America’s Great Awakenings
I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. (Psalm 77:11)
Jonathan Edwards said, “It has been found by experience, that the tidings of remarkable effects of the power and grace of God in any place, tend greatly to awaken and engage the minds of persons, in other places.” Stories of revival often spark other revivals.
We have had four Great Awakenings in America. The first, from about 1740 to 1742, was led by men such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. Around 50,000 people were added to the churches of New England during the First Great Awakening, which was significant for a population of about 300,000 at that time.
The Second Great Awakening, from the 1790s to around 1840, was led by many, including Charles Finney. This was during the days of the Wild West, when camp meetings were held in tents with sawdust floors, and itinerant preachers shared the gospel. Thousands and thousands of Americans came to faith during this time.
America’s Third Great Awakening, from 1857 to 1859, had a unique beginning. A 48-year-old businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier began a prayer meeting in New York City. Though small, it exploded after the stock market crashed, and within six months, 10,000 New Yorkers were gathering daily for prayer. Around one million people came to believe in Jesus during the Third Great Awakening.
That brings us to the Fourth Great Awakening and the last one in American history. I was privileged to have a front-row seat for it. I am talking, of course, about the Jesus Movement. I came to Christ in 1970 and found myself in the middle of a full-blown spiritual awakening.
Could it ever happen again? Could we have another Jesus Movement? Or, are the best days of America behind us? God wants to send revival. But He wants us to participate in the process.