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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Revival (Christianity)

A Christian revival is seen as the restoration of the church itself to a vital and fervent relationship with God after a period of moral decline. Mass conversions of non-believers are seen as well as an increased spiritual interest or renewal in the life of a church congregation or society.

During the 18th and 19th centuries American society experienced a number of "Great Awakenings." Many Christians in the English-speaking world believe that evangelical revival first began in 1734 among the young people in Jonathan Edwards' church at Northampton, Massachusetts, and then spread up and down the Connecticut River Valley in New England.

Jonathan Edwards

In 1740 George Whitefield (1714-1770), the English evangelist, visited Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in America. Together, the two men started the Great Awakening revival that soon engulfed all of New England.

Edwards had already experienced one move of the Holy Spirit in 1734 but during Whitefield's six week tour of the American colonies they set off the most momentous religious revival the colonies had yet experienced. For eighteen months there were widespread conversions whereby people's faith became personal and they started to study the Bible for themselves and hold services in their homes. The converted were drawn to Spirit-filled Protestant churches, which stressed personal holiness, Calvinist interpretations of the Bible and a missionary zeal in particular for the American Indians.

The two preachers were powerful speakers who attracted a large following, and Whitefield's farewell address in the open air at Boston was preached to a congregation of 20,000.

Whitefield preaching. 1857 engraving

Other itinerant preachers criss-crossed the colonies to ensure all of the American colonists experienced the religious revival of the early 1740s. Their dramatic messages of the terrors of eternal damnation and repentance from sin worked their audiences into a frenzy of confession and conversion.

A Second Great Awakening began in the United States in the late eighteenth century and gained momentum by 1800. After 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. It lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century.

One of the offshoots of this Second Great Awakening was that slaves were inspired to create gospel songs, which incorporated their own folk traditions. These were called Negro spirituals and was the forerunner of gospel music.

The origins of the Third Great Awakening can be traced to a lunch-hour prayer meeting held at North Dutch Church in Manhattan, just a five-minute walk from Wall Street. Former businessman turned missionary Jeremiah Calvin Lanphier hosted the sparsely attended first meeting on September 23, 1857. Yet week by week the gathering grew, spawning copycat prayer meetings around New York City. Within six months, businessmen across the country met during their lunch hours to pray that God would work among them in a special way. The prayer meetings sought the conversion of drunkards and prostitutes but had less regard for slavery.

The awakening lasted a year in northern cities but was interrupted by the looming threat of war. In the South, on the other hand, the American Civil War stimulated revivals, especially the Confederate States Army revival in General Robert E. Lee's army.

The events of 1857 and 1858 left behind a lasting legacy. Evangelist Dwight. L. Moody, who turned 21 in 1858, longed to relive the events of his youth. He made revivalism the centerpiece of his activities in Chicago by founding the Moody Bible Institute.

Later, Moody began to hold evangelistic campaigns both in America and Britain with the powerful singer Ira Sankey. The format of the meetings with Sankey acting as song leader and singing while accompanying himself on an chapel-type organ became a template for many evangelists in the 20th Century including Billy Graham.

Dwight L Moody

More recent revivals in the 20th century include those of the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival, the 1906 Azusa Street Revival, the 1909 Chile Revival which spread in the Americas, Africa, and Asia among Protestants and Catholics and the 1970s Jesus people movement.

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