During one of my favorite seminary classes, Revival and Revivalism, the course began by studying the gradual spiritual decline in America. According to several historians, 1799 was one of the darkest years for Christianity in the United States. While the death of George Washington on December 14th didn’t help this matter, apathy, complacency and spiritual indifference spread throughout the East Coast. This climate set the stage for thunder and lightning to appear in the form of the second Great Awakening.
“I love those that thunder out the Word… the Christian world is in a deep sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it,” George Whitefield -1739.
The second great awakening used some of the techniques successful in the first spiritual movement that began in 1730, lasting until 1743. George Whitefield was one of the local preachers in Delaware, holding Tent Revivals in Pike Creek Valley and St. George’s which is now divided by the C&D canal. Whitefield preached over 18,000 sermons to nearly ten million people, seeking to awaken the souls of American colonists who had strayed from God like prodigal children.
But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, Luke 15:17-18.
Whitefield felt the need to challenge individuals, using a thunderous approach to get the attention of those spiritually floundering. Back in the early 1970’s, a similar tone was applied, known as Fire and Brimstone messages. Unfortunately, this style turned many off to the gospel, leaving the church as a teenager, never to return again. Instead of yelling at people to repent, Jesus recommended being salt and light to the unchurched, Matthew 5:13-16. In today’s culture, earning the right to be heard by living out your faith is much more effective. Thus, if you want to live long enough to experience a fourth great awakening, demonstrate the love of Jesus daily through random acts of kindness. This should spark the interest of unbelievers and possibly ignite spiritual thunder and lightning.
by Jay Mankus