Oh no, we missed the Third Great Awakening!

Recently I heard a Christian leader comment that America needs a Third Great Awakening. Undoubtedly, he meant in succession to the First Great Awakening of George Whitefield’s and Jonathan Edwards’ days (roughly mid 1700’s) and the Second Great Awakening of Francis Asbury’s and Charles Finney’s days (roughly early 1800’s). I wholeheartedly agree that America needs another Great Awakening to bring a significant number of its people to Christ, and see resultant reformation. However, the next one will likely be at least the Fourth, and possibly even a higher number!

Why? I’m in agreement with one of my favorite writers on revival history, J. Edwin Orr. Besides being an active revivalist himself, Orr was a student and historian of revivals. He focused on the late 1800’s, beginning with what is commonly called The Prayer Meeting Revival (1857-1858) and lasting through the rest of that century’s Holiness Movement.

This period of intense activity in the church worldwide, from 1857 to 1900, would produce such prominent figures as D. L. Moody, A. B. Simpson, William and Catherine Booth, Charles Spurgeon, Carrie Judd Montgomery, A. J. Gordon, and Maria Woodworth-Etter, some of whom would be a bridge to the upcoming 20th Century Pentecostal Movement. Some developments of this era were large-scale evangelistic meetings, the practical linking of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ with ministry to the poor, divine healing ministry, and significant expansion in world missions, as evidenced by the Student Volunteer Movement.

Orr wrote that this was “a single period of revival and awakening, followed by an expansion of the churches scarcely paralleled in history.” The overall impact of this awakening was the conversion of “more than five million fold to an evangelical faith in the two years of greatest impact in each country.” Yes, though sometimes overlooked, this truly was America’s Third Great Awakening, in which God’s Spirit was also moving throughout the world.

America needs another Great Awakening. But this next one will be at least its fourth, and perhaps even a higher number! God is willing to do it again!

Food for thought: which of the first three Great Awakenings would have the most impact on America today? Email your perspective to tom@firstloveworks.org and perhaps I will share it on the next post.

(Quotes from: J. Edwin Orr, The Re-Study of Revival and Revivalism, Los Angeles, CA: Oxford Association for Research in Revival or Evangelical Awakening 1981, pgs. 40-41).