Who needs revival? Any signs of it in America?
The church’s first revival (this side of Easter) would be Pentecost around 33 AD. Three thousand Jews came to Christ. By 300 AD there were approximately 14 million Christians and by 500 AD the number was probably 40 million or so.
In more recent times (1700 on) there have been five major awakenings:
• The First Great Awakening – In the colonies from 1725 to 1760 there was a movement of God. Under the preaching of Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Edwards and Englishman George Whitefield, the revival spread reaching its peak from 1740 to 1742.
• The Second Great Awakening – At Cane Ridge, Ky., in 1801 as many as 3,000 were converted. The big year was 1811 when one-third of Americans probably attended one of these meetings. The Haystack Prayer Meetings occurred and launched the modern mission movement during this time. For us in Missouri this is when Baptist work began at Old Bethel.
• The Prayer Meeting or Layman’s Revival – This began in New York City with a layman named Jeremiah Lamphier and quickly spread around the world. One of every 30 Americans was converted in this movement.
• The Welch Revival – This movement of God that began in 1904 in the little country of Wales. Over five million came to Christ as this revival spread around the world. Some would say that our own Southwestern Seminary was born from this revival.
• Modern Revival – It seems that the 50’s and the Jesus movement were modern day movements of God. There are movements of God around the world from China to Africa, Eastern Europe, even in Moslem countries, but because of the persecution we know little about them. What we do know allows us to be aware of great movements of God.
But, what of North America? Ed Stetzer’s research seems to indicate that 89% of Southern Baptist churches are stagnant or declining. The Episcopal church seems to be thinking more about splitting than growing. The Methodists are consistent ones the last 40 years – not in growth, but decline. Is anything going on in America?
There are some signs for optimism. Thom Rainer tells us that three positive things are taking place.
1) There are more churches focusing on conversion growth not just growth. Too much that is contributed to growth comes from people moving from one church to another or dunking the Methodists and Presbyterians who are already saved.
2) The second positive word from Rainer is an increased emphasis upon meaningful membership as well as evangelistic outreach. The bar is being raised for membership.
3) Lastly, Rainer sees deeper teaching and preaching coming to our churches.
Here’s another word of encouragement. A small church near Forsyth seems to be experiencing some revival. Though not a Southern Baptist congregation (Southern Baptists are attending), much is taking place – some who have not been to church in 50 years are going nightly to the meetings now moved to a tent outside because the building won’t hold them. Services have been running for 40+ nights with attendance from 300 to 400. The messages are simple. The lost need to be saved, the saved need to get back into their lives the disciplines of a Christian and not the world.
Over 250 have been saved at the time of the writing of this article.
Is this another awakening? – I don’t know. All I know is that when we obey 2 Chron. 7:14 – humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, turn from our wicked ways, then God will hear us, forgive us, and heal our land.
Are we ready? I can only answer for me and you can only answer for you – what are we waiting for?
Dear Lord, give us ears to hear and the courage to act. Amen!
Remember – Missouri matters. (Ron Barker is pesonal evangelism/spiritual awakening specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention. You can contact Ron at 573-636-0400 Ext. 651 or e-mail him at email@example.com.)