Awakenings and Revivals
As a life-long Evangelical Christian, I’ve been praying for and expecting a revival my whole life long, and God has not disappointed me. As a child, I got to experience the Jesus Movement and the Charismatic Renewal, parallel moves of God that I consider the Fourth Great Awakening in America. I also experienced a major revival/awakening in Latin America in the 1990s in Argentina, which spilled over into the whole continent and set off the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida. It was a great benefit to experience such powerful spiritual waves as a young person and as a young minister. They set a template for me in what I expect from God.
To define terms, an Awakening is different from a revival. Revivals have to do with spiritual renewals in churches which usually result not only in greater religious fervor, but also greater numbers of conversions in the churches. Revivals will result in repentance from sin and dedication to holiness, a greater hunger of God’s Word, greater intensity in personal prayer, greater passion for corporate worship and Christian fellowship, greater concern for the lost and greater zeal in evangelism, greater appreciation of the value of work and a stronger work ethic, and a reduction in petty entertainments and distractions that weaken our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. In revival, we take more seriously the ancient prayer that we “have sinned gravely . . . in the things we have done and the things we have left undone.” While petty entertainments are not sin in themselves, they can take such a large slice of our lives that we sin by omission of things we should have done, including prayer. Revival tends to swing the balance over to the other side. (As humans we tend to fail the golden middle and need seasons of spiritual renewal to get out of our addictions to petty things.)
In contrast to revivals, awakenings happen in the larger society, sometimes even outside the church. During an awakening, people outside the churches become aware of their need for God and start flooding into the Kingdom of God in large numbers. The Jesus Movement, for example, was an awakening, in contrast with the charismatic renewal, which largely occurred among confessing believers. The way those two movements overlapped was what caused a Great Awakening in America, as many millions of people came to faith or came alive in their faith. America has had a Great Awakening about every 80 years throughout its history, roughly in 1735, 1805, 1885, and 1965. They tend to last for about 20 years before the society starts to unravel again. If that pattern holds (rooted as it seems to be in societal/cultural cycles), we should be due for another Great Awakening in 2045. But I’m not sure America can make it that far without a mighty, sweeping outpouring of grace.
We don’t know when the next great awakening will happen in America, but revival can happen in the Church at any time. Pretty much every revival in the history of the church—especially including Jesus and his disciples—has been led by young people. Colleges are especially famous as hotbeds for revival. Northwest University is uniquely positioned to experience a revival soon, and we are fervently praying for it. My youthful local church is also earnestly seeking God for a revival. I hope you are praying for revival also. Every generation of young people needs to see with its own eyes the power of God at work among them, setting a template for their spiritual expectations in life.
One thing I’m certain of: at Northwest University we are training the leaders of the next great awakening in America. They will reach maturity at just the right time to lead a transformation of our society and culture. We desperately need it! Please do join with us in eager expectation and prayer for the grace of God to touch us here and now with a renewal of faith and spiritual power.