Christian youth are getting interested in theology and are rejecting the “seeker sensitive” and “emergent” models of church growth. They are looking for something of more substance and are finding it in Calvinism. After all, America was founded not just on Christianity, but on a Protestant model influenced more by the theology and social theory of John Knox and Oliver Cromwell than any other figures.
The Christianity Today article is not on-line yet, but check back at their site to see it eventually — or pick up a copy at your local Christian book store. I’ll be reviewing the article in a few days.
See a review of : Young, Restless and Reformed
Last month also marked the 200th anniversary of the “Haystack Revival” — a prayer awakening at Williams College in Western Massachusetts led by three students helped to launch the World Missions Movement in America. Students around the world are being asked to fast and pray for a revival of missionary vision among college students. What is strange about the anniversary is not that Christian groups such as InterVarsity are promoting it, but that it is getting favorable mention even from many liberal groups. That secularists would celebrate the positive influence of Christian Missions inthe world needs some explanation that I cannot explain other than a sovereign act of God.
Of course, I’ve written about these phenomena since 1989 in The Forerunner, so it is actually exciting to see these movements gain a beach head and get noticed by the national press. It’s happening at a time when I had almost despaired of ever seeing an Awakeing in the northeast in my lifetime. In 1989, I started a project called The Northeast Invasion. The plan was calculated to flood the Norteast College campuses and especially the Ivy League where future leaders are studying, with Christian literature.
This month we plan to continue this strategy with The Boston Awakening magazine. I was initially hesitant to take on the project, my skeptical nature rising to the forefront, but then I realized a simple truth. When one aims for great things, we only fail when we do not try.