The Great Awakening
By Catherine McPherson
Perhaps, you have noticed the secular press using a phrase coined in the 1700’s to describe a religious revival that greatly impacted the American colonies. That phrase is “The Great Awakening.” Even though it is doubtful the current usage is linked at all to the revivals that swept the early American settlers, it is indicative that more people are paying attention to the corruption in Washington D.C.
However, I’m not sure it is totally coincidental; spiritual connections rarely are.
Is the Lord giving us a “heads up,” about what is on the horizon? After all, the Apostle Paul did say, “First the natural and then the spiritual.” We could ask, “Is the church headed toward the same “awakening” as our secular culture?” May it be so Lord.
Wikipedia describes the Great Awakening as follows:
“The First Great Awakening (sometimes Great Awakening) or the Evangelical Revival was a series of Christian revivals that swept Britain and its Thirteen Colonies between the 1730s and 1740s. The revival movement permanently affected Protestantism as adherents strove to renew individual piety and religious devotion. The Great Awakening marked the emergence of Anglo-American evangelicalism as a transdenominational movement within the Protestant churches. In the United States, the term Great Awakening is most often used, while in the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Evangelical Revival.
Building on the foundations of older traditions—Puritanism, pietism and Presbyterianism—major leaders of the revival such as George Whitefield, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards articulated a theology on revival and salvation that transcended denominational boundaries and helped create a common evangelical identity. Revivalists added to the doctrinal imperatives of Reformation Protestantism an emphasis on providential outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Extemporaneous preaching gave listeners a sense of deep personal conviction of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ and fostered introspection and commitment to a new standard of personal morality. Revival theology stressed that religious conversion was not only intellectual assent to correct Christian doctrine but had to be a "new birth" experienced in the heart. Revivalists also taught that receiving assurance of salvation was a normal expectation in the Christian life.”
As stated above, the leaders of the Great Awakening were Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. All became itinerant revivalists calling the people to repentance and righteous living. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, thousands were ushered into the Kingdom and the American culture was positively impacted. Throughout the colonies, hearts were changed, homes were healed and the true gospel was released setting the churches on fire. Due to this outpouring, many missionary societies were birthed which became the sending organizations for the countless, zealous, new evangelists.
John Wesley’s great skill at organization allowed him to develop methods of discipleship that were used to shepherd the new believers. In fact, the Methodist Church was birthed out of his desire to see new converts learn spiritual disciplines that would enable them to walk the narrow path in power and love.
Recently, an email landed in my inbox entitled “Holy Disruption.” The author compared our current President, as a disruptor, to Jesus who was the ultimate disrupter. (TheSentinelGroup.org) The point being made was that unless there is a “disruption” the status quo rules in every arena, being governmental or religious.
John Wesley, who had also given his life as “disruptor” did not want the recipients of this new faith to fall pray to the apathetic status quo. Consequently, he formed “Holiness Clubs.” These weekly small groups were formed for accountability, fellowship and spiritual growth. At the beginning of each meeting the members would be asked the following:
Wesley’s Five Questions for Small Groups:
1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
These five questions were designed to keep the convert clean before the Lord and before each other. This exercise in humility was patterned after The Apostle Paul’s admonition to “submit yourselves one to another.” It was not being employed by church government to control the people, but as a “word” from the Holy Spirit to keep the leaven out of the lump.
The “big five” were really just the tip of the ice-berg as far as Wesley was concerned. The more thorough accountability came with self-examination during individual devotions prompted by “the twenty-two.” These double-digit discussion questions gave no quarter to self-justifying slackers. We may also find honest examination of these same questions equally mortifying. But, isn’t that one of the messages of the Messiah? Mortification? “If any man come after me let him deny himself take up his cross (read instrument of death) daily and follow me.” The Apostle Paul said it this way, “I die daily.”
Perhaps you will use the following as “holy disrupters” in your own life:
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?